The Internet has made consumer reviews so widely available that it’s changing the impact of traditional marketing tools like branding and packaging. I had a recent shopping experience that brought that reality home.
To make a long story short, I’d been looking for a good facial cleanser and had evaluated lots of products on stores shelves (and was awed by the amazing packaging) and solicited the input of in-store specialists. I’d been recommended a product and told that it was perfect for me, had been selling like hotcakes, and was on sale for $120. Given the hefty price tag I didn’t jump to buy it in the store. Instead I went home and searched for reviews on the product. I found dozens -- most of which were mixed. I decided not to spend the $120. I searched the term "best cleanser" and found lots of reviews of Cetaphil that seemed genuine and from women like me. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive – and the fact that the product was $20 – meant I was sold.
I went back to the store to seek it out. I found a single remaining bottle on the shelves with all the other skin cleansers, but was surprised with its packaging. It was in a large, cheap plastic container -- it looked more like hand soap than facial cleanser. I would never have bought it if I hadn't been convinced by previous research that it was worth a try.
The marketer in me was screaming about how much better the branding, packaging, positioning and advertising ought to be... but it was the only bottle left on the shelf, so it seemed to be selling well. And with good reason, as I’ve been using it for a week now with great results.
The product in this story isn’t relevant – it’s the change in my buying behavior that is important. When you buy products today, especially important/expensive ones, do you still base your decision on ads or on the advice of the sales clerk, or do you check the internet for consumer reviews? It’s far more likely to at least include the latter than 5 years ago.
But those reviews alone aren’t enough. Look at my reaction when I saw the packaging of the product that sounded so good online – I questioned whether those reviews were right. It reminded me that a good product isn’t enough. It never was – think about Betamax. It was better, but it didn’t win the VHS / Beta battle.
Today, a good product is essential in order to get the good reviews that your prospects will read. But you also need to have branding and packaging that aligns with your product. Anything else equals poor results.