The Ultimate Marketing Plan by Dan KennedyIn Dan Kennedy’sThe Ultimate Marketing Plan,’ the marketing guru explains the differences between real people vs. celebrity testimonials…

Real-people testimonials are, in my opinion, a mandatory component of a solid marketing message. These typically come from your satisfied customers. When using a number of these testimonials in one message, you want to try to cover as many claim-benefit bases and as many demographic bases as possible.

If marketing to a demographically diverse group of consumers, you need testimonials from whites, blacks, Asians, and Hispanics; men, women, married, and single people; and the old, the middle-aged, and the young.

If you’re doing business-to-business marketing, the bases you might want to cover include small companies, medium-sized companies, and big companies–as well as retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, and service businesses. Of course, if you’re aiming at a much more narrow, specific target market, then you can match your testimonial sources to it.

I consider it fair to coach and coax in order to get the testimonial comments you want, but unfair, and often also woefully ineffective, to put words in the mouths of people providing testimony.

Celebrity testimonials can be effective, but they also can be tricky. If your product or service is used or your business patronized by a known personality, such as an athlete or entertainer, you can capitalize on it. Sometimes even an endorsement of your general industry is useful.

Some years back, Roger Craig and Joe Montana, both then playing for the San Francisco 49ers football team, stated that they relied on chiropractors to keep them healthy. I said then, and I’ll say it again today: any chiropractor who would not think to use this fact to market to patients is just plain dumb.

When marketing on a national scale, you need nationally known celebrities, but when marketing locally, a local personality may prove nearly equal in impact but is usually a lot easier and less costly to get. Two different chains of weight-loss clinics use the identical strategy of paying local radio disc jockeys and talk-show hosts to lose weight in their clinics, then serve as spokespersons in the commercials, giving personal testimony. This has proven extraordinarily effective for both companies.

In our market, I’ve seen a restaurant using the endorsement of a very popular former governor, car dealers using football players, a bank using a football coach, and a chiropractor using a female rodeo star.

You should not just assume that your local business cannot afford a national celebrity. My Gold/VIP Member Scott Tucker, a mortgage broker in Chicago primarily marketing to “blue collar” clients, secured the services of the still immensely popular former Chicago Bears player William ‘Refrigerator’ Perry. A photograph of the Fridge with Scott and his dog Boomer is now featured in Scott’s mailings. The photo is printed on the back with an endorsement message from the Fridge, using a type font made from the Fridge’s actual handwriting. The message is even personalized to each recipient!

Scott says people are very reluctant to throw these photos out – in fact, they put them up on the ‘fridge! The fact that people do this has improved immediate response to his mailings, but he’s also noticed an additional response from people who call weeks, even months after receiving a mailing and tell him it’s because they kept that photo around the house. Perry also appears in a video clip on Scott’s Web site.

Most clients meet with Scott at his office, where they see a size 60 Bears jersey, autographed by Perry, in a frame on the wall, and an autographed football in a display case.

And Gold/VIP Member Mike Miget gave Scott the idea of buying miniature Chicago Bears refrigerators, which were sold at The Home Depot, to give as gifts to the first ten people responding to mailings.

Scott cannot disclose the financial terms of his arrangements with ‘Refrigerator’ Perry, but he assures me it would be affordable to many small businesses.


Scott Tucker is a business and marketing coach to mortgage brokers nationwide. You can see how he’s used “the Fridge” in the advertising for his own mortgage business as well as get information about the myriad of other clever marketing strategies he uses and teaches at

Gold/VIP Member Dr. Barry Lycka used both national and local celebrities for marketing the grand opening of the Corona Rejuvenation Center and Spa. Susan Seaforth Hayes and Bill Hayes, star of the NBC-TV soap opera “Days of Our Lives,” and Lynda Steele, the anchor of the TV news in the local market, all attended the grand opening and participated in its promotion. The sales letter Dr. Lycka sent to his patients and “VIP prospects” promoting this grand opening is provided at the end of this chapter (Exhibit #7, on pages 66-70 of ‘The Ultimate Marketing Plan’ book). It’s an outstanding example of using national and local celebrities, timing, drawings, gifts, and special offers all in one promotion.

Incidentally, well over 500 people attended this event!

Keep in mind that there are different ways to be a celebrity. A person can be instantly recognizable because of his or her face, such as a famous TV personality. Or a person might go unrecognized in a crowd but still have celebrity value based on who they are and what they do. Ford Motor Company was able to use former auto racing champion Jackie Stewart very effectively, even though you’d probably bump into him on the street and not know him. Even people who are not instantly recognizable visually or by name can still lend celebrity value and credibility to a marketing message once it is explained who they are.

How many of these names are instantly recognizable to you: Joan Quigley, Brendan Suhr, Robert Parker, and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason? If you got even one of them, you’re sharper than most. Still, after telling you who they are, I can use each of them effectively in certain marketing messages.

Joan Quigley was Nancy Reagan’s astrologer. I worked on an infomercial featuring Joan promoting books and cassettes about astrology. Brendan Suhr has been the assistant head coach of the Detroit Pistons and the Orlando Magic and could be used in marketing sports equipment, athletic shoes, or even, as I’ve used him, in promoting a self-improvement course.

Robert Parker is the author of the famous ‘Spenser’ detective novels, on which the TV series that starred Robert Urich was based. Parker would be an excellent personality to build a solve-a-mystery cruise package around. Linda Bloodworth-Thomason is a very successful TV producer; her credits include producing the hit show ‘Designing Women’. Linda could be used in marketing some kind of how-to-break-into-show-business product or a career success product for women.

In the production of TV infomercials I’ve worked with Florence Henderson, famous as the mom of ‘The Brady Bunch’; Gloria Loring, a soap opera actress; Robb Weller, former host of ‘Entertainment Tonight’; Robert Wagner, from ‘Hart to Hart’ and the ‘Austin Powers’ movies; and others. In marketing local projects, I’ve worked with local radio and television personalities in several cities. With only a few notable exceptions not named here, I’ve found both the celebrities and their agents to be pretty cooperative and pleasant to work with. Each of the ones I’ve named especially impressed me with his or her professionalism, ability, and sincere commitment to producing an effective project.

If you are seeking the services of a local celebrity, you can usually contact the person directly, or your advertising agency can track down the person for you and make a proposal. Many national celebrities can be found listed in the directories of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (available from Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90211, 310-247-3000).