Calling Denise from Derby

‘Not Denise and not a Kindle either’

‘Not Denise and not the tablet in question either’

Travelling by train recently I was confronted by an advert for the new ‘paper white’ tablet. It’s a smart piece of work that carries a quote from someone called Denise who is apparently a book lover, but is so bowled over by the new device she feels compelled to tell everyone about it. “It felt like reading a book,” is what the marketing department has come up with. The accompanying picture is rather cheesy and features a model who definitely isn’t called Denise (this picture is the nearest to it we could find).

I’ve worked in publishing and marketing for many years and the temptation to promote by pulling a quote out of thin air and attribute it to Dave for Dagenham is overwhelming. In the past this sort of thing was commonplace, but the days when punters are fooled into thinking that Denise might really exist are long gone.

We have ways of leaving immediate feedback on the services and products we buy, we don’t mind if other people see what we write. We are encouraged to do so. We are connected by social media to other people who share their innermost secrets with us. So why in such a world would a marketing team decide that a quote from Denise would help them sell more tablets.

Campaigns that work well feature real people. Take the cruise company that asked travellers to send in pictures of themselves having a great time on board its liners. The result is simple – it doesn’t feel like they are being asked to say nice words about their experience but the two are neatly aligned.

Our noses are becoming more sensitive and better tuned to sniffing out planted reviews and over-eager testimonials. Getting real customers to become part of your promotion is the only way to go.

However, proceed with caution. Twitter marketeers discovered recently you can go too far when it comes to getting real people say the things you want them to say via social media. A safer alternative is to ask your customers take part in webinars or live webcasts so prospective customers can hear they are genuine and even ask the questions they might feel a sales person would try to ignore.

I hope I’m wrong about Denise and that she really does live in a semi in Derby and every weekday morning she tries to snatch a quick read of the latest book by her favourite author on her way to work.

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