Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Marketing Menus and Yelp Ratings.

A number of articles recently proclaimed the economic benefit of restaurant reviews. Not unusually, many of them cited identical assertions that could be traced back to the original press release.

Being something of a sceptic regarding both the reporting of academic papers and the power of anonymous recommendation, I emailed one of the authors at Berkeley to try to understand if what was reported was what he had claimed. He pointed me to this article by way of a good summary.

My logic is that better restaurants will be fuller because they are better restaurants and that any ratings they garner will follow that and not vice versa. I also believe that people are more likely to pay attention to the views of trusted friends or proven professional reviewers than crowd-sourced averages and, having consulted an old professor of mine, I remain unconvinced that the study has proven any real causality. We both agreed that to do so would require a longitudinal study of the relation between a restaurant's success and its changing ratings over time.

That said, the study is not the problem, my real concern is not with the study but with the dissemination of the headline and how innumerate marketers will translate that into promotion mode. It will lead to the gaming of ratings rather than the improvement of the rated and all because of a claim that people far smarter than they never made. Evidence-based marketing has a long way to go. Understanding the evidence is a good place to start.