So Much for Real Customer Feedback (Propaganda and Astroturfing, Oh My!)

Many companies are now looking to take the easy way out of quality products and satisfied customers by simply buying customer satisfaction (and/or faking it).

I’ve had the idea for this post in my mind for awhile, but after reading an article over on The Daily Background about Belkin paying $0.65 for each 5/5 review on Amazon from people that had never used/owned the products, I couldn’t resist digging a little deeper into the current propaganda out there.

Belkin Astroturfing

The majority of this propaganda comes in the form of Astroturfing, as defined by Wikipedia as:

Astroturfing is a form of propaganda whose techniques usually consist of a few people attempting to give the impression that mass numbers of enthusiasts advocate some specific cause.

So just how prevalent is Astroturfing? Well here’s a short list of some of the companies that have been caught Astroturfing:

  • In August 2001 Microsoft orchestrated a mailing campaign to pressure state attorneys general to go easy in their antitrust lawsuits against the software giant.  The campaign was organized by the organization, Americans for Technology Leadership, which is partially funded by Microsoft, and included letters the names of deceased people in support of Microsoft.
  • In March 2006 video game manufacturers faced over seventy anti-games bills across the country. Embattled, they established the Video Game Voters Network, “a new grassroots political network for gamers” which publicly portrayed itself as a populist effort to lobby state and federal legislators against supporting violent video game-related legislation.
  • Working Families for Wal-Mart portrays itself as a grassroots organization, but was started and funded by Wal-Mart. It paid former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young to head the organization.
  • In August 2007 Comcast Corporation‘s public relations representatives were accused of astroturfing by posing as fans on internet college team message boards in an effort to spread their negative views about the newly created Big Ten Network.  At that time Comcast and the Big Ten Network were involved in acrimonious negotiations.
  • Again in February 2008 Comcast paid individuals to take up seats at an FCC hearing into Comcast’s network management practices, including RST packet spoofing. These individuals fell asleep, applauded on cue, and took up so much room that a number of people with anti-Comcast sentiment were shut out.
  • In late 2008, in Osaka, Japan, McDonald’s acknowledged hiring people to stand in line for a new hamburger release. The part-time workers were given a stipend for the product that were to be included in the store’s sales figures.
  • In November 2008 Motorola was caught posting illegitimate reviews and propaganda supporting their Krave phone under the guise “M Goode”, and through the company DEI Worldwide.
  • In January 2009 Belkin was found offering compensation for perfect reviews on Amazon from users that had never even owned their products.

So the next time you’re looking to purchase something (especially online), remember that those reviews and feedback you’re seeing may not be a reliable source.  And if you’re a company considering an Astroturfing or Propaganda Campaign, remember that things can go both ways (ie backfire), including:

Do you have your own story of company propaganda, or know of another business caught in the act that wasn’t listed here?  Post a quick comment and let us know!

5 Replies to “So Much for Real Customer Feedback (Propaganda and Astroturfing, Oh My!)”

  1. thats an nice post,
    “In late 2008, in Osaka, Japan, McDonald’s acknowledged hiring people to stand in line for a new hamburger release. The part-time workers were given a stipend for the product that were to be included in the store’s sales figures.”

    what for new hamburgers did they released? i can't remember it.

    1. According to Wikipedia (link):

      In November 2008, McDonald’s Japan (which did not ordinarily offer the Quarter Pounder) converted two Tokyo restaurants into “Quarter Pounder” branded restaurants which only sold Quarter Pounder meals.[2] These promotional branches closed on 27 November 2008 coinciding with the re-introduction of the Quarter Pounder at regular McDonald’s branches throughout the Kant? (Tokyo) region from 28 November.[3] The Quarter Pounder was launched at one McDonald’s restaurant in the Kansai (Osaka) region on 23 December 2008.[4] It was later reported that 15,000 customers had visited the restaurant on the first day, generating a record 10.02 million yen in sales for a single restaurant in one day. It was however also revealed that McDonald’s had hired 1,000 “extras” to queue up on the first day. McDonald’s Japan explained that the hirees were used for “product monitoring purposes”.[5]

  2. In late 2008, in Osaka, Japan, McDonald’s acknowledged hiring people to stand in line for a new hamburger release. The part-time workers were given a stipend for the product that were to be included in the store’s sales figures.”

    what for new hamburgers did they released? i can’t remember it.

Leave a Reply