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Missing Stars: 3 Cool Examples of Reviews in Marketing that Tackle a Less-Than-Perfect Star Rating Head-On

We know you want to put your best foot forward with your marketing strategy, especially when it comes to advertising. Ads can be expensive to create and promote. And who doesn’t want to make a good first impression? But we live in a world of information overload, where trust is at an all-time low.

Ads that feel fresh, creative, and unexpected are more likely to catch our eye than ads that feel too good to be true. They’re more memorable and more likely to start a conversation.

Adversity is key to creativity.  In order to rise to the challenge, you’ve got to have a challenge, right? If your product has a less-than-perfect star rating on a review site, you can use that to your advantage. Rather than pining over the missing stars, get inspired.

Don’t worry, we did the hard work of putting together some cool examples for you. Here are three creative marketing plays that hook their audience by calling attention to the fact that not all customers gave them a 5-star review.

1. Frost Bank App video ad: “Half Star”

Frost Bank’s mobile banking app is rated above-average in its category, with four and a half stars on the app store. But in this video ad (displayed on online streaming services and elsewhere), Frost Bank didn’t focus on features and benefits—which are honestly pretty standard across mobile banking apps, no matter who you bank with. Quite the opposite. They focused on the missing half star.

Frost Bank highlighted their imperfect rating to acknowledge that even a good product has room for improvement. They used it as an opportunity to talk about the fact that they take customer feedback seriously, give a shout out to the specific employees focused on app design, and make their commitment to ongoing improvement feel real.

Whether or not their app actually delivers different features than other mobile banking options, you get the sense that Frost Bank is a more responsive listener, and more human than the big banks you’re used to. The fact that this half star “keeps them up at night” is a differentiator.

And hey, four and a half stars is nothing to sneeze at! It’s the ultimate humblebrag.

2. Snowbird ski resort print campaign: “One Star”

Snowbird got a string of 1-star reviews from visitors who couldn’t handle their challenging runs, killer incline, and heavy snowfall. But instead of running away from this feedback, they recognized the irony. These complaints are exactly what customers sign up for when they come to Snowbird! They’re what sets the resort apart from other destinations.

So Snowbird paired these negative reviews with stunning photos and turned them into an awesome series of print ads. The campaign showcases Snowbird’s intensity. It uses social proof to help build an elite reputation for the resort. It’s almost a dare: do you have what it takes to handle Snowbird? Because look at these reviews—not everyone does! Are you really as advanced as you think you are? These reviewers sure weren’t!

Snowbird found an angle that would entice its target audience. Sure, there’s a risk of losing interest from families with young children just learning to ski. But the right visitors—advanced skiers looking for adventure and an adrenaline rush—can’t resist the hype.

3. TrustRadius t-shirt swag: “4 out of 5 stars”

Not to toot our own horn too much, but I couldn’t help but call this one out. As a company, one of our top refrains is “Truth Sells.” It’s a motto, a mindset, a methodology we preach to software vendors and practice ourselves. The idea is that the best way to make a sale is to be transparent, help your buyers research different perspectives on your products and services, and embrace the cons. You’ll have more educated, better qualified buyers, with clearer expectations around success as well as limitations going in. It’s the foundation for a more trusting relationship. However, it also means you recognize you aren’t everything to everyone. You’re going to lose out on some bad-fit customers—and maybe some good-fit customers who are overly cautious, or have pie-in-the-sky expectations and aren’t ready for a reality check.

The point is, Truth Sells doesn’t work (for us or our clients) 100% of the time, and we’re up front about that. Sometimes honesty and sharing balanced feedback does cause headaches for sales and marketing. But in the long run, it works a lot better than pretending to be perfect, or hoping you can hide your flaws—both of which will come back to bite you in terms of customer support, satisfaction, and retention.

So we had t-shirts made acknowledging this in a fun way. We gave Truth Sells a ⅘ star rating. (Research shows no one trusts a perfect 5-star rating anyway!) Our employees love these shirts. Wearers frequently get stopped on the street by people who want to know what “Truth Sells” means—and when they find out, they want to know why we only gave ourselves 4 stars!

Even our CEO wears the shirt proudly. Here’s a cross-functional team repping the shirts while volunteering at the Central Texas Food Bank. (Our fearless leader, Vinay, is on the left.)

What are the best examples you’ve seen (or created)?

If you find other cool examples of review marketing out there in the wild, snap a photo or a screenshot and send them our way! And if you’re a marketer pioneering your own kick-@ss campaigns that feature customer feedback, we would love to hear about it. We’re always collecting new inspiration for ourselves and our clients.

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Emily Sue Tomac

Emily Sue Tomac

Emily Sue Tomac is Research Manager at TrustRadius, where she studies reviews, the buying process, and buyers themselves. Her research aims to arm people buying software at work with the tools and information they need to work better, smarter, and easier. She's on a mission to tell their stories, and drive change in how software is bought and sold. Prior to joining TrustRadius, Emily Sue worked on research in linguistics and the digital humanities.