May 20, 2011, 12:41 PM — Every tech company seems to have a recognizable (perhaps celebrity) spokesperson these days: Ashton Kutcher for Nikon, Justin Long for Apple, the "T-Mobile Girl" for T-Mobile, and so on. We looked at the art and science behind tech spokespeople--how they're chosen, how they affect sales, and why some are famous and some aren't--to find out if they're really the vital marketing tools that tech companies seem to think they are. What we found out is simple: Some tech companies know how to choose and use spokespeople well, while others seem clueless.
Why Hire a Spokesperson?
Consumer technology is all about the product, not the people who use it, right? It's all about faster processors, more reliable networks, and sexy design, not who happens to be holding it.
Because tech gear is generally more expensive than other goods, and often seen as an investment (people usually buy a laptop or a cell phone expecting to use it for at least a couple of years), tech companies have to make sure that their customers are confident in what they're purchasing. And since tech typically flies over the heads of regular nongeeks, merely flashing some pretty microchips or attractive network graphs won't cut it.
This is where the spokesperson comes in: He or she makes the consumer feel comfortable and confident in their purchase, because a real human being is endorsing it. These same spokespeople often step off the screen and make public appearances, further suggesting that they are "real people" and not simply props.
Choosing a Spokesperson