James Cherkoff tells us a nice little story about how tight marketing programs, the nice shop in a nice part of town, well trained sales people, the glossy leaflets and the good reputation of certain type of kitchen brand has been made obsolete by one single search on the web about what other customers of this brand had to say. The opinions were mostly negative and James ended up cancelling his order.
Of course, you would always have consulted other sources – most of all your closest peers – about opinions on any high involvement product or service. But the chances that you find many sources with the same brand of kitchen (car, dishwasher, etc.) in your closest range of peers was and is rather limited.
With todays possibilities to find opinions on anything on the web (even stuff you didn’t want to know about), it is ever more important for brands to keep their promises. People are fearing the moment of the totally transparent consumer, but hey, brands already face this complete transparency!
Most people still underestimate the dangers of net transparency. As one can read in this article of the Guardian, some students of the University of Oxford were caught by proctors who found the relevant evidence on facebook.
Students now face fines of up to Â£100 after proctors collected evidence of students celebrating the end of exams by „trashing“ their friends, covering them with champagne, confetti, flour, and even foodstuffs including raw meat and octopus. […] „Somehow the proctors have accessed my photos on Facebook and cited them as evidence of my misconduct, and I am being summoned to a disciplinary hearing.“ „I don’t know how this happened, especially as my privacy settings were such that only my friends and students in my networks could view my photos“.
I keep telling everyone to be really careful with what they put on the web. Don’t put up pictures or videos of friends who didn’t agree – and also don’t put up pictures of your kids – they might not like that in 20 years time.
You never know, whether things like the abovementioned might be possible. Or for how long your content will stay in the Google archive. Or whether or not a site will end up in the archives of archive.org and possibly stay there forever. Web content is more permanent than most people realize.
The new trendbriefing is all about the tyranny of transparency:
„Old economy fog is clearing: no longer can incompetence, below-par performance, ignored global standards, anti-social & anti-eco behavior, or opaque pricing be obscured. In its place has come a transparent, fully informed marketplace, where producers have no excuse left to underperform. TRANSPARENCY TYRANNY for some, TRANSPARENCY TRIUMPH for others.“
Opinion portals, blogs, review sites, forums, video sites, etc. etc. The modern consumer has every means to publish his or her opinion about everything – and every consumer can also find opinions on everything. And it’s only going to get worse over time, says that report. The amount might, as they write, outnumber the fake reviews written by the brands themselves leading to greater „honesty“ and „trust“.
But it also means that users will need ever better and more intelligent filters to find anything useful – especially something useful for THEM. Since the reviews might be written by users with a completely different taste for things. Other fields of danger are company internal things being spread, of course.
Yet, I don’t feel sorry for these companies. If they have things to hide, then it’s a threat for them.
At the same time, it is a huge chance for companies. Of course, people will also spread good news, so there will be a lot more word of mouth going around.
But the main factor is in the fields of market research: It has become so easy and inexpensive to find out, what consumers are really thinking about products and services! The more diverse the landscape of reviews, videos, soundbites or photos, the better results of an „online conversation research“ can get. I recommend to everyone to go „egosurfing“ – either for your own name, or for your company, your brand.
So don’t try to solve the problem of transparency, grab the opportunity of endless free consumer insights!