Using Reviews in Advertising: Best Practices

partnership announcement image

This is part two of a two part blog series on the power of using reviews in advertising.

In today’s transparency economy, customers have come to expect reviews for just about everything — from books and movies to hotels and experiences. In fact, Forrester research found that ratings and reviews are the most influential type of product content.

Consumers continue to trust the opinions of family and friends, but increasingly, they’re looking to strangers for guidance in their purchase decisions. After all, the most authentic voices are those of the people who have already purchased a product and shared their experiences online.

It makes sense, then, that more brands and retailers are exploring ways to integrate the voice of the customer into other marketing initiatives, like print and digital advertising. Using reviews data to substantiate claims in advertising, however, is a bit of uncharted territory, leaving many brands wondering how they can (or can’t) use this information in advertising. For example, when — if ever — can a widget company claim their product is the “Top Rated Widget”?

Recently, Matt Moog, PowerReviews’ CEO, spoke on a panel with the FTC and several prominent attorneys at the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council’s (ASRC) National Advertising Division (NAD) Annual Conference in New York City. The panel explored how advertisers are finding new and creative ways to gather and use ratings and reviews as support for advertising claims.

In a previous post, I focused on why ratings and reviews are so powerful. Today, I’ll focus on best practices for brands and retailers looking to integrate ratings and reviews into advertising initiatives.

Make Specific Claims
There have been some recent instances of companies getting into hot water for making broad, general claims in their advertising based on the data from reviews. Rather than saying your blender is the “Highest Rated Blender,” consider touting it as the “Top Rated Blender on [Your eCommerce Site.]” Or, if you’re a brand that syndicates your content, it makes sense to say that your blender is the “Top Rated Blender on the PowerReviews Network,” as long as you have the data to back it.  

Keep Reviews Authentic
The power of reviews lies in their authenticity. Be sure you — and your reviews partner — have measures in place to preserve the authenticity of ratings and reviews on your site. For example, reviews should undergo a multi-step moderation process to ensure they’re authentic and fraud-free, including moderation by a real human. But don’t edit the actual content of the reviews. Shoppers’ voices should be heard as they really are.

In addition, don’t reject negative reviews simply because they’re negative. Negative reviews are powerful, as they can establish trust with your customers. And research from Northwestern University found that a 5.0 star rating isn’t the best for driving sales. Instead, an average star rating of 4.2-4.5 is ideal for purchase probability.

Generate More Reviews
How many reviews do you have to have for a product before you can consider the feedback representative? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer, and instead, it requires consideration on a case-by-case basis. The more reviews you have, however, the more representative the insights gained from them. Therefore, it’s key to consistently focus on generating more reviews, use data, and be specific in your claims.

Get Permission
Let’s say one of your verified shoppers has submitted a well-written, positive review for a vacuum cleaner. Including this review in your advertising initiatives can be a powerful way to grab the attention of future shoppers. But before you use reviews or images in your marketing initiatives, get the contributor’s permission.

Partner With Legal Counsel
If you’re considering an advertising initiative that uses ratings and reviews to substantiate claims, involve your legal counsel early on. He or she can provide guidance on the best way to incorporate this powerful content into your advertising.

Keep these best practices in mind to allow the voice of the customer to be heard in advertising, while also protecting your brand’s hard-earned reputation.