Phil Bilbrough: A brand and its pals.

I had the pleasant unpleasant experience of car buying last month. I love driving and cars. But I have the family role of car maintenance, picking out rubbish from them and generally watching them degrade. Buying cars is usually exciting, a game of analysis, requirements establishment, research and negotiation. And I love cars – sorry I said that. But this time it was hell and the internet wasn’t helping.

I always retreat to the safety of the web. It’s my comfort place. A started looking for car reviews for reason and relief. What I found was more shit than I could ever believe.

Years ago when words “user generated content” echoed around the advertising halls – reviews, reviewers and ratings were all the rage. Dinning reviews, book reviews, reviews of reviews etc… Look no further than Google and find a review of whatever product service, tradesman, teacher, surgical practice, or dentist that you are maybe considering. I just wanted a review of a couple of cars, and that was enough to do my head in, but as a brand person – I gained a smidgen of smug satisfaction.

The car owners and public reviewers of Peugeot weren’t letting reliability get in the way of their glowing accounts. Those reviewers talked up the feel and the love of their small Peugeots. They related their love of the pep, the handling, its nippiness. Screens and screens of these reviews. On occasion snippets of problems slipped in, but these people were evangelists. Regularly I checked the web site just to reassure myself that it was actually independent.

These are and aren’t reviews. These were pieces written by disciples. Truly I wondered if Peugeot people were directly involved, but if not – Peugeot must be thrilled! Their brand messages are being relayed and amp’d up for free by thousands. Just what marketers aim for. Pump out those messages and wait for you brand pals to start posting them.

All I wanted to know how reliable a particular Peugeot model is.  But it was difficult to find a review (easy to find reliability stats) that actually seemed objective and well, worthwhile. A good review is fine, 50 good and almost identical reviews is too much. I felt like a lecturer marking essays. It was all too much. I stopped looking and reading.

And bought a Peugeot.


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