Learn From Your Customers

Are reviews a form of free emotional marketing?

Friday, 1 March 2024

We know that shoppers are led by their emotions when making buying decisions. Emotional marketing taps into those emotions and reflects them to customers; it’s marketing with a healthy dose of emotional quotient (EQ), though its official definition is a set of marketing tactics to activate particular emotional responses in customers.

Multiple marketing campaigns have come and gone which wield human emotion ad nauseam. Like Always, a global feminine hygiene brand that introduced the #LikeAGirl campaign in 2014. 

After their competitors chose the emotional route in their marketing, the Always team decided to change course dramatically and flip the script on an old derogatory trope against girls and women, taking the phrase “throw like a girl” and giving it a more positive connotation. 

The goal was to speak to women and girls through the emotionally wrought filter of female empowerment (which was growing in popularity at the time) and increase brand loyalty by rebuilding their reputation to fit their female audience’s experiences. 

Regarding results, #LikeAGirl debuted on YouTube in 2014 and wracked up 90 million views in 150 countries within the first two months of its release. Following that came a campaign that garnered one million+ people who shared the video, 35,000 comments, and 13% user-generated content. The campaign garnered over 290 million social impressions and 133 thousand social mentions with #LikeAGirl (99% positive/neutral) in the US alone.


Image by Always / Procter & Gamble

What started as emotional marketing to boost a brand’s reputation became a worldwide movement. 

#LikeAGirl is one of many great case studies on the importance of understanding customers on an emotional and granular level. At Trustpilot, a leading business review website, we observe hundreds of thousands of reviews daily, and there is one unyielding fact: reviews are a form of emotional release and connection with a business. 

When customers are happy, they leave great reviews; when upset or disappointed in a service, the reviews tend not to hold back. When all review types are put together, the combination offers sentiment or the general feeling of specific segments of customers. Using sentiment analysis to build better campaigns is always a good idea. As evidenced in Always’ success. 

Campaigns like #LikeAGirl cost millions of dollars. Still, arguably, review websites offer short-term emotional marketing inspiration for free and are a customer engagement treasure trove – considering nearly half of all internet users post reviews every month. Let’s explore how. 

How reviews elicit emotions 

Countless studies reveal the emotional impact of reviews on consumer behaviour. Research by Xun Xu at California State University shows that extreme emotions, positive or negative, fuel online reviews.  

“Consumers tend to comment more in reviews when they have an extreme emotion, either positive or negative. Consumers comment even more when they have an extremely negative emotion than when they have an extremely positive emotion,” notes Xu. 

While this indicates the power of negative emotions, positive reviews hold significant sway, with almost half of global consumers citing them as a top purchase influence, according to Trustpilot research. 

Seeing more positive reviews associated with a company tends to invoke emotions of trust, and, in many ways, reviews tell stories of personal experiences, providing a level of connection that shoppers are looking for. The internet is a vast terrain, and often, big purchasing decisions are made using strangers' recommendations; trust is vital in bringing customers over the line. That’s where stories weaved by positive reviews can help. 

Human beings have an intrinsic response to storytelling. Headstream found that If people love a brand story, 55% are more likely to buy the product in future, 44% will share the story, and 15% will buy the product immediately. 

Professor Tuck Siong Chung of ESSEC Asia-Pacific emphasizes that not all stories are equally impactful. The strength of the narrative in a review, not just positivity, influences its impact. Reviews need to have breadth and depth to resonate emotionally. 

“There are costs to consumers when they collect and integrate review information to make product consumption choices. Thus, narrative reviews positively impact sales only if the level of narrativity, which influenced their informational value, is above these costs, states Siong Chung.” 

While negative reviews may seem like a hurdle, they present another opportunity. 96% of customers actively seek them out, valuing their authenticity and transparency. A survey found that 68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad reviews. 

This highlights the importance of responding appropriately to negative reviews, demonstrating a commitment to customer satisfaction, and potentially turning a negative experience positive. Almost 26% of consumers consider responding to reviews an important part of business activity.

The key lies in harnessing the emotions evoked by both positive and negative reviews to craft impactful marketing campaigns. By understanding and utilizing the power of storytelling, addressing negative feedback constructively, and highlighting authentic customer experiences, businesses can leverage reviews to truly connect with their audience and drive positive outcomes.

Creative ways to implement reviews in emotional marketing

  • Sentiment analysis is your friend. Use sentiment analysis tools like Trustpilot’s customer sentiment offering to find associated emotions with a particular product, feature or service. Borrow language from your customers’ reviews and use potential keywords throughout marketing messaging. 

  • Analyze negative reviews and sentiments to make improvements, and don’t shy away from addressing them in an emotional marketing strategy. Much like how Always turned the demeaning phrase “like a girl” around, the same can be said for negative reviews. 

How to make free UGC (User Generated Content)

UGC, or User-Generated Content, is a highly useful form of marketing to include in any strategy and results in 29% higher web conversions than campaigns or websites without it. Reviews happen to be an excellent way to make free UGC. 

Create stories from positive reviews. Use positive reviews with longer narratives in ad campaigns, or invite the user to reiterate their experience in a video testimonial. 79% of people use video testimonials to learn more about a business and its product or service.

How to choose business review websites/customer review sites

Depends on what you’re looking for. If you aim to employ emotional marketing, the reviews you gather must be legitimate and trustworthy. Not all business review websites/customer review sites are built the same. At Trustpilot, we focus on providing an open platform full of verified reviews and take fake reviews very seriously. So, in short, the best business review websites/customer review sites see trust as the core of their offering.  

Wrapping up

Emotional marketing is a potent strategy for fostering brand loyalty and boosting sales. Reviews, both positive and negative, are intrinsically linked to this strategy, offering customers a platform to share their emotions and experiences. By understanding and leveraging the emotional impact of reviews through sentiment analysis, businesses can cultivate stronger customer trust and engagement and ultimately drive greater success.

Key takeaways

  • Emotional marketing is effective because it taps into customers' emotions and reflects them back.

  • Reviews are a form of emotional release and connection with a business that can provide a treasure trove of customer engagement.

  • Positive reviews have a persuasive effect and can evoke emotions of trust, making them an essential factor in the decision-making process. 

  • Negative reviews can be more persuasive than positive ones, and customers tend to comment more when they feel extreme emotions. 

  • Sentiment analysis is a great way to gauge customer emotions from reviews. 

  • Campaigns like #LikeAGirl have shown the importance of understanding customers on an emotional and granular level.

Find out more about how Trustpilot reviews make an impact in TV advertising here. 


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