More than 1,000 tongue-in-cheek reviews of an Avery Dennison Corp. binder posted on Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN)’s website since last week’s U.S. presidential debate are giving lift to the idea there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
“We’re hearing a lot about binders today!” Avery posted to its Facebook Inc. page on Oct. 18, two days after Republican nominee Mitt Romney said he drew upon “binders full of women” to help fill cabinet seats as governor of Massachusetts. “It’s terrific to see so much passion this election season. And we’re always excited to hear folks talking about binders.”
Romney’s remark quickly became a trending topic on Twitter and in blogs, with armchair satirists eventually targeting online reviews. By accepting the humor with a wink, Avery joins pen-maker Societe BIC SA (BB) and closely held Hutzler Manufacturing Co. as the latest consumer companies whose products are getting discussed widely, even if not the way their marketers expected.
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“If I’m going to be put in a binder as suggested in the Presidential debate, I would like something with a little more color,” one user wrote in a binder review on Amazon. A different commentator plugged a related product: “Get yourself a package of Avery dividers when you order these with those handy tabs so you can organize all those women.”
Avery’s good-sport posting on its Facebook page has since garnered more than 340 “likes” and 35 comments. David Frail, a spokesman for the Pasadena, California-based maker of labels and other office products, said the Facebook posting stands as Avery’s comment on the matter.
Other binder makers weren’t spared on Amazon, with more sporadic posts about Wilson Jones binders made by Lincolnshire, Illinois-based ACCO Brands Corp. (ACCO)
The joking on Amazon isn’t limited to binders, especially when it comes to products designed for women or to eliminate housework drudgery. Hutzler makes a banana slicer that has amassed more than 360 reviews and BIC’s “For Her” gel pens has drawn more than 700 -- many of them sarcastic.
“I bought this pen (in error, evidently) to write my reports of each day’s tree felling activities in my job as a lumberjack,” one BIC-pen reviewer wrote. “It slips from between my calloused, gnarly fingers like a gossamer thread gently descending to earth between two giant redwood trunks.”
The product pundits mock Hutzler’s banana slicer for resolving breakfast-time drama, helping frazzled housewives save the fruits of their marriage from divorce.
Hutzler considers the reviews “hysterical,” said Monique Haas, marketing director for the Canaan, Connecticut-based company. She declined to disclose sales of the five-year-old product, citing Hutzler’s private ownership.
Amazon declined to comment beyond conditions of use posted on its website. The Seattle-based company reserves the right to remove or edit reviews, which it doesn’t regularly examine.
While snarky comments surrounding the Avery binders may be funny, there is some risk that fake reviews may lead users to question the credibility of sites like Amazon and Yelp Inc. (YELP)
“It’s kind of a fine line,” said Brian Walker, an analyst at Forrester Research. (FORR) “Most people are going to have a relatively easy time differentiating here. But fake reviews in general are a big issue, and they’re starting to erode some of the value and confidence.”
The increase may prompt companies to start pre-screening comments, said Eli Portnoy, the chief executive officer of CultureRanch LLC, a Miami-based brand strategy consulting firm. Inappropriate reviews frustrate shoppers who are looking for real advice to help make decisions, he said.
Earlier this month, Yelp said it would start flagging businesses suspected of persuading friends and family to post false flattering reviews to draw customers. The company, which lets users post reviews of neighborhood businesses ranging from plumbers to pet shops, will place an alert on a dubious company’s profile that won’t go away for at least 90 days.
With another presidential debate scheduled for tonight, the era of snarky binder reviews may soon pass. At least for now, Amazon and Avery are letting reviewers have their fun.
“I was originally hesitant to purchase this product as it seemed designed for men who collect women,” one wrote. “I was pleasantly surprised to find that the binder truly supports equality. Women can just as easily collect women in it.”