Phil Ringnalda observes the subtle power shift taking place now that customer reactions to products are going beyond simple word of mouth:
Assuming that having millions of people with weblogs isn't just a fad that will all be over soon, I'm quite looking forward to seeing what it takes for a company to survive having its customers much more able to talk about them, and having anyone who can google knowing what they say.
For instance, I've been sort of casually considering giving yTunes! a try, even though I'm not that into music which is sold in mass markets these days. But this morning, Charles Arthur linked to Tim Anderson's post saying that Yahoo! Music is as intrusive as Real Player, spewing toolbar and home page offers around and shoving Yahoo! Messenger into the Startup folder. Oops, game over, no need for me to even try it. That sort of thing was survivable, barely, back when you could be the only player for most of the audio around. Now, when you are competing with dozens of other players and stores for the fairly small non-file-sharing part of the market? I'm sure there's still some market for that sort of thing, but to me, it's nothing. There is no Yahoo! Music.
He's right - and this is something that I very much doubt gets the attention it deserves in marketing departments. It used to be that only local businesses - restaurants, for instance - got hurt by bad word of mouth. More properly, it took a lot longer - and an assist from big media - for it to spread.
Now, anyone can make comments - witness my WalMart post from the other day. That particular post is hardly going to dent WalMart, but is a lot easier to find than idle chat at a party.