The Benefits of Negative Comments and Bad Reviews


Through our work in digital media we find many clients, actually most of them, approach the idea of “going social” with caution largely because of concerns about negative reviews. This caution is due to the possibility of real, disgruntled scrutiny by valid users of the product or service. Unfortunately there also exists the very real threat of competitors, posers, trolls, agents or agencies posting undeserved negative reviews.

While caution is valid and any messaging must be given proper consideration remember, a product or service doesn’t sell if no one knows it exists. Creating and selling a product or service is the very essence of risk-taking. Not marketing the product is pure folly.

Companies no longer control the end-to-end messaging about their products. The new paradigm means brands are talked about on social networks through reviews, tweets, endorsements, blogs, etc. and a majority of businesses have no idea how their brands are represented online.

We want to define some key points to remember about online reviews and what businesses should consider about embracing this quickly evolving marketplace.

There’s no such thing as bad publicity

Negative reviews add realism; something with only positive reviews looks fake. Trust us on this one. Have you checked the online reviews of your favorite movie , dry cleaner, mobile device or restaurant? Would those reviews alone affect your experience?

Even bad reviews boost sales

How Negative Reviews Increase Sales Online

Look for a grain of truth – be willing to change

They might be right, at least about something. What could the business learn to do differently or better by consideration of valid feedback? Perhaps there is a training or employee issue to be addressed. Consider the feedback and the source and manage through the change.

On Bad Reviews: There is Gold in There

Don’t fight it

Reacting negatively only makes things worse. Once something is online it can’t be hidden or suppressed. This is an article with several classic cases illustrating that Fighting It had unintended consequences.

Streisand Effect

Be ready to act

In many cases you should respond, appropriately. Know beforehand what your response will be. We urge our clients to develop and practice a digital media contingency plan for when things go awry. Notice that we said when not if.

Don’t be like Dominos who was forced into adopting a digital strategy the hard way.

You can’t please all the people all the time.

It’s truly hard to believe, but some people don’t like bacon! Even recognized, award-winning and generally acknowledged great products or works receive negative reviews. No one is unscathed or safe from negative reviews, including you. Here are some examples from Beth Revis:

  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (my fave of the series) has 2,843 one-star reviews.
  • A Wrinkle in Time, one of the best science fiction titles for teens and young people, has 4,359 one-star reviews.
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is funny and insightful and a classic, has 11,212 one-star reviews. Eleven thousand, two hundred, and twelve.
  • Hamlet, written by Shakespeare, arguably the most popular work by the most influential writer in the English language, has 2,198 one-star reviews. King Lear, a personal favorite Shakespearean play, has nearly a thousand one-stars.
  • Okay, okay, okay. We can all agree that some of those above titles might have elements that some people don’t like. But who can dislike a classic children’s picture book? Let’s say…Where the Wild Things Are. It might be the most popular children’s book in America  and it has over 2,000 one-star reviews. Curious George? Nearly 1,000 one-stars. The Cat in the Hat? Over twelve-hundred.

How a business handles negative reviews makes all the difference, particularly online when others are part of the conversation. Have a plan of how these will be addressed, who will review them, create an action plan as part of your response plan and then respond effectively.


Mike Whitmore

Advisory Board President