Basic logic tells us that negative opinions have a negative impact on our perceptions. If a man leaves a restaurant complaining about the service, he’s likely to drive other customers away. But this is not always the case: even negative reviews provide publicity and visibility, and a good can outshine the bad.
The Curious Case of the Envy 100
Last month I went shopping for a new computer printer after my trusty HP Photosmart give up the ghost. Being an iPad user, I decided to look for one that supported Apple’s AirPrint functionality. This left me looking once again at HP’s product line.
As I so often do, I spent some time familiarizing myself with the various products before heading out to the store. I quickly discovered that no one had yet analyzed only those printers that support AirPrint. Since I was interested in the topic, I decided to write up my experiences for my blog.
I was initially impressed by HP’s sleek and shiny Envy 100 all in one printer, but further investigation revealed the basic printer engine underneath. I concluded that the Envy 100 was not a good value for the money, and instead purchased the plain but functional Photosmart Premium FAX model instead.
But a funny thing happened since I posted my review. Of the tens of thousands of unique visitors my series on HP’s AirPrint compatible printers generated, dozens of people clicked through my links the Amazon to purchase one of the models listed. Surprisingly, HP’s Envy model is the top seller among those who purchased based on my series of reviews.
Credible Means Fair and Balanced
Why would someone rush out to buy after reading a negative review? Perhaps the answer lies in the review itself. Although I concluded that the Envy 100 was not a good value, I did praise its good looks and features. I also pointed out that fashion-conscious Apple buyers (who incidentally make up a large portion of my audience) would find the printer appealing. In short, my review was fair rather than negative.
I have found that fairness, mixing the good with the bad, yields much better results than effusive praise. This is especially true on the Internet, where credibility matters above all else. Clearly, my readers felt that my review was a fair depiction of the product and made their buying decision based on this unbiased view.
Corporate marketers can learn a lot from this experience. Although it can be upsetting to see the negative aspects of your product called out in public, it may not be the catastrophe you anticipate. It is difficult to let go and allow social media and unbiased reviews to stand, but they are your best advocate. Don’t get too upset when the commentary goes negative, as long as the overall tone is fair.
You might also want to read 4 Steps To Respond When Social Media Goes Negative and Always Punch Above Your Weight
Amrita Chandra says
Great post, Steve.
Jeff Darcy says
Sadly, advice like yours is more likely to encourage faux fairness than actual fairness. I think many marketers do realize that people see through fulsome praise, so the smarter ones will throw in a few “negatives” that won’t stop anybody from buying but do quell the impulse to skip the whole review. “The noise from the rapidly printing pages could frighten small animals.” “The images seemed too sharp, lacking the personal warmth of older printers.” I could probably find more subtle/realistic examples from real product reviews, but you get the idea. People who read the negative reviews as a reality check – and I admit I’m one of these – need to be as alert for this kind of manipulation as those who read only the positive reviews.
It is difficult to separate credible and independent voices from the astroturf of marketers. This is a sad fact of the Internet, isn’t it?
I was hoping to reassure vendors that I will tell it like it is and that they shouldn’t flip out at me (like one recently did) just because I didn’t like their product. It all comes around, and sometimes it comes around in surprising ways. Thus this weird example!
Ever see Arrested Development? They were all thrilled to be upgraded to “don’t buy” by the Mad Money guy. Hah!
Good points as always, Jeff.