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Why getting early negative reviews can be a good thing

 

If you’ve ever struggled to convince a client on the benefits of allowing negative comments about their products, here’s one for you. A piece in Harvard Business Review (thanks @euanwilcox) reveals that getting bad reviews early on can actually be good in the long run.

The findings come from a study of 51,854 reviews contributed to Amazon, covering 858 books from 2000 to early 2004. Researchers Ye Hu and Xinxin Li  found that recent user comments often focus more on addressing the previous reviews than evaluating the book itself. Meaning that books that initially received negative reviews often ended up with broadly positive reviews at the top, and vice versa.

Why? The authors cite two main reasons: expectations and self-selection:

Your friend’s assertion that “The Tree of Life” is the greatest movie you’ll ever see is pretty much a guarantee that you’ll be scratching your head afterward…An expectation disconnect is one of the factors that prompt readers to post reviews…

Self-selection refers to readers’ motives for taking the time to write. Some contribute reviews in order to correct what they see as misperceptions; others do so just because they like to be contrary in order to stand out. Either way, the result tends to be disagreement with the initial wave of reviews.

This follows previous research into Amazon reviews suggesting that the specificity of a review can be as telling as whether the overall sentiment is positive or negative.

Idea Envy: VW BlueMotion Roulette

This is one to file under ‘ideas you wish you’d come up with’ – in this case it was VW’s Norwegian agency Apt that got there first.

So how do you make people care about a boring-but-important feature like a car’s fuel consumption? What about asking consumers to upload their favourite fuel-economy related stories to your Facebook page? Or not.

In fact, these guys decided it would be more fun to turn one of Norway’s longest highways into a giant game of roulette. The person who correctly predicts where the BlueMotion will run out of fuel gets to keep one – finally giving people a real reason to research fuel economy…

(Kudos to @lyndonjhale for spotting this)

This post first appeared on Amnesia Blog.

The downside of content personalisation

In digital agencies, we love content personalisation. It makes us look smarter in front of clients and hopefully keeps things a bit more interesting for the people we’re trying to communicate with. But there’s also a downside to excessive personalisation – or at least that’s the message Eli Pariser made in his fascinating TED talk on the ‘filter bubble’ (thanks to Eduardo and Mervyn for sharing this).

Pariser describes how content providers like Google are increasingly personalising the information we see based on how likely we’ve been to click on similar topics in the past. The downside being that over time we see just the lazy stories that we like to read (eg What Justin Bieber thinks about the Royal Wedding), rather than the important events we should be aware of (eg the uprising in Egypt).

Pariser focuses on the impact of personalisation on news, but there’s also an important cultural implication. If what we consume becomes purely based on past behavior, over time we run the risk of creating a positive feedback loop where our tastes and attitudes become increasingly narrow and self-reinforcing. The fact that you’ve never visited a Vietnamese restaurant doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the experience when you stumble on one.

The flipside of this argument is that we’ve always gravitated to information sources that resonate with our own world view – think Fox Sports or the UK’s Daily Mail. Furthermore, where once we only had a handful of TV channels, newspapers and local radio stations to form our opinions from, the internet now offers us access to attitudes we’d never of previously seen or heard about.

But it all comes down to our willingness to look for them. Personalisation has come about because most of us need help in making sense of the paralyzing volume of information available online. And in this way, it often helps us discover things we’d perhaps otherwise not have considered, for example Amazon’s recommendations.

If Google becomes our only frame of reference, there’s no doubt that Pariser’s vision is a chilling one. But ultimately it’s up to us to look beyond a single source of information and keep exploring.

The best consumer segment ever: loves risks, drugs and the odd street fight

I had an all-agency session today where our client shared their new consumer segmentation. Whenever this subject comes up, I can’t help thinking back to an absolutely cracking segmentation from UK mobile retailer Phones4U. And yes, there is such a thing…

What I love about Phones4U’s segmentation is the recognition that if you’re going to create memorable advertising, you need to start with a memorable insight about your audience. On closer inspection maybe it’s more about knowing who not to target. In fact, it doesn’t matter, the point is that Phones4U’s segment profiles are a good deal more entertaining than most you’ll see.

A particular favourite of mine is the Flashing Blades segment, whose behavioural profile includes “taking risks, drugs & the odd street fight.”

Another key audience is iPod Babes. They watch HollyoaksFootballers Wives and Big Brother, shop at Lush and Starbucks, and most importantly, are into “Fuck Buddy Sex”. Although not necessarily in that order.

Read more from about Flashing Blades, iPod Babes and more at The Register

The real Mad Men Christmas party: pretty dull actually

Droga 5’s recent full page ad in The Australian confirmed what we all already knew. Despite telling everyone who’ll listen that ‘the old agency model is broken’, most people in advertising still prefer the idea of a Sterling Cooper-style long lunch to a four-hour workshop on cross-media integration.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Except that according to the BBC’s Adam Curtis, the reality of sixties adland was actually a bit less glamorous than Don Draper and co would lead us to believe.


Spot the difference

On his blog ‘The Medium and The Message’, Adam’s posted a fascinating, if slightly dreary, documentary about the 1969 Christmas party of London ad agency Davidson Pearce Berry and Tuck.

26 year old Media Director Allan Rich is pure gold – he puts an upper limit of ten minutes on festive socialising and shuns alcohol for a cheeky glass of bitter lemon.

Check out the video footage here.

[This post also appears on Amnesia Blog]

Stuck for Christmas gift ideas? How about some Scampi Fries?

Attempting to clear some of my Christmas shopping on Amazon, I noticed a rather curious new section under my personal recommendations – English Cuisine Bestsellers.

Currently sitting at number one is a family size consignment of Scampi Fries. It’s great that an artificially flavoured wheat-based snack has been recognised as a leader in the world of English cuisine. Other top sellers include Cheese Moments, catering packs of PG Tips and Buxton Still Water. Who’s buying this stuff?

[This post also appears on Amnesia Blog]

IKEA’s self-assembly banner ads

With everyone banging on about ‘being part of the conversation’ it’s easy to forget about the humble banner ad…and let’s face it, a lot of the time banners sit somewhere between pretty forgettable and downright irritating.

Well, here’s a great example of why banners don’t have to boring – it’s an IKEA ad by Hamburg’s Grabarz & Partner that made the finals of the LIAs a while ago.

Briefed with promoting IKEA’s spring sale, the Germs could have banged out some Harvey Norman-style price screamers. Instead they managed to create something that cheekily encapsulates the IKEA philosophy – “assemble it yourself and save money”.

Unbox the banner yourself here.

[This post also appears on Amnesia Blog]