Some time ago (August 2012 if you want to be pedantic), we discussed the dangers of commissioning or writing fake product reviews for your brand. Although you might expect such tactics to be the preserve of wide-boys and dodgy start-ups, it would appear that even global behemoths may have engaged in it too.
Last month the Taiwanese Fair Trade Commission (FTC) announced they were investigating Samsung in relation to a large volume of negative reviews which had been posted about the products of competitor HTC. The FTC alleges that Samsung employees hired college students to post negative feedback about HTC smartphones online in an effort to make their own products look more popular, and therefore more desirable. The FTC also believes that Samsung employees were themselves submitting anonymous comments designed to have the same effect.
For a company that made $18.3 billion in 2011, the $837,000 fine attached to this crime (if they are found guilty of course) will be nothing more than a slap on the wrist. There is also the potential that HTC may take legal action off the back of the FTC’s findings. But of far greater consequence could be the damage done to the Samsung brand.
Samsung will now be forever tainted in Taiwan for instance, no matter how many apologies they issue or public displays of hand-wringing they organise. The Korean smartphone manufacturer has been publicly branded ‘evil’ by Taiwanese commentators. And if they have faked claims about their competitors, is it really a leap of logic to assume they might do the same about their own?
Here in the West, reaction to the finding has been relatively muted so far. As the Taiwanese investigation continues, and when actions come to court, this may well change. If the negative reviews associated with their brand are fake, is it illogical to question the truth in positive reviews too?
Samsung’s public response to the charges says that the fake reviews were “unfortunate”, and went against the company’s “fundamental principles”. They finish their media statement promising “We will continue to reinforce education and training for our employees to prevent any future recurrence”.
Following the global financial crisis in which banks claimed that the worst excesses were committed by a small rogue element of greedy traders, people are naturally more skeptical of grandiose claims denying responsibility. Samsung seem to have bought themselves some breathing space with this statement and the release of their new Galaxy S4 handset. If the product turns out to be anything less than stunning however, this incident of fake review writing could come back to bite them. Hard.
Lying about a competitors products makes your company look bad. But for the consumer, there has to be a reason why you lied. Is their product actually better? Maybe they will feel sorry for the underdog. But in their quest to understand, you may actually drive your client into the arms of your opponent.
Writing fake product reviews is a lose-lose proposition.
And don’t kid yourself – no one believes that you have a 100% success rate anyway.
If you need help creating compelling, truthful product descriptions, or are brave enough to accept a genuine, no-holds-barred product review, drop me a line.