So, what’s with all the negativity toward the Labour Party? Why so many comments on the Standard rubbishing the leadership, running down the party’s prospects at the next election, putting the boot in to the only party with enough mass support to bring an end to the dismal Key Government?
Could it be that some of the loudest, most vehement comments actually come from people who, deep down, really love Labour?
According to a recent business study , that’s exactly the case.
Authors Eric Anderson (marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management) and Duncan Simester (also a marketing professor, from MIT’s Sloan School of Management), claim that writers of negative reviews online are often the best customers of the business or service being critiqued.
They have found two interesting points about negative reviews. Firstly, that most come from people who are actually extremely loyal to the businesses they criticize. Secondly, the very worst reviews come from people who have never even tried the product or service.
The first group are often loyalists who go feral because they dislike changes within the brand or, alternatively, would like to see changes that the brand itself does not support. They want the brand to be just like it used to be or just like they think it should be.
The second group … well, they’re trolls.
Anderson and Simester have some interesting observations about the second group, particularly the way they use language. They found that the small percentage of reviews in their study that were dishonest and deliberately negative had some broadly similar linguistic characteristics and they cite four simple distinctions:
- Lots of words; truth is simple to write, making shit up tends to require lengthier sentences.
- Shorter words; the more complex the deceptive sentence, the simpler the writer needs to keep the words, so as to not get the lie tangled.
- All in the family; because the troll has no actual experience to rely on, they tend to say things like ‘my niece bought that blouse and it was not good quality‘. Or to put it in a political context ‘Trevor Mallard was rude to my sister’. Or ‘my family’s always voted Labour, but never again!’
- Overemphasis; beware of anything that has too many exclamation points!
But to return to my main theme, most negative reviews come from people who care, and are hurting. They see things they don’t like happening to an object of affection. They feel cheated, slighted and ignored. I’m going to confess that I’ve often assumed that comments critical of the LP come from people who just want to see Labour fail anyway. It looks like I was wrong and that most will be from members or supporters who are as genuine as I am.
The authors say that these people fall into three broad categories:
- Upset Customers; that’s folk who’ve had a bad experience or similar negative interaction. There is an observable tendency to look for retribution, but they want to come back to the brand anyway.
- Self-Appointed Brand Managers; people who are fundamentally loyal to the brand and feel empowered to say how the brand could be improved, even in areas that they have no experience of or will never be affected by.
- Social Status; the authors contend that some reviewers maybe “simply writing reviews to enhance their social status.” Those reviewers want their online presence to ‘mean’ something; to have gravitas and to gain kudos amongst their peers who have similar loyalties.
All three categories have loyalty at their heart, all three groups identify with the target of their negativity and they all want positive outcomes.
Personally, I think most authors and commenters on the Standard, and the other, lesser, political blogs have a mixture of motivations. And when I read a criticism of David Shearer in future, I’m going to smile a beatific smile, remind myself that there is a thin line between love and hate and think of the French line Professors’ Anderson and Simester quote: “Qui aime bien châtie bien”.
“Your best friends are your hardest critics.”
Te Reo Putake