Amazin’ reviews? Not really

  • Voices
  • July 17, 2017
  • Simon Bird
Amazin’ reviews? Not really

Predicting the future is hard in any subject; arguably it’s hardest of all in the field of technology. Indeed, as the technology journalist Warren Ellis wisely points out, “it’s best not to get involved in the business of prediction. It’s a quick way to look like an idiot”.

But there are things we do know that can help us look at future in a better context leading to more accurate predictions and less sounding like an idiot.

One of the current technology predictions is that brands are going to die due to Amazon and its product reviews.

It’s obviously important to keep an eye on what is now one of the worlds most powerful companies – especially as their business continues to expand into more markets and more countries. However, to think that user reviews are going to kill brands really is verging into the idiotic space.

The main reason the ‘brands are dead’ crowd gives for the untimely passing of brands is that user reviews are more trusted than advertising. This claim has a number of flaws.

Firstly, it implies that marketing needs to be trusted to work. However, a quick glimpse through several of the more effective campaigns of recent times—John Lewis, Old Spice, Cadbury Gorilla to name a few—suggests that this is not really true. There’s no real message to trust or distrust, just likeable stories about a travelling snowman, a drumming Gorilla or a topless horseman (though clearly trust is an outtake from the campaign likeability).

The second flaw with the ‘reviews beats advertising because they’re trusted’ line of thinking is just how untrustworthy consumer reviews really are. Short of some of the recent Facebook data they’re possibly one of the least trustworthy sources of data on the Internet. They are almost always based on a single product experience so rather than trying all possible cameras or toasters or cars in a given price range and then reviewing which one was best they review only one product. This is an okay system for pointing out utterly dreadful products (which are extremely rare) but it’s terrible for working out a ‘trusted’ ranking for products. Furthermore, every person has a different list of important features with which they judge a product's rating and this number is then also influenced by differences in how people might feel about the numbers themselves – for every person that thinks that 3/5 is a good score there will be someone else who thinks 3/5 is a pretty lousy score.

There are a host of other issues that further discredit the trustworthiness of user reviews such as how representative the user review base really is (is it biased by a distorted number of lovers or haters?), how many reviews there are in proportion to the total number of buyers (is it statistically valid) and also, somewhat ironically, the influence of brand perception on product experience. This latter point has been studied at length and is the reason why similar people can rate even the exact same product so differently.

So it’s little wonder that in 2016 a study from the University of Colorado comparing user ratings with ratings from evidence-based consumer reports across 1,272 products in 120 categories, found virtually no correlation between the two numbers at all. Among other things, they found the consumer reports to be predictive of resale value whereas the user reviews were not.

It’s hardly the first time brands have been about to die; social media was also supposed to achieve this. But it’s fairly easy to put to bed both of these claims by using a rudimentary understanding of human behaviour and/or statistics. Although, personally, I’m rather grateful to the people that continue to make these types of wild accusations because they’ve given rise to a number of very enjoyable talks from the likes of Mark Ritson and Bob Hoffman.

Without wanting to get too much into prediction and risk sounding like an idiot, (or as my friends would probably say sounding like even more of an idiot) I expect Amazon to continue to have a substantial effect on the retail sector as it expands around the world and gets the likes of Alexa up and running but if it does kill brands (which I think extremely unlikely) it will not be because user reviews are more trustworthy than advertising.

  • Simon Bird is the group strategy director at PHD.  

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.

Peeling back the layers of successful packaging
Sponsored content

Peeling back the layers of successful packaging

Packaging design is a complex web of factors that go far beyond beauty. Award-winning design agency, Milk outlines the key questions to consider when creating packaging.

Save the date: Stoppies will return in the new year

  • The Stoppies
  • December 14, 2018
  • StopPress Team
Save the date: Stoppies will return in the new year

On 14 February 2019, the StopPress team will be showering the industry in love as we take a look back at the best of 2018 at The Stoppies brought to you by oOh!.

Read more

Guyon Espiner moves from Morning Report in RNZ changes

  • Radio
  • December 14, 2018
  • Radio New Zealand
Guyon Espiner moves from Morning Report in RNZ changes

Guyon Espiner is stepping down from RNZ's Morning Report presenter role next year in a series of radio presenter changes.

Read more

Social scoreboard

Zavy and StopPress have worked together to create a scoreboard that compares how the top 25 traditional media advertising spenders in New Zealand have performed on social media over the past 30 days, updated in real time.

