The rise of the online review is one of the more transformative shifts in marketing. Giving or reading feedback on just about any brand (personal or corporate) is only a smartphone touch away. Brand communication is increasingly coming from sources other than the brand.
Reputation management is now a fundamental part of brand management. Gone is the bait-and-switch school of marketing. Marketers have to deliver what we promise, or we get called on it, immediately and permanently.
Eight in ten consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, according to a recent study from BrightLocal. Another study from eMarketer said that consumer reviews are 12 times more trusted than descriptions that come from manufacturers.
A few years ago, Crayola launched Crayola Colored Bubbles. Before online reviews came along, consumers would have been swayed by the Crayola brand, the fun ads, and the marketing pitch: “Put on your play clothes and fill the great outdoors with amazing bubbles in awesome Crayola colors! Blow ‘em, chase ‘em, catch ‘em and pop ‘em for imaginative and active outdoor play.”
From those criteria, the product sounds like a hit. Nowadays, though, one click to Amazon shows that over 90% of reviewers gave the product only one star (and the higher reviews seem like they were written by the brand). Crayola Colored Bubbles is one of the worst-reviewed products on the entire Amazon site.
Contrast the marketing message with some of these representative comments from consumers:
“YOU MIGHT AS WELL GRAFFITI YOUR KIDS AND EVERYTHING YOU VALUE WITH PERMANENT DYE. The Crayola people who allowed this monstrosity on the market should be FIRED. The few 5-star reviews are sickeningly obvious CRAYOLA COMPANY REPS trying to save face. What an even bigger insult! SHAME ON YOU, CRAYOLA…”
“This is probably the worst Crayola product I have ever purchased. The bubbles are little more than Crayola paint with a tiny bit of soap in it. The bubbles don’t even float, they drop like rocks…”
“If I could give zero stars that would be better. As others have stated, these bubbles DO NOT WASH OUT! They are thick and messy and have completely ruined my driveway and clothes. Also it rubbed off on to my light colored couch from my children’s clothes and and my poor dog has blue spots all over him as well. WORST BUY EVER!”
“These bubbles are HORRIBLE! Shame on you Crayola! I trusted your brand, and you let me down! My son’s clothes and shoes were dyed green. It took me 3 days to wash the green bubbles off the concrete. I should have known not to buy these when the warning said: Do not use at a wedding!!!”
Marketing can no longer cloak a bad product. Online reviews narrow the gap between what marketers promise and what the brand delivers. Ultimately, they keep brands honest. Brands like Crayola can ignore online reviews at their peril.
I’d love to hear your stories about reputation management.
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)