Polite Negative Reviews Can Boost Sales


How politely someone writes a review can affect how customers react. A new study, "We'll Be Honest, This Won't Be the Best Article You'll Ever Read: The Use of Dispreferred Markers in Word-of-Mouth Communication," published in the Journal of Consumer Research, gave subjects five versions of online reviews. Reviews that included nice phrases, such as, "I'll be honest," and "I don't want to be mean, but…" influenced people to possibly pay more for a product, even though the review was negative.

A University of Chicago Press article further described the results:

"The study also asked participants to complete a survey evaluating the 'personality' of the brand. Results showed that the review using the marker of politeness caused the brand to be seen as more honest, cheerful, down-to-earth, and wholesome than the same review without the polite customer complaint."

Discussion Starters:

  • How might you explain the study results? In what ways do they make sense to you-or not?
  • Read the entire study and assess the methodology using principles in Chapter 9 of the book.
  • How does this study align with principles for conveying bad news in Chapter 8?