Sticks and stones can’t break their bones, but words can hurt brands.

In the past, if someone had a beef with a business, the worst they could do was to tell their friends and family about the horrible service at “Al’s Diner,” and maybe send a spiteful letter to Al. But now they can unleash their opinions and words of venom to the world through a never-ending list of business review sites, social media channels, forums etc., for all fellow consumers to read.

A major part of a brand’s identity comes from the way its consumers perceive it. And a part of the consumer’s perception of a brand is influenced by what other people are saying about it. In this Digital Age in which we are all connected, the modern consumer is capable of reaching a lot of people, potentially affecting their opinions, perspectives and feelings about a business.

When you think about it, that’s a lot of power, much more than consumers have ever had in the past, and both good and evil can come from that. As the old adage goes, with great power comes great responsibility.

I completely support the consumer’s right to be heard, as long as they’re honest and fair. The consumer voice of reason keeps businesses in line and helps them improve. It’s the unreasonable people that I have a problem with. It’s way too easy to turn on the laptop and rip a business a new one just because the cashier “looked at you wrong.”

We may assume that our lone little rants, out there amongst thousands of others, don’t have an impact, but they do. They’re out there for the world to see. Whether just one reader or 1,000 readers stumble across the consumer review, it has the potential to affect people’s perception of the brand. And if the review is unfair, irrational, unnecessarily mean, or a flat out lie, then that’s not fair to the business (no matter how big or small it is), nor the  bystander who now has the wrong impression.

The Digital Age has connected businesses and consumers in an unprecedented way. Both are now on an even playing field. And just as we expect integrity and fairness from brands, we are responsible for reciprocating. If we as consumers aren’t fair and judicious with our comments, reviews and complaints, then we’re just as bad as the allegedly loathsome businesses we’re complaining about.

– Andrew

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