There has been some hubbub over the recent updated FTC guidelines about customer testimonials and product reviews; some brands are wondering how this may impact customer reviews on their sites.
In brief, the guidelines state that testimonials should be based on typical results, and that bloggers who write product reviews should disclose if they have received compensation for writing such a review, i.e., a free product sample or other promotional consideration. In our view, these guidelines don’t relate directly to the authentic consumer-generated content in the form of Bazaarvoice Ratings & Reviews.
We have always advocated transparency and authenticity for all our clients. If an employee reviews a product, the review should be badged as such. For example, apparel brand Free People encourages its store associates to write reviews, and badges them with “FP Employee,” so it’s clear who is writing the review. Amazon.com’s “Amazon Vine” program clearly indicates that an Amazon customer is sharing his or her opinion and received a product free from the manufacturer. We never recommend nor would we support a client who offered to pay for positive reviews of any kind.
The difference between a testimonial and a user-generated product review should also be noted. By definition, a testimonial is something that has been written and/or approved by a brand and used for promotions. A customer review, however, is clearly the unedited, authentic first-person opinion of a consumer.
Many of our clients run campaigns that encourage their customers to contribute reviews on products they have purchased; however, this is not the same as giving someone a free product in exchange for a favorable review. Review volume-building campaigns and post-purchase emails that encourage consumers to give their honest feedback on their purchases still encourage authentic feedback – positive or negative. And as we all know, the more reviews that are written, the more informed consumers become.
In short, brands that remain transparent and authentic should not feel anxious about these new guidelines.