Review comments: How to change a bad review into Strategy?

Written by: Roxana Alitei





Online consumer’s reviews on social media have significant effects upon brand’s image. This paper will explore in the first part, markers’ responses to online consumer’s bad reviews from critical and appreciative perspective. Further, there will be analyzed the differences between responses based on old marketing tools and unconventional tools. Examples from LIDL retail will be presented to show how bad reviews on Facebook were or not changed into a marketing strategy.  Further, at the end will be illustrated the main actions that should be taken to create a strategy of response which will help marketers translate the consumer’s online insights into a successful marketing approach.


Keywords: bad review, brand image, response, online consumer, marketer, social media, Facebook, Lidl company, comment

Marketers and online consumers are the perfect team

Reviews made by people are more trustful than adds, companies are losing the control upon marketing actions (Labrecque, Esche, Mathwick, Novak, Hofacker, 2013). Therefore, marketers should shift their perception from a passive consumer who receive the marketing messages into the active consumers which are contributing to marketing activities (Wind, 2008).

In addition, there is a gap between company’s marketing strategy and active online consumers. According to Wind (2008), between marketer and online consumer should no longer be a border. Labrecque et al. (2013) explained that the online consumers have access to both consumer generated content and marketer content by offering him/her the possibility for self-expression. 

Moreover, the internet enabled the online consumer to express on social media or company’s own media both positive review and bad review. According to Labrecque et al. (2013), consumers can generate change upon brand image by distributing a bad review about companies commercial adds or products. But how can marketers optimize their strategy of response? In the next part, there will be presented two examples one positive and one negative from LIDL retail followed by analysis and 5 tips to change a bad review into a marketing strategy.

Why one company can fail in handling a bad review?

In this part, I will present one example of a bad review on social media which generated difficulties in handling the best response for LIDL discount retailer. Therefore, when a consumer form Poland moved temporarily in Romania, wanted to benefit of the LIDL promotion that was announced in Poland by the same retail, was surprised that the prices were twice expensive than in his country (Agro Inteligenta, 2015). So, he posted his disappointment on Facebook (Image 1, Consumer’s bad review). 

The answer offered by LIDL(Image 2, LIDL’s answer), to justify the higher price did not clarify the differences among prices for the same products, the same producer, the same retailer and also from the European Union (Agro Inteligenta, 2015). The answer was perceived as being irrational, the effect caused mainly by others online reviews posted by users to clarifying the answer. From further posts, marketer continued to justify the higher price (Agro Inteligenta, 2015). But consumers were even more hard to influence.

Labrecque et al. (2013) stated that online consumers adopt different patterns than offline consumers, therefore, they have other expectations than offline consumers. According to Ailawadi, Beauchamp, Donthu, Gauri, Shankar (2009) the online consumer is very sensitive to prices irregularities and at the same time he or she also take the role to update the community with the new unfair practices. As it was observed in the comments Lidl did not take into account to adjust immediately the prices. 

Nowadays is not enough to answer promptly on social media, it is a need to solve the bad review in a visible way for online consumers, in order to create meaningful relationships (Kietzman, Hermkens, McCarthy, Silvestre, 2011). It appears that some companies, need a great scope to take a marketing action toward improving bad reviews posted on social media. 

According to Wind (2008), there is a need to shift from old tools toward developing new tools to meet the challenges of today marketing. In the previous example, the marketer might have the budget and tools but those were applied in a less relevant way for today customer expectations. In his view, Wind (2008) stated, that marketers should find a perfect match between rigor and relevance. Thus, the marketer who has the responsibility to handle social media platforms, needs to have a decisional power and more relevance than rigor, in order to take actions which might imply some costs and risks (Wind, 2008). 

How did LIDL change a critical Facebook review into strategy?

There are cases when a company changes the consumer bad review into a great opportunity to increase the brand awareness (Fournier&Avery, 2011).

In the next example, LIDL Sweden aimed to reach the above approach by building a truly unconventional response with the scope to solve a consumer critic review. 

This time, LIDL SE answered in an active surprisingly way to the customer’s question posted on Facebook (Image 3, Bosse’s question) (PlanetRetail, 2014, Eurobest, 2014).  LIDL Sweden has faced a preconception about the source of provenience of their milk (PlanetRetail, 2014).

Starting from customer review, they made a marketing campaign.  The milk was renamed with the customer’s name and they posted his profile picture on the milk cartons together with the question and LIDL’s answer (PlanetRetail, 2014). They wanted to prove that, the milk sold under their private label was produced in customer’s country, respectively Sweden. As a response, they distributed the milk in this new package with a new name: Bosse’s’ Milk in the whole his country (Image4, Bosse’s Milk). 

LIDL used social media critic reviews be in an innovative way with marketing content. They foresee in that consumer’s question a potential, and this is reflected in online news, the commercial add, YouTube video with 13.478 likes (Youtube, 2016a), one FABulos award and three FABawards (PlanetRetail, 2014, FAB Awards, 2015).

