Leading brands can suffer reputation damage if they’re not participating in the consumer discussion about their brand. While high-profile PR disasters like “Exxon-Valdez” show us how dangerous it can be at a macro level to delay in responding to negative attention, in the world of consumer products, effective reputation management should begin at the micro level and can’t be ignored. How so?
At any given moment, consumers who shop and research in online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay are writing thousands of product reviews that contribute to the overall perception of retail product brands. Ignoring negative feedback won’t result in an overnight PR crisis, but over time this ignorance will have a cumulative effect on product brands, considering that 68 percent of consumers are influenced by online reviews.
Consumer product companies need a review management strategy to turn a potential liability into a growth opportunity.
The Voice of the Consumer Is Louder Than Ever Before
Before traditional “one way” product marketing models delivered messages about a brand in the direction of the consumer, but this has evolved. The proliferation of social media, blogs, online forums, and online marketplaces has both unified and empowered the voice of the consumer. As a result, it’s now a two-way street.
Instead of just responding to brand messages from advertisers by placing their loyalty and dollars with a specific brand, consumers now form powerful online communities to provide feedback, and influence and form the attitudes consumers have about a specific brand.
Examples of the mediums through which consumers respond to product branding and messaging include the following:
- Product review blogs
- Online forums
- Social media and social sharing (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest)
- Product reviews and ratings on Amazon and eBay
- Better Business Bureau
Engage Consumer Voices or Let Them Define You
Do you really need to respond to and participate in the ongoing conversation consumers have surrounding your brand? Yes. Product companies have to engage because doing so gives the voice of the consumer free reign to define and shape consumer brands.
In order to succeed in protecting the reputation of product brands, product marketers need a review management plan to monitor and proactively engage the conversation surrounding their brand. An effective plan can turn the consumer voice from a liability into a strategic asset.
Leverage Review Data as a Strategic Asset
While the data gained from review monitoring certainly enables brands to react to negative feedback, the primary value from review management comes from using the data proactively—reducing the incidence of incoming negative feedback. Here’s some examples of how you can leverage review data to improve brand reputation, product quality, and minimize negative feedback.
- Build a clearer picture of your target demographic
- Enhance product quality control and business practices
- Improve customer relations practices
- Acquire data for R&D
Score Customer Reviews With a Value Proposition Scorecard
An example of how review data can be used as part of research and development is value proposition scoring. By categorizing reviews by feature and sentiment, marketers can measure and score a product’s actual value against the original perceived value present in product messaging.
With this information, companies can take make decisive changes to close the gap between the perceptive value and actual value of a product.
For a manufacturer of folding portable chairs that was a client of the organization I work for, we found a consistent pattern of feedback that there was a problem with the fabric stitching. While “durability” was a key attribute contributing to the value proposition, the poor stitching caused the actual value of the chair to not measure up to the durability element of the value proposition.
Bill Tyson at The Savvy Strategist offers more insight on customer value propositions here.
Responding to Reviews
Responding to negative reviews can actually add value to your brand as part of an overall public relations strategy because doing so will help protect your brand value and reputation and minimize the impact negative sentiment can have.
There are a number of development tools available to help consolidate and monitor reviews in multiple channels. From one dashboard these tools can quickly identify the most pressing events that need response. Here are some examples of the types of events that tools can identify to trigger a response from product companies:
- Customer complaints that should have resulted in a refund
- Customer complaints about a product issue relating to improper use
- Customer complaints about poor experiences such as shipping delays or unhelpful customer service
Encourage Positive Reviews
One element to consider that contributes to the importance of review management is that consumers who have negative experiences are more likely to write a review than consumers who have positive experiences. According to a study by Dimensional Research, consumers who had negative experiences are 50 percent more likely to share it on social media than those who had good experiences, and 52 percent more likely to share it on an online review site.
One of the most effective ways to minimize the impact of negative reviews is to balance them out by increasing the number of positive reviews. Because consumers are more likely to review when they have a negative experience, asking consumers who had a positive experience to review may result in balancing out negative reviews with an increased number of positive reviews. (more on this below under Social Sharing Outreach)
Why Not Buy Reviews?
While some services sell guaranteed positive reviews, they do more damage than good to your reputation. Marketplaces like Amazon strictly prohibit buying positive product reviews, and the FTC also prohibits paying for a product review without disclosing the payment. Additionally, customers who see reviews that are 100 percent positive will not trust the product rating.
Here are four ways to encourage people to participate in posting objective reviews:
Promoter Outreach – One way to increase the count of positive reviews for your brand is to ask satisfied people to review your products. Monitoring social promoters and asking them to write a review is a good strategy to increase objective and positive reviews. If a consumer is taking the time to share a purchase through his or her social channels and doesn’t mention a negative experience, he or she may be a good candidate to ask for a review.
Discounts – One way to get products into the hands of reviewers is by offering a limited, predetermined number of products at a steep discount with marketplace coupon codes to encourage reviews from participants. While Amazon prohibits buying positive product reviews, they do allow sellers to provide discounts in exchange for objective reviews. Additionally, review launch platforms like ZonBlast and Viral Launch accelerate the process of promoting these offers to increase review count quickly.
Blogger Outreach – Identify key bloggers and product review writers who are key consumer influencers and give them product and the opportunity to write a review if they choose.
Customer Outreach – Send messages to consumers who completed purchases to encourage them to post a product review. Additionally, product companies operating their own marketplace seller accounts can ask customers for reviews that could improve seller rating, and ultimately, increase buybox percentage.
Consumers Put the Ball in Your Court – Now It's Your Opportunity to Act
Consumers have offered up an opportunity for product companies by voluntarily disclosing valuable data for R&D, increasing overall product brand exposure, and taking the initiative to say anything about your product at all.
Brands that participate in the consumer conversation and implement a plan to monitor and respond to reviews will leverage a liability into a significant opportunity.
Want to learn more about Reputation Management? Be sure to attend the Masters Series session, “Manage Product Reviews to Listen to the Voice of the Consumer,” on Tuesday February 23 from 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. during The Great Ideas Summit. DNA Response’s Ranjit Mulgaonkar will moderate the panel discussion.
Garret Nagle is the marketing specialist at DNA Response, Inc.