I’ve always been bothered by reviews that I read that were not organically inspired by the writer’s natural desire to share information. I generally disregard anything written before the product was available to the public or even by someone who got the product free. I just do… it means much more to me as a reader when a review was written by someone who just liked the product and decided to tell the world about it.
I feel the same about movie reviews. When a friend tells me that a movie is safe for my kids to watch, then I’m more likely to take my kids to that movie. I certainly wouldn’t give as much weight to her words if I knew she was getting paid to tell people to see that movie.
I started writing down my thoughts on this topic after The Consumerist was kind enough to post a positive review of our customer service (http://consumerist.com/5312214/cotton-babies-stands-behind-the-cloth-diapers-they-sell). I read that article and then realized that my customers don’t know how much I value the good, un-asked-for reviews from real customers that we see come across our Google Alerts every single day.
I’ve been selling products in this category long enough to see many companies forcibly generate buzz about their new item. They write their own reviews, their “testers” are asked to write reviews, their retailers write reviews, then customers are asked to write reviews in exchange for coupon codes.
Sometimes review-driven sites will rank products based on the number and quality of reviews that a product gets. A manufacturer understandably wants their product on that list, and then wants to see their product rise to the top of that list. We’ve had our fair share of negative reviews, some fake, some from competitors trying to trash us, some from unreasonable people and some from real people who just genuinely didn’t like the product.
The world is selfish and thrives on recognition. I get it. There is something flattering about being #1. I’d like to see all of my diapers at the top of those lists. I want them there, but I’m not about to try to “fake it” or “force it” to get them there either.
I understand the manufacturer’s position. They want to create buzz around their product. It can cost big bucks to bring a new product to market. The faster sales are built around that product, the faster the startup investment is reclaimed. The temptation to force that buzz is huge.
I understand the paid reviewer’s position. They want a deal. Manufacturer’s want buzz, the paid reviewer brings it, they want to be paid for their time as an advertiser.
I also understand the consumer’s position. They just want the truth and they want it from people writing honest, unsolicited opinions.
I side with the consumer. Big companies are likely to laugh and call me a “silly little lady” (like the guy in a suit a few years back who told me there was no way I’d make it in business without his help) because generating reviews to build sales is “just business”. They probably would and likely are. But frankly, we have grown because people told people who told people that we care about people. We’ve had our moments of trying to force buzz… like I said, the temptation is great… but the consumers have proven, again and again, when you really care, you don’t have to force your buzz. It just happens because people talk.
We believe in organic reviews.
1. We don’t offer coupons or reward programs for people who leave us reviews. This means that you’re more likely to get a mix of honest opinions.
2. We occasionally invite customers who have sent us a happy email to post their thoughts publically.
3. Professional bloggers approach us all the time to ask if they can review our products. We are always welcoming to reviews but require appropriate FTC disclosure so you know everything you should know.
4. Personal bloggers almost never ask us if they can review our products. They just do it because they love the diapers or they love Cotton Babies… and I love them for it!
5. Media approaches us frequently. We welcome their calls. I would love to have our products profiled on the Today Show or be interviewed by Oprah. (One of my favorite interviews was with Valerie Schremp Hahn. Valerie is a local reporter who happened to be using bumGenius. She interviewed us and wrote a story for the St. Louis Post Dispatch that she called “A couple of bums… and proud of it” for the St. Louis Post Dispatch. It published on the front page of the business section.) If you are media, and want to interview us, several contacts are listed at the bottom of this post.
6. We choose not to publicly celebrate when celebrities use our products. You would be surprised who uses our product, but we believe that celebrities deserve to have a private life.
In a nutshell, if they like us, they call us. We’ve grown organically, parent to parent, from our $100 beginning seven years ago (6).
While this strategy may have worked against us in some ways (because we might not get coverage from members of the media who are influenced by favors), the media coverage for Cotton Babies and bumGenius has been hugely positive and from well-respected venues like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, Slate Magazine, Parents Magazine, Pregnancy Magazine, The Consumerist and a host of parents just like you.. While we may not take a traditional media approach, we believe that our approach is to your benefit.
In conclusion, we are appreciative beyond words to everyone who has written about us and all our faces (Cotton Babies, bumGenius, us personally or have inquired about covering our upcoming products) over the last seven years. I couldn’t have bought the kind of media coverage we’ve been treated to. Thank you for honoring us, our company and our product lines by taking the time to share your thoughts with the rest of the world. If you want to reach us with questions or interview requests, our marketing representative at Cotton Babies can be reached at email@example.com. Alternatively, you may contact Robyn Frankel of Frankel Public Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org.