The Power Of The Online Consumer In Making Or Breaking A Brand’s Reputation

My name is Stephanie Marshall and I am a postgraduate marketing student at Nottingham Business School (NTU) currently on placement at The Dairy this summer. I hold a history degree from the University of Birmingham and the conversion course in marketing has given me a whistle-stop tour of all that I need to know in my future career as a marketer. Well, I hope this is the case following the high amount of work and energy that has gone into obtaining my masters!


I have always held a passion for writing and the media. I have previously written for the Nottingham Post, interned at a PR agency and worked as a freelance writer for a property company. Upon graduating I hope to forge a career that allows me to continue to use my writing experience. My main interests fall in marketing communications, marketing strategy and customer engagement.


The opportunity to undertake a placement was what attracted me to the marketing course in Nottingham. University can teach you all the theory, but actually going into the workplace and applying what you have learnt to real-life situations is a whole different story. Equally, experience looks great on a CV and can give you that extra advantage when it comes to graduate job applications.

The team here at The Dairy has been excellent at welcoming me, they go the extra mile in ensuring I have interesting tasks to undertake and make sure I am involved in anything exciting happening in the office, including sitting in on client meetings. You are treated as part of the team, and not just as the intern – they even make you cups of tea in return! I would highly recommend The Dairy as a place for any student to undertake work experience in a fun and supportive environment.


The power of the online consumer in making or breaking a brand’s reputation


As Service Dominant Logic theory argues, customers are now more than ever co-creators of a brand’s value and of how the brand is perceived by other consumers. The internet has allowed consumers the opportunity to tarnish or improve a brand’s reputation at the click of a button. The online consumer can write reviews on TripAdvisor, share experiences on social media and upload pictures/ videos to back up what they are saying about a brand.


Consumers often feel they can trust the opinions of other consumers far better than the organisations themselves. It is very rare to find a person booking a hotel today that does not scour through lengthy reviews on TripAdvisor before making a final decision. It demonstrates that marketers, especially those working in B2C organisations, should never underestimate the power the modern consumer has. Ensuring that consumers receive a positive experience with the brand is key, and marketing strategy should be employed to improve all those front line services that deal with consumers. Millions can be spent on creative marketing advertisements, but consumers will ultimately judge the brand on the experience that they received. More than likely consumers will be more motivated to share a negative rather than a positive experience online. Equally in B2B organisations, such as marketing agencies, keeping clients happy is essential. Agencies will find it increasingly difficult to attract clients if they have gathered a bad reputation from other clients and this information has been passed on.


This topic appealed to me following the recent consumer disaster with United Airlines in April 2017. A man, who refused to give up his seat on an overcrowded plane, was psychically dragged off a United flight and wounded in the process. Consumers sent videos of what had happened and within seconds, millions around the world had witnessed the incident. United’s reputation was trashed on social media, shares and sales dramatically fell and people were angrily refusing to fly with United ever again. This demonstrates the impact one negative incident can have on a brand. United serves thousands of customers on a daily basis worldwide and the majority will have had positive experiences.


The incident shocked me regarding the consumer’s treatment, but even more so as I was flying to New York the very next week with United Airlines! The incident did make me feel less confident about United, countless times my friends were sending me jokes about my flight and that I should pack my boxing gloves. When I booked the flights in early 2017, I had no hesitation about flying with the airline. Yet if I had been booking my flights following the incident, I would definitely have thought twice about choosing United. Again, showing the power of the content consumers share online and how it can affect people’s perceptions of a brand. However, I made it to New York in one piece and with no delays!