topics
Follow The Money
Follow The Money
Follow the money. It’s an axiom that journalists have believed in for years and a ...
Regional Rundown
Regional Rundown
StopPress takes a trip down the country to see who the audiences and agencies are ...
Beyond the Page 2018
Beyond the Page 2018
In conjunction with the MPA, the Beyond the Page series shows how some of the ...
Insight Creative
Insight Creative
Insight Creative specialises in shaping business stories out the core insights that often lie under ...
Beneath the Surface
Beneath the Surface
In this series, brought to you by Microsoft, we talk to a conceptual photographer, illustrator ...
20/20 (tele)vision
20/20 (tele)vision
Media consumption is changing. But by how much?
The Hot List
The Hot List
Our rundown of the hottest shows, brands and creators in New Zealand media. 1. magazine ...
Cannes Lions 2017
Cannes Lions 2017
All the winners, the shortlists and the drama from this year's edition of advertising biggest ...
Merger Mania
Merger Mania
All our stories on the nation's two failed mergers in one place
Bauer Beyond the Page
Bauer Beyond the Page
When it comes to creating branded content, there are few better in the Kiwi market ...
The Indies
The Indies
Over the course of this series of articles, we look at how always-nimble indy agencies ...
AdRoll on automation
AdRoll on automation
Marketing automation is tipped to eventually become the only way advertising is traded in the ...
Game Changers
Game Changers
It’s all about PEOPLE. Join us as we discuss global insights, ideas and innovations from ...
TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2015
TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2015
Celebrating all the winners of the 2015 TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards.
Future Tense
Future Tense
In a new series, StopPress talks to a range of newsmakers currently trying to shine ...
Beyond the Page
Beyond the Page
In conjunction with the MPA, the Beyond the Page series shows how some of the ...
Up Country
Up Country
In conjunction with News Works, the Up Country series talks with some of New Zealand's ...
Sounding off
Sounding off
As part of a content partnership with MediaWorks, we've asked a few of the company's ...
StopPress Podcasts
StopPress Podcasts
We sit down for a chat with industry leaders to find out what they're up ...
ThinkTV: How New Zealand's television collective is tracking nearly one year in
news

ThinkTV: How New Zealand's television collective is tracking nearly one year in

Nine months into Think TV, we ask chairman Glen Kyne to reflect on what New Zealand’s first television collective has achieved in the last year and what we can look forward to in 2019.

DDB shines gold and Special Group shines silver at Campaign Agency of the Year 2018 Awards

  • Awards
  • December 14, 2018
  • StopPress Team
DDB shines gold and Special Group shines silver at Campaign Agency of the Year 2018 Awards

There was plenty to celebrate last night at the Campaign Agency of the Year 2018 Awards as local agencies took to the stage, with DDB New Zealand and Special Group collecting the most gongs.

Read more
voices

New World cooks up a feast to take out November's Ad Impact Award

  • Ad Impact
  • December 14, 2018
  • StopPress Team
New World cooks up a feast to take out November's Ad Impact Award

November saw another great selection of new adverts but there can only be one winner of the Colmar Brunton Ad Impact Award and this month it is New World with 'Enjoy Better'.

Read more
NZME's chief executive officer Michael Boggs on the last year of radio and what's to come
Sponsored content

NZME's chief executive officer Michael Boggs on the last year of radio and what's to come

With 2018 coming to an end, StopPress talks to Michael Boggs, NZME's chief executive officer, about the highs of radio in 2018, including on-air and online performance, as well as what's in store for NZME's 2019 offering.

Gray Matters: A time for giving, the grey dollar, reputation, digital advertising, young people and Facebook, and wasted ad spend

  • Voices
  • December 13, 2018
  • StopPress Team
Gray Matters: A time for giving, the grey dollar, reputation, digital advertising, young people and Facebook, and wasted ad spend

Graham Medcalf takes a look at the week that was, covering gift giving, 50+ Christmas spending, the tech giants’ share of digital advertising dollars, the move away from Facebook, and extravagant spend increasing credibility.

Read more

Tourism New Zealand campaign educates on responsible camping

  • Advertising
  • December 13, 2018
  • StopPress Team
Tourism New Zealand campaign educates on responsible camping

Tourism New Zealand and MBIE have created an integrated campaign directly targeting campers to help educate and encourage responsible camping this summer.

Read more

Katie Walton becomes Spark PR & Activate general manager

  • Advertising
  • December 13, 2018
  • StopPress Team
Katie Walton becomes Spark PR & Activate general manager

Spark PR & Activate has promoted Katie Walton to general manager.

Read more

New Zealand Twitter trends for 2018

  • Media
  • December 13, 2018
  • StopPress Team
New Zealand Twitter trends for 2018

A place for sharing news, opinions and pictures of your cat, we take a look at the trends and most tweeted about on New Zealand Twitter for 2018.

Read more
Managing brands in an uncertain world
Sponsored content

Managing brands in an uncertain world

A value is only a value if you’re willing to let it cost you something.

TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2018 best utilities/communications: Genesis shines bright
news

TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2018 best utilities/communications: Genesis shines bright

It’s difficult for a company to stand out in a crowded marketplace, and not let itself deteriorate among the pressure of its competitors. While Genesis was beginning to age, it decided to breathe new life and purpose into its brand with incredible results.

The collaborative approach: Woods Agency's Reuben Woods on tackling the world stage from Tauranga
Sponsored content

The collaborative approach: Woods Agency's Reuben Woods on tackling the world stage from Tauranga

When Reuben and Melissa Woods started Woods Agency in their spare bedroom in Papamoa Beach back in 2004, they only had one regular client, bedroom furniture company Design Mobel. Fourteen years on, their client list spans the length of New Zealand and into the Pacific Islands. We chat with Reuben about how they built an agency that focuses on developing regional companies into world-class brands.

Rainger and Rolfe on five years of Rainger & Rolfe
features

Rainger and Rolfe on five years of Rainger & Rolfe

Last month, Rainger & Rolfe blew out five candles to top off what managing partner Ant Rainger is calling “the best year yet”. To find out why, StopPress sat down with Rainger and his managing partner Jen Rolfe to reflect on the last five years and what’s to come for the indie.

Next page
Results for
Topics
Jobs
About

StopPress provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2018 ICG Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

Advertise

Contact Vernene Medcalf at +64 21 628 200 to advertise in StopPress.

View Media Kit