He wasn't being entirely serious, but they play a role. A new design that catches on works, too*. Classics like the Gray-Nicolls scoop [awesome bats, got my first ever hundred with one] and its offshoot the four-scoop that Gower used [I think] on his Test debut; Stuart Surridge's immortal Jumbo, wielded by Goochie and King Viv; the Slazenger V12 with its cool little hump on the back, and so on.
The right endorsee plays into it too. Saint Peter got big on the back of Tony Greig wearing the mittens; Duncan Fearnley had Beefy during the 1981 Ashes; Woodworm were briefly huge with Flintoff and KP on board.
Ultimately though, I've only ever bought a bat on feel. Sometimes I've come out of the shop surprised by what I've gone for. I suspect a lot of people are the same. Would love to know, too, about the market in India and Pakistan, where the big makes aren't ones we see too often here.
* There has to be a market now for retro bats. I'd love another scoop, however counter-intuitive the design. In the meantime, Jrod is debuting the Hawk, which will be worth reading...