Notes from the next 10,000 hours: The Truth behind Consumer Reviews

March 26, 2013

Each month, and sometimes more often, we would like to share a missive from one of our team. We have a remarkable group of market researchers, project managers, designers, and relationship managers; here is a window into their thinking and what they are working on day to day.

Our post today is by Hildy Schott, Junior Analyst, Research & Strategy

The Truth behind Consumer Reviews

How powerful are consumer reviews to your brand? Very, very powerful.

A few months ago, my friend sent me a link to an amazon product: The Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer. Hmm… A banana slicer? I thought, This is weird. Is she trying to hint at what she wants for Christmas? It’s possible, she’s kind of a nerd. But it wasn’t what she wanted for Christmas. She said, “Look at the customer reviews.” I scrolled down, and it dawned on me—this thing is brilliant! Hutzler, whoever you are, you are a certifiable genius! This simple tool doesn’t merely slice bananas, it solves the problems of the world—It keeps customers out of trouble with their parole officers, saves marriages, and protects countless Slinkys from ruin. The reviews for the slicer number over 3,200, and over half award the product a glowing 5 stars.

On a personal level, if I were to buy the Hertzler 571 model, no longer would my breakfast cereal have to look so sad. Sure, I’d have to remember to buy bananas that bend with a right-handed polarity at the store, but luckily the 517C model takes care of the polarity problem if I wanted to splurge an extra $4. And surely the 27 monkeys I use to carry out my evil bidding will appreciate the new-found ease of cutting their bananas instead of using their hands—amateur!

Jokes aside, we can learn something important from the Amazon reviews of the banana slicer: Businesses no longer control the public perception of their products and services like they once could. The rise of social media has redistributed that power to the consumer, and if your banana slicer is useless, everyone will know. The Hutzler 571 exemplifies how a campaign can slip out of the hands of its maker and run rampantly in a different direction with little more than an opinionated consumer armed with an Internet connection (and that’s pretty much everyone).

It’s easy for me to find out the real deal on just about anything nowadays with a quick search on my phone—no more corporate spin. I have access to countless customer reviews that report experiences on just about any product or service, the good and the bad. Urbanspoon tells me if the restaurant down the street served cat meat and is now closed. Yelp lets me know that the bamboo exhibit at the Denver Botanical Gardens warrants a visit on its own. Healthgrades will give me a heads up that my new doctor likes to over-medicate patients. These sites are only a few years old but their methods have swiftly redefined how we consume. As Groucho Marx once said, “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” In the dynamic landscape of business in a digital age, one step too slow and we become the rotting fruit.

So keep up! When it comes down to it, you’d better know what your customers are saying about you, your product, and your service because they are the real influencers. Digital word of mouth is taking a big slice out of the banana pie we call marketing, and the wise move is to pay close attention. Never before has consumer insight been so important—their absurd version of the banana slicer is the absurd version that everyone will get.

Their truth is your truth. Find it.