By Allan Maurer
ATLANTA – Marketers know that online consumer reviews of products help boost sales. But, if you’re a large company with 40 brands, such as Newell Rubbermaid and you add user reviews to your online interactive mix, what do you do about negative reviews?
Rubbermaid has been allowing consumer product reviews since the summer of 2008, and not all reviewers post laudatory five-star raves. “There was a lot of concern among the brand managers when we first started,” says Bert DuMars, vice president of E-business and Interactive Marketing at Newll Rubbermaid. “They said, ‘why are we posting negative reviews of my products?”
“We’ve studied this for years,” DuMars says. For one thing, he says, posting negative as well as positive reviews alleviates consumer concerns that a company may be moderating out the negative ones. “If you have 150 reviews and they’re all five stars, that product better be gold,” he adds. “The only way you can validate that you’re giving the user a honest experience is if they look at other products and see negative reviews even if you have one everybody just loves.”
Buyers look at both positive and negative reviews
But there is more to it than that. Potential buyers, DuMars notes, “Look at both positive and negative reviews.” Not only that, negative reviews can actually drive as many sales as positive ones as long as the product is not defective. Some buyers even find that they want the very features a negative reviewer didn’t like.
All in all, running those customer reviews “Changed the culture of the Rubbermaid brand team,” says DuMars.
“When we weren’t as focused on the digital space, we would do product launches and not know about negative word-of-mouth until it was too late and retailers were returning the product. Now we get feedback in a couple of weeks after shipping and if we find something negative we can save it. We change the packaging or the product, or if people didn’t know how to use it, we can reach out to them right away and turn it around.”
Bert DuMars joined Newell Rubbermaid, a global marketer of consumer and commercial products, in 2007 and is responsible for directing and coordinating E-Marketing, Ecommerce, Mobile Marketing and Social Media Marketing initiatives for Newell Rubbermaid’s externally-facing online efforts.
DuMars is also the originator of the Social Media Atlanta conference and the 2010 Association of Telecom Professionals (ATP) Enterprise Innovation Award winner.
A lot more depth to it
DuMars says he will discuss these and other matters as a participant in TechMedia’s Digital Summit at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta May 16-17.
“There’s a lot more depth to it,” he says. I mentioned that even during our interview, he freely offered the kind of nitty-gritty down and dirty information the people who attend our digital conferences have said they prefer. He said the company freely shares much of its best practices information. “There’s no secret sauce there,” he says.
One of the great advantages of having a finger on the pulse of customer sentiment in the social space is “That you can spot what people are doing quickly,” he says. With major product launches, “Negative word of mouth can kill your product without you knowing it.” In the social space, “When you see someone making a comment, positive or negative, you respond to them quickly.”
It also provides a way to respond to a crisis – and there are a lot of crisis opportunities in product launches and customer reactions, he points out. Responding, he notes, “Is not easy whether you are a Toyota or any other brand.”
Newell Rubbermaid, in fact, had a problem with a baby stroller, and in response, “We had a video go viral. Watching it, you might think it was the most boring thing you ever saw. It told exactly what the problem with the strollers and how to fix it. Sometimes the boring thing solves the consumer’s pain point.”
The company has also seen success in setting up private communities for professionals such as teachers and nurses using its products, such as its smart white board (Dymo Mimio interactive teaching technology) for teachers. One science teacher began posting instructional videos in the community on his own that eventually led to his getting hired by the company to do it full time.
DuMars provides numerous specific examples of how the company uses social media creatively, such as syndicating customer reviews to retailer sites, and more than we can report in a blog post that doesn’t turn into a book. But you can hear more specifics, including the services Rubbermaid brand uses to facilitate its efforts, at the Digital Summit in May.
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