Back in the early ’90s The Men’s Wearhouse’s George Zimmer would come on the radio and play audio recordings of happy customers. It always struck me that this was the quintessential, brilliant campaign. Open up a phone line and let your customers tell their stories. Then broadcast those stories to other potential customers and invite yet more people to tell their story (and possibly get on the radio). Fast, cheap and effective; Word-of-mouth marketing given a platform.
For a long time customer testimonials have been a staple of online marketing. In an open, networked marketplace it makes perfect sense. We want to hear from other people like us. Yet beyond the highly functional but sterile Ratings and Review modules, there was no formalized way of capturing these stories. Now Bazaarvoice, the service that helps companies put ratings and reviews on their websites, is releasing Bazaarvoice Stories, which lets manufacturers, retailers, and e-commerce destinations invite consumers to talk about their experiences with a product. That’s a good idea. I guarantee it.
The real battle will come between company sites that want customers to market for them using something like Bazaarvoice Stories and new aggregator sites like Get Satisfaction that allow customers to share stories about all kinds of companies. This is like the difference between a company brochure and Consumer Reports… who will you trust?