The issue of authenticity has been raised this week in connection with FORD’s social media campaign for the 2010 launch of the new FORD Fiesta. The spirited debate started here on this post and following comments over @ EyeCube around the ability for FORD’s test drivers or “agents” as they are being called, to produce authentic reviews of their experience with the car, given that FORD is giving them the car for 6 months, gas and insurance paid for.
Bill Sledzik from Toughsledding held that agents may be influenced by the program (read FORD’s generosity) and this influence may alter their review of the car. Scott Monty from FORD and Rick Liebling (author EyeCube) both responded that since FORD is being open and transparent upfront, and is encouraging agents to give authentic feedback, good or bad, that the campaign can produce authentic feedback.
As far as the feedback is concerned, I think based on FORD’s upfront posture, they will get enough authentic feedback to work with. Will some agents hold back? maybe but ultimately that’s not the point. The point is FORD is betting that the Fiesta is a remarkable car and that authentic feedback will show just that. As we know, no matter how much social sauce and WOM tactics we employ, if the product or service is not remarkable (read worth talking about) then it’s back to the drawing board.
From seeing the car in person at the FiestaMovement Tweetup in NYC this week it certainly looks remarkable and worthy of garnering plenty of positive WOM. Here at outbrain, we are actually staking our company (and our recent raise of 12M) on the value of authentic reviews produced by consumers about products like the Ford Fiesta. In fact we built an entire system to do just this. We think that a review from a trusted source (i.e. from one of FORD’s Fiesta agents) can be a very compelling method to increase awareness about a product. In fact we have built a scalable way for marketers to distribute links pointing to people talking about their brands and products. In the early going here in talking with top brands and agencies, some marketers have objected to not having total control over the environment. Environment in this case being the landing page where the authentic review lives. But that’s exactly the point. The authentic review is valuable precisely because the content may not be all positive. The coveted metric of engagement is directly correlated to authenticity. We consumers make a decision in a nano second on how trustworthy an advertisement or review might be. If we deem the review to be trustworthy, then engagement rises. Engagement metrics with consumers reading reviews (they deem authentic) far outpaces engagement levels with other more common types of ad units. So kudos to Scott & Co. @ FORD, Bill and Rick over at Eyecube for surfacing this conversation. We agree that authenticity is the new currency for marketers, now it’s just a matter of getting remarkable products out in the market worth talking about.