Are negative reviews always negative?

The Right Angle ‘Google My Business’ profile, is rated at 4.8 stars. So close yet so far from 5! Annoyingly, the only thing holding us back is 1-star review from someone in Columbia, who we’ve never met before. After contacting Google, they said there was nothing they could do. It got me thinking, are negative reviews ALWAYS such a bad thing?

Right Angle Creative Negative Review
Building showing Vienna review

The Tourist Board of Vienna, Austria launched a campaign in 2019 called ‘Unrating Vienna’, using negative reviews to encourage tourists to visit the city and decide for themselves. Playing on the notion that holiday makers research destinations before visiting, they used authentic one star reviews; such as one for the Leopold Art Museum stating “the paintings are disgusting”. This humorous take shows they don’t take themselves too seriously, and leaves an air of mystery and intrigue about what’s inside. Another refers to famous land mark, Schönbrunn Palace’s lawn as “a mess”.

Vienna review
Vienna review

Norbert Ketter the tourist board’s managing director, told Lonely Planet “We take a humorous look at the notion that online ratings are not always the right path to take when it comes to looking for relaxation and moments of enjoyment… [The campaign] is intended to make people sit up and think and trigger broader public discussion.” The campaign not only highlights how misleading online negative reviews are, but the tagline “so who decides what you like?”, challenges readers to make their own choices.

Gossip Girl, an American teen drama was slaughtered with overwhelming bad reviews on its release in 2007. After it’s first season, The Boston Herald declared it “every parent’s nightmare” and The Parents Television Council described it as “mind-blowingly inappropriate”. What did they do? They used them for season two’s posters, a bold move.

Gossip girl review

Rick Haskins, the CW’s executive vice president of marketing and digital programs, told Vulture Magazine , “By playing back the negative quotes about the show using visuals from the show, we hit the perfect tone… the audience loved the juxtaposition of headline and visual, and it reinforced to them why they watched the show their parents hated.” Their risky marketing clearly paid off, as the show went on to have six seasons of loyal viewers and won 18 teen choice awards. It branded the show as risqué and glamorous, with a good sense of humour, nodding to those outraged by its existence.  

If you can’t use negative reviews as clever marketing, there’s lots of other benefits to them too:

  • They alert you to problems you may not have been aware of otherwise.
  • Give you an opportunity to improve brand loyalty by how you respond.
  • Improve your search engine optimisation (SEO) as they help legitimise your business.

Responding to authentic negative reviews is an opportunity to show your customers you care. It’s reported by BrightLocal, that customers who have their issue solved in their first interaction with a business are twice as likely to purchase from that business again. Use it as essential feedback to improve your services/products and build brand loyalty. 

So… it seems that negative reviews aren’t always so negative. As Oscar Wilde said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”