One of the simplest persuasion plays is the Celebrity Endorsement which translates the Comparison, Liking, or Authority Cue into success. Just get the right Famous Person, connect them with your product, service, brand, whatever, and away you go.
Except success at persuasion requires more than that. Consider this case.
Right, that’s Mrs. Michelle Obama.
She’s wearing dresses by one of her favorite designers, Maria Pinto. Gee whiz, could you get a better celebrity endorser if you’re doing women’s fashion? And, Mrs. Obama wasn’t paid or paid off to wear these dresses. She really likes them and tells everyone about it.
Yet, Maria Pinto’s business is Going Out Of Business.
But Ms. Pinto acknowledged having made some typical startup mistakes in building her brand, in areas like financial management and operations.
When things are going well, as they were for Ms. Pinto in 2008 when she started to build her business based in part on Obama’s affection for her designs, it is easy get deceived at your persuasion skill. When the bottom line is good, the persuasion must be good, too. And when you’ve got the First Lady touting your dress, you’ve got Great Persuasion. Right?
Consider the Rules now in understanding this business and persuasion failure.
It’s about the Other Guy, Stupid. Ms. Pinto described the loss of the Other Guy, the customer here.
The real problems started right after the introduction of the spring 2010 line in New York last September, Ms. Pinto said. “They loved the line,” she said. “I was like, where are the orders? O.K., this is not a good sign.”
If You Can’t Count It, You Can’t Change It. While she could count the Other Guys (not enough!), she appeared to have trouble counting other elements of the persuasion process, most notably financing. Persuasion cannot be better than its resources and you must be able to count everything that counts!
Persuaders Can Either Be Famous or Effective, But Not Both. Ms. Pinto got famous through her relationship with the famous Mrs. Obama and appears to have let that fame dominate her planning and execution. Doubtless, the fame interfered with her skill, too.
Great Persuaders Don’t Need Rich Uncles, Kindness from Strangers, or Third Party Vote Splitters. Ms. Pinto ran a successful small business before the 2008 election which catapulted her into a bigger business model. With no one else, Pinto had a good thing going with her small Chicago shop. But, when she tried to go Big, she depended upon the Kindness of Strangers for her success.
There’s a Difference between Persuasion, and Smoke and Mirrors; With Persuasion the Illusion Lingers. Turns out that sometimes Celebrity is Persuasive and sometimes It is just Smoke and Mirrors. Pinto and her partners did not figure out how to take all that Celebrity and make it work for them. Fame does not have an automatic persuasion function. You have to put it in a persuasion play.
Success with persuasion is never easy even when you have a surging market. I suspect that Maria Pinto will return to the basics, rebuild, and might try for expansion again someday. She’s gained valuable, if painful, persuasion experience that will stand her in good stead. Plus, she’s got a great eye for color and design that is attractive and functional.