Living Wise Series on Propaganda: The Testimonial

WRITTEN by Michael Corthell

Webster's Dictionary defines a testimonial as, "a written or spoken statement in which you say that you used a product or service and liked it." Webster's also defines 'propaganda' as ''ideas or statements that are often false or exaggerated and that are spread in order to help a cause, a political leader, a government, etc.''

While these commercials may not be 100% deceptive, they are exaggerated, as you might expect in the promotion of any product or service.

It is very common to turn on the TV or look at a newspaper or magazine, and you will find a celebrities or assorted experts endorsing a particular product or brand. When we see our favorite rock star or favorite actor promoting any product, our instinct is to trust his/her claim and buy the product. It is a clever but standard advertising strategy used by brands to attract customers, one that almost always results in a good boost to sales as well as to the image of the company. This strategy is referred to as a testimonial propaganda in the world of advertising and promotions.


Testimonial propaganda is an advertising technique wherein a famous or seemingly authoritative person recommends a product or service, and vouches for the value of the same. The popularity of the person recommending the product, who is generally a celebrity/acclaimed expert, but can be a generic scientist, is used for increasing the sales of that product, without addressing the facts about the product itself. The reason behind this technique is to make the target audience relate to the tastes, judgment, and opinion of the one endorsing the product(emotional reaction).

In celebrity testimonials, the target audience trusts the judgment and recommendation of the celebrity figure, and feels that if the celebrity thinks the product is good, it actually will be good. However, testimonials are not always about celebrities. The testimonial propaganda technique can also use experts on that subject, such as doctors or engineers, to promote products. The idea is to convince the audience that since it is recommended by experts, it must be a great product.

Another kind of testimonial propaganda involves the promotion of a product or service by the customers themselves, through reviews and word-of-mouth. This is true especially in case of promotion of products on a website, where previous customers write their own experiences of the product for other potential customers to decide if they want to buy that product or not. Potential customers tend to trust the judgment of other customers who are just their peer group and a representative of a large percentage of buyers.

Testimonial propaganda is used widely in politics too. Celebrities and respected individuals can be used to attack or praise a particular political party or candidate. The goal is to help voters identify with a famous person, and trust his/her judgment. This is a key tactic in earning the support of voters, and hence their votes.

When successfully implemented, testimonial propaganda results in the target audience automatically or subconsciously associating the image and identity of a celebrity or famous personality with a brand/product, which inevitably leads to a boosting of sales as well as the brand's reputation.


Top 10 BEST Testimonial Commercials