Covert Advertising Through Amazon Reviews
Are similar products being reviewed by advertisers to promote brands?
Any publicity is good publicity right? There are stories about companies that revel in bad reviews to get their name at the top of a Google search. But what about reviewing related products to promote a brand?
Photographer/blogger David Friedman noticed what he thinks is a trend in “subversive advertising” while searching for speaker mounts on Amazon:
I did notice something strange…an astonishing number of people who review speaker mounts happened to mention that they bought the mounts for their Onkyo HT-6100 speakers.
He writes that although other brands of speakers were mentioned, Onkyo speakers continued to be specifically mentioned as the reason for needing speaker mounts. And he had heard of the brand before, but now it seemed to be at top of mind, much like a traditional word of mouth campaign.
Companies have already been caught placing fake reviews on Amazon. Sometimes the fake review is just one degree from the product — that is to say, the reviewer works for the company being reviewed. Sometimes a fake review is two degrees away, which makes it harder to spot; for example, Belkin was caught hiring people on Mechanical Turk to write the fake reviews, so the reviews don’t come from people who work for the company. Other companies have offered gifts in exchange for positive reviews.
But what if they could remove themselves by one more degree? What if there were a way to make it almost impossible to even notice that it’s a fake review? What if even a negative review would work as well as a positive one? Nobody would suspect a fake negative review! It would be almost untraceable! It’s the perfect crime.