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Review Pollution & Why We Don't Participate in "Buying Authenticity"

Posted by Kate Assaraf on
Review Pollution & Why We Don't Participate in "Buying Authenticity"

 Influence, influence, all around, yet not a drop to think.

Ok, maybe that’s not how the saying goes, but it still feels pretty applicable these days. 

Today’s online social sphere is a lot like the ocean: untamed, full of wild surprises, and you don’t even want to KNOW what lurks at the bottom. There’s also a long history of us humans trying to predict and tame it. Some of us get closer than others.

What’s the big deal about UGC?

I have been getting message, after message, after message from this new breed of online person who wants free products in exchange for reviews or UGC--"user generated content".

There’s even a new update to Meta where brands can tag UGC, and so now everyone’s been switching from influencing to creating UGC.  This commodifies human beings and turns them into a marketing tool.  I don't believe in "buying authenticity" and I certainly don't think people were put on the planet to become a marketing tool for me.

Even though this is stated clearly on our site: I wake up to 15 - 200 messages a day from folks kindly offering to take my product for free in exchange for a review.

 On the surface, UGC seems to make sense.

We tend to trust reviews of products more than the company itself, and we hold the reviews of people we are close to (or would like to be close to) in even higher regard. 

It’s the difference between seeing a video of a group of young people laughing over drinks at a new restaurant in town, versus seeing a Facebook ad where the restaurant promises a good time. Seeing is believing, so to speak. 

Except, of course, this is the Internet.

Things are not quite so simple. So what’s really going on behind the scenes when the camera is off?

Did you know that there are companies out there hiring out of work actors for UGC?  I got receipts.

Why We Dip Out

Let’s be clear: we love when people share their favorite things online. But it’s this new manipulative, review-for-hire, manufactured Wild West web world that we have an issue with. 

I mean, for one, it kind of feels like putting all that emotional labor on the people we want to connect with most.

We don’t want to pay for your love, and we certainly don’t want to put the marketing burden on our customers. (That’s borderline MLM-y behavior, and we’re not into that!)

We also strongly disagree that humans were put on this planet to literally BE commercials.  

Also, the whole point of influencer-based marketing kind of backfires. If the whole point of UGC and influencer reviews is to convince people that this person loves the product, isn’t that trust eroded the moment you realize the review is paid for or product is gifted?

We believe in an intelligent consumer. 

We think that people can sniff out that kind of inauthenticity a mile away now. 

As for us here at Dip? We just try to make really great products you want to tell your friends about. That real human connection–and all that gritty, “unsavory” parts that come with it–are what make it genuine. We don't pay for likes, reviews or any other inauthentic marketing.  If that means we grow slower, then so be it.  We are cool with that.  

A Problem For A New Age

I have dipped out of sponsored reviews, and I personally don't think that it's cool for brands to do this--but what is less cool is that people think that they are above paying for something that everyone else pays for.

We believe in equality. 
We don't believe in review pollution

--which is what these people are contributing to when they ask for free stuff in exchange of a glowing review.  Review pollution is coerced reviews, and the economics of this doesn't make sense to me.

Is this the world you want to live in?

Person X and person Y walk into a store.  Person X has 10 followers lives their busy life outside of their phone.  Person Y documents everything in front of them and has 100K followers.  

They are buying the same thing....does one need to pay & one doesn't?

You tell me.

They are of the same value to Dip.  When we say we believe in equality, we mean it.  

No Exposure Tax Required 

Now if you’re someone that has a bunch of followers and a strong media presence online–that’s great! That takes a time, effort, and a bit of savvy.  We think it's cool that you grew your own network of followers.

We’re not anti-influencer; we’re anti-influencer worship, which has snuck into the blogosphere lately. It also has a trickle-down effect, which is why some people feel comfortable approaching small businesses online and asking for free product in return for “exposure’. 

I don’t know about you, but “exposure” has never paid my bills, and I know a lot of other business owners can relate. 

And vice versa--these is nothing grosser than a brand who promises you exposure back instead of payment.

So influencers, keep doing your thing.

Non-influencers, don’t underestimate yourselves, we are still cheering you on. And no matter who you are, if you love your stuff, tell your friends: no contract required!

Thank you to those that get it!

xx,
Kate

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