32 Responses to “The TripAdvisor effect: Are online reviews making brands irrelevant?”

  1. Chris Gillett

    Excellent post and one I was considering writing myself, but you got there first (and did a great job)!

    Aside from the need for Tripadviser and similar sites to ensure authenticity of reviews, I think the key point is underlined when you say ‘brands were built on the assumption of limited information’. Times they are a changing – brands can no longer control what is said at the point of contact but they can influence the conversation afterwards.

    Companies who invest enough resources in social media and monitor/measure brand mentions will be able to control potential PR disasters. Those that don’t are left to the public lion’s den.

    Again, excellent post Nathan.

    Chris – 3seven9

  2. Ian Zeitzer

    Interesting case study with regards to Super 8 motels and what a brand used to mean and what they mean today. While I think review sites will lead to greater recognition of unbranded businesses thanks to a leveling of the playing field in the marketplace (a Yelp review for a Super 8 looks exactly the same as a bed & breakfasts, for ex.), I think we’re underestimating a large brands ability to adapt. A company like Super 8 has a lot of corporate money and resources at its disposal. While a 30-second spot may not change someone’s opinion of a specific property with poor ratings, once the parent company eventually figure out this new social media climate (I assume they do, or else failure is inevitable,) I think you’ll see the power of branding surface again.

  3. I think that TripAdvisor is a controversial business. Somehow, it forces the brands into an ecosystem they don’t have any control of. It is an unfair way of making money, since one of the two necessary parts -the brand- didn’t choose to be listed and exposed to lies and fake reviews. TripAdvisor do not even make the basic required security measures to avoid getting overflowed with fake reviews. But the real issue is that those fake virtual reviews have a non-fake real cost on the targeted brand. Who is paying for the damages of the diffamation? TripAdvisor certainly is not…
    The only logical thing to happen is a massive class action suit. Nor TA not anyone else should publish anything without a proof of purchase or a serious method of validating the reviews.

    • Nathan Labenz

      Ramiro – I think your criticism of TripAdvisor is valid. I personally have had good experiences with TripAdvisor’s reviews, but I recognize that some are fake and otherwise problematic. That’s why it’s so important that TripAdvisor is starting to use Facebook-connected reviews. It gives a sense of legitimacy and transparency to the comments.

  4. well I can’t say I’m especially interested in my friends’ reviews. I trust the so called “experts” on tripadvisor more. the advantage of the internet is you can crowd-source, and no longer need to rely on the opinions of just the few dozens of people you know in real life. I think there’s a lot wishing thinking in the power of social, asking your friends is sort of pre internet you know.

  5. Rob Runyan

    Great point about asking happy customers to be your ambassadors to the public. Those who have used your product or service are the best way to win over savvy shoppers. When they see positive reviews from people they know, all the better. Very well said Nathan!

  6. Having worked in hotels for over 20 years, I have come to the understanding that tripadvisor is not as trusted as you may think. First of all, one person’s experience will not be that of all guests. Secondly, most hotels have a tripadvisor watchdog, that is to say, an associate that watches the site and, for each bad review, will post a bogus good one. Its sad, but true!

    • Social Marketer

      Good point. Do I really trust reviews for a hotel on TA when the reviews are just another marketing channel for a hotel? Best I can do sometimes is get a sense of “how bad” a hotel might be based on the negative reviews which may have a greater chance of being authentic. Then I have to take those with a grain of salt knowing that some travelers simply like to complain or have very different standards, expectations or tolerances.
      I will be interesting to see how Google +1 plays out for hotels. Will I trust reviews from friends more than strangers? Depends on the friend.

  7. Kate Briers

    Really interesting article with plenty to think about – everything is branded of which TA is a well known one. ‘Trust’ is important and the links there to establish some integrity are essential. However, we have to remember that one man’s idea of paradise may not be another’s; the speed of information transfer is fantastic but so are trends.

  8. Monica Renée

    We did a study into this in one of my classes and came out with this: although people look online for information on products and services, they still highly value official opinions. Thus, the Internet allows for the rapid and widespread gathering of information, but I believe people will still check their sources in most cases. Or put another way, information and rumors can spread, but they will remain rumors until a noticeable and respectable voice comments on it. Hopefully after doing research into the validity of the issue.

  9. Tono Aguilar

    This is a great article and congrats on your early successes. I think you clearly delucidated some of the Big trends/shift that are shaping the current development of eCommerce. Clearly, this is only the beginning and I believe the issue of “trust” goes beyond mere commerce. Given the ease with which millions of fake profiles, reviews, etc can be created with the push of a button – I take solace in the idea that we can reclaim this feature and ensure that the technological conduits through which we connect remain human-centered. Stik sounds like a great step in the right direction.

  10. User reviews perform the same job as brands that are working to create trust with the consumer. This aspect of branding is at risk, but not necessarily branding itself. Instead, the trust aspect of brands can now be handled by the users themselves, freeing up your brand to perform other jobs.

  11. Patricio Köhler

    When a review is written by someone you know you are only a few clicks from asking more details to him. Brands have no control of it and trusted people can start to review all what they want. It’s upon them to maintain their credibility.

  12. It may be obvious, but the “end-game” for the explosion of review content online hinges on the relationship between the reader and the writer. Facebook authenticates reviews (for the most part eliminating trolls), but the personal connection is the holy grail – if a review is written by a friend or trusted entity (perhaps a celebrity travel critic you “follow”), the usefulness can be profound, and is unlikely to be matched by any other rating mechanism in the medium term.

  13. Liz Bacelar

    Anonymity and self-reviews have diluted the credibility of certain review sites. It was nice to learn about sites like Stik.com, which brings “trust” back to reviews, gathering opinions from those with Facebook profiles. Love it!

  14. out of the pool of 50 million reviews, 10 million are considered fake :) Social media has reduced the communication gap between brands and consumers which creates a new challenge for digital marketing.

  15. Adrian Meli

    It is a very interesting topic to discuss as we are still in the early innings of seeing how this plays out. One issue we confront today is fake reviews both positive and negative on sites so they are not completely trustworthy today but longer term this will be figured out. Advertising will always be important but word of mouth should become faster so the best companies should be able to make inroads quicker. The hotel article in the example is particularly interesting and begs the question of whether you are better of paying the royalty fee to Super 8 as a regional hotel or spend the extra money making a better customer experience.

  16. Brands are all about trust and the funny thing is that Trip Advisor is also a brand. As long as the brand can remain trusted, it will continue to be powerful. However, this far from guaranteed; many review sites have been keen to find interesting ways to monetize that might not benefit the trust of their brands in the long-term.

  17. Manish Malik

    There is much good insight in this post.

    The other aspect is the threat of competition using the ‘ease’ of online reputation destruction via Google and TripAdvisor to get the better of your brand. As you did point out, the integration with Facebook / other social mechanisms of bringing in the trust factor of reviews from familiar people does help in this regard.