Moreover, this action clarified all confused customers with the same wrong perception. We can observe, that the power of handle a possible harmful review is still in the hand of the marketer.

What would happen if they would answer like in the previous example? Probably, if they would have started justifying on social media like in the previous example, they would end up with the same unsuccessful result. We can notice that there is a deep difference between the action that took place in Sweden and the action undertaken in Romania. LIDL Sweden clarified the consumer in an authentic way and prevented to generate tension while LIDL RO created disappointment. 

Actions must be taken by companies to improve the response in terms of new marketing tools, based on market driving strategies and flexible resources (Wind, 2008, Kumar, Scheer, Kotler, 2000). From the second example, we can observe how different LIDL SE shaped the result, for the same company in similar context. LIDL SE placed the customer at the start of the process, even if it’s action implied a high risk. The innovative marketing driving approach helped the company to exceed the online consumer expectations (Kumar, et al. 2000). 


5 tips to change bad review comments into marketing strategy


The previous cases presented, emphasized that in order to response in front of critic online consumers, it is better to find a way to convert the potential bad comment into a marketing strategy instead of trying to justify the answer. Therefore, in order make the conversion possible, first is necessary to develop a strategy for response. The following actions might prevent a potential bad review to grow in social media:


1. Review tracking creates valuable input

Online consumer reviews are a rich source of information and help companies to understand customers’ needs (Barwise&Meehan, 2010). The more a company knows about its online consumers behavior, the bigger is the chance to avoid evolution of bad reviews (Barwise &Meehan, 2010). According to David, Schweidel, Wendy (2014), the consumer brand awareness is also influenced by the social media source. They explained that the probability to receive a bad review on forums is higher than the probability to receive it on blogs. Online consumers should be grouped together with the marketer for extensive collaboration in order to gain important input for the future marketing decision (Wind, 2008, David et al. 2014). 

2. Check the online consumers’ profiles

According to Yavetz&Tifferet (2015) segmenting consumers by Facebook profiles can bring important information about the particular identity and might help to predict the customer behavior. Further, he stated that online consumers with profile pictures including positive expressions looking into the camera or profile profiles with more persons, might be those who has high interest in adding personal experience online. 

Furthermore, a company should check before answering to a bad comment the online status quo of the user. The online reputation of a consumer lies on it’s number of followers, it’s ranking on forums, it’s sharing activity and online content created (Labrecque et al. 2013).  

Finding which are the motivation for each segment and the ranking on social platforms, lead the company to a better understanding how to manage online customer relationships (Yavetz&Tifferet, 2015). 


3. Increase of marketer decisional power

The marketing department should gain more support from other company’s departments, in order to manage the short and long terms challenges (Wind, 2008). Barwise&Meehan (2010) stated that marketers should check if the brand promise on social media still supports brand’s values. 

Furthermore, the empowerment of the promise is reachable by each customer touch point. Therefore, they consider important to keep communication with online consumers when the information is going wrong. Overall, this might probably lead to a budget increase, but marketing strategies on social media can lead to an increase of sales when the campaign becomes viral (Barwise&Meehan, 2010).


4. Surprising response

A simple bad review might signify a fine line between the risk of losing control of brand image and the increase of awareness upon the brand. LIDL SE managed in a wise way to avoid losing the credibility in front of online consumers by offering an answer in an unconventional way. According to Allocca, (2011), internet culture is looking for unexpectedness, therefore, companies should include in their online video creativity, surprise and humorous. 

Online consumers are enjoying to participate in a specific online phenomena, therefore, they will share the post/video and even develop the phenomena (Allocca, 2011). However, according to Fournier&Avery (2011), online consumers grouped together might be powerful partners for the marketer, while critical consumers grouped together can have negative implications upon the brand image.


5. Performance in response improvisation

Singh&Sonnenburg (2012) stated that the social media is a field that became an “uncontrolled and unpredictable” environment where companies need performance in response improvisation.

According to Labrecque et al. (2013), the company can manage a bad review through content, by adding a valuable response to the original content. None knows how a specific online interaction will end up but the process of transforming a bad comment into a disruptive and innovative one is more important in this situation. 

Further, they consider that managing brand performance lies in the ability to managing tension and understanding the online users. The brand owner shouldn’t be oriented toward output because this will make him inflexible to unexpected changes in digital landscape (Singh&Sonnenburg, 2012). Further beyond of good improvisation response lies a good listener.

In conclusion, this analysis points out that, the role of the consumer in implementing a strategy of response might be significant. However, the further question would be: Do companies see any role for online bad reviews in marketing practices? This can have a high impact on preparing a successful marketing action in response to unfair practices detected by online consumers. It's up to the company to implement such strategy of response, but this will help it to face a bigger number of challenges like critical or bad reviews, which obviously will come on unpredictable social media. 

























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