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Brand perceptions at the mercy of a mouse click

4th Jun 2008
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The shift in power from producer to consumer has never been more evident. And Paul Nadin anticipates a significant change in marketing strategies following the growth of consumer generated media.

Brand perceptions at the mercy of a mouse click

By Paul Nadin, Review Centre

The surge in online consumer generated content presents many challenges and opportunities for marketing professionals in businesses across the world.

The shift in power from producer to consumer has never been more evident than today. Consumer power created by sites like Review Centre, Facebook or YouTube means brand reputation needs to be a carefully managed issue.

Previously, when UK consumers had a bad experience, the only place they could have a gripe about a product or service was by posting a letter to BBC's Watchdog and hoping it would generate a stir. In most cases this situation could be smoothed over with PR or an advertising campaign. If you were unlucky, you'd be hauled on to Watchdog to explain yourself on television.

When I launched Review Centre in 1999 with just a small number of items for review on the site, I didn’t realise how quickly it would grow. These days, opinions can be broadcast around the internet, across a multitude of news sites and commentators' blogs, at the click of a mouse. Companies such as Dell have witnessed first hand the power that the disgruntled customer has when he has access to the internet.

However, it’s not all negative. Indeed, 40% of the postings on Review Centre are really positive and there is clearly an appetite for consumers to communicate good news about a brand as well as bad. It is these loyal consumers that are like gold dust to marketers.

It’s a misconception that visitors to online forums, discussions and review sites are simply internet geeks or specialists in the field – on the contrary people of all ages and backgrounds are logging on.

With a more connected consumer, trust is an even more valuable part of the equation and when that trust is broken by sub-standard product or poor service, the floodgates of customer opinion are unleashed on the web. This stronger sense of connectedness among customers has a big impact on buying decisions.

The importance of credibility

We have recognised a considerable consumer force; not something to be underestimated by marketers in today’s current climate where competition is fiercer than ever and brands are at the mercy of the consumer voice.

An important factor in the online review market is the credibility of the comment or blog and the independence of the review. Review Centre currently employs a division of channel managers, who are the eagle eyes of the business and ensure content is censored for expletives and any offensive language.

The channel management role is to moderate and approve the consumer content with as little change to the original as possible, therefore keeping the original meaning of the message. It’s not in our interest to violate consumer trust by controlling content as this would undermine what we’re all about.

The growth of consumer generated media will also see a change in the way companies manage their customer relationships. If marketers want to really understand their customers they will need to interact more closely with publishers of review websites and demonstrate they are taking on board what consumers are saying.

It is telling that lots of companies are recognizing the credibility of consumer generated content by tapping into the networks and communicating with their customers in this way. Pioneer, the technology company is a particularly good example of engaging with their customers in this way. When there were issues surrounding a newly launched plasma television they set up an official blog to enable consumers to engage with technicians at the company to resolve the problems.

In conclusion, it is evident that the growth in consumer generated content will have a radical impact on marketing strategies and industry professionals are obliged to tap into this if they’re to keep up with the consumer. Marketers are advised against undermining the value of online review forums - they have the potential to make or break a brand with the click of a mouse.

Paul Nadin is the founder of Review Centre, the UK’s largest consumer review site.


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