Turning bad reviews into your leading marketing slogan? Why not

Bill Gates once said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”. 

Snowbird, the ski resort in Utah, USA took this wisdom to the next level.

You know, that the main motor behind negative reviews, is that your services aren’t meant for everyone. And it’s ok. You don’t need to please the whole wild world. After all, you’ve started this thing with a type of traveler in mind.

What one can do with a 1-star review

When Greg from L.A. didn’t have the time of his life on the slopes of Snowbird, because well…his skiing level wasn’t enough, he left a 1-star review.

The creative agency, Struck, that was creating the ad for Snowbird, leaped and turned the negative into a positive. 

Snowbird’s mountain is well-known for its difficulty. That’s why the 1-star review Greg left, was a great hook to call out all the ski lovers, adrenaline seekers, and pros. 

And the ad goes: 

“Too advanced. 

I’ve heard Snowbird is a tough mountain, but this is ridiculous. It felt like every trail was a steep chute or littered with tree wells. How is anyone supposed to ride in that? Not fun.”

Greg, Los Angeles, CA.

Contrasting this ad with a breath-taking picture, it leaves us- the viewers, space for imagination.

Genius, right?! 

Snowbird 1-star review print ad by Struck
Photo source: Struck

They didn’t stop in here and used other negative feedbacks highlighting the level of difficulty with pics that would make mouthwatering every skiing enthusiast... You can check the whole One-Star Campaign in the Struck portfolio.

What is your greatest weakness?

Curious how you can use this approach for your marketing? I mean, turning negative into positive? Sounds damn right, if you ask me. 

However, I wouldn’t recommend it if your negative reviews refer to your ekhem broken facilities.

I think you need to be smartass about it and know your audience. Know it like you know your own face in the mirror at 5 am on Monday morning.

You’re not for everyone. Own it.

In the hospitality world, Snowbird isn’t the only one pointing out their ideal customers through negative language. Only check out Hans Brinker Hostel

One location. Low expectation.

Amsterdam. Melting point of sins and virtues

Welcome to the Hans Brinker: quite honestly not the best, but definitely the most memorable hostel in Amsterdam. At the Hans Brinker Hostel you get what you pay for. And because you don’t pay much you won’t get any of the following things: a swimming pool, room service, honeymoon-suites, a gym, tiny bottles of shampoo, a spa-bath or bellboys in silly hats. You will simply get a basic room in the centre of Amsterdam that is worth every penny.

We offer single, twin and dorm rooms, which fit up to 8 persons. We serve breakfast (for free), lunch and dinner (for money). In Amsterdam, after having drinks in our hostel bar, the shortest route to oblivion leads right to our basement. We can go up, we can go down, but we’ll never be average.

Hans Brinker Hostel home page

They are not for everyone. And they own it. Only by looking at their website, I know it’s for the backpackers, and travelers on a low budget, searching for the cheap bed to crash on and people to hang out with. 

Simple, sarcastic, and straight to the point. I love how specific they are. If I would travel solo, looking for the night out in Amsterdam with fellow travelers, they would be my choice.

That’s what makes them stand out. In the hospitality world (and in general), your email box is flooding with messages “come and relax in our oasis of chill”, “the best place to escape” or similar things. 

But when you see something like this, it makes you “hold on a sec. Is that real?”. It’s an attention grabber. Good, that’s the point too.

In case you want to learn something from this…

Here are the top lessons from it, if you’re eager to try out this approach in your marketing.

  1. You need to define well your audience and know what they want and how they express
  2. Be bold in your messaging. Just because you haven’t seen anyone doing it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Oh, and keep it simple.
  3. Embrace the negative feedbacks- how can you reverse them to your strengths?
  4. Test it out, and measure: no one ever reached greatness without failing first and seeing what’s working and what’s not.

Maybe this approach is not for everyone. It isn’t. But how refreshing it is to see something different from time to time, right? Opportunities are everywhere, even in the negative feedback. Would you dare to use this one?

You can also try to convert your website into a direct booking machine with these tips.


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Posted by Ewa Gabara

Posted by Ewa Gabara

Founder of Don’t Mess With The Receptionist. I geek out on hostels and I’m a long-time receptionist turned into a copywriter. I help the hospitality and travel brands conquer the world with words.

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