One of my many brilliant Twitter followees  pointed me this week to a hilarious page of Amazon reviews  for a product called Crayola Colored Bubbles Wand Set . This piqued my interest because I remember reading an interview in The Believer a few years back with Tim Kehoe, a toy inventor who had been working for more than a decade to develop colored bubbles that wouldn't stain. (You can read an excerpt from the interview online , but the full text is only available in print. FWIW, I seem to remember the whole issue being fantastic. I believe it also included interviews with Will Sheff of Okkervil River  and Rivka Galchen , author of Atmospheric Disturbances.)
Kehoe's product was set to be called Zubbles and debut in 2008, but I never heard anything else about them, until now. At first I thought Kehoe sold the formula to Crayola, but it looks like Zubbles  are a separate product (highly reviewed, if currently unavailable), and Crayola has developed a competing product. Unfortunately, it would appear from the reviews that Crayola's execution leaves something to be desired. Here are some excerpts:
Paint with soap in it
This is probably the worst Crayola product I have ever purchased. The bubbles are little more than Crayola paint with a tiny bit of soap in it. The bubbles don't even float, they drop like rocks...
Terrified my Son
My son (6) bought these bubbles with his allowance money and immediately ran to the backyard to play with them as soon as we got home. Unfortunately, 2 minutes later he came running back into the house sobbing and I panicked thinking he had hurt himself because his hands appeared to be covered in blood. I asked if he hurt himself and he said "No, it's the bubbles!" Sure enough, the actual bubble liquid in the orange container comes out a dark reddish color at first and very much so resembled blood so if you have squeamish kids like mine, don't even attempt the orange...
I couldn't get a single bubble to blow. I mean it was heavy and when I blew it just splatted out. I can blow bubbles. I have been doing it awhile. This was just...boring. It was so insanely messy...
Bubbles of the devil...
These bubbles are HORRIBLE! Shame on you Crayola! I trusted your brand, and you let me down! My son's clothes and shoes were dyed green. It took me 3 days to wash the green bubbles off the concrete. I should have known not to buy these when the warning said: Do not use at a wedding!!!
HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE!
YOU MIGHT AS WELL GRAFFITI YOUR KIDS AND EVERYTHING YOU VALUE WITH PERMANENT DYE. The Crayola people who allowed this monstrosity on the market should be FIRED. The few 5-star reviews are sickeningly obvious CRAYOLA COMPANY REPS trying to save face. What an even bigger insult! SHAME ON YOU, CRAYOLA...
Will not buy any crayola product until this gets removed and an apology issued
Forget about this being the worst product Crayola has ever made, this is the worst product EVER made by anyone. The fact that Amazon is even selling this is a slight against Amazon...
Ok, the only place these are safe to play without staining is over an open body of water and if your suspended above it. Safest bet—use these in the ocean...
Worst product of any sort I've used in years
I'd like the Crayola product manager for these bubbles to come to my house to scrub the stains off the concrete in front of my house. I suspect that s/he is currently available for such a job. Awful. Awful. Awful. And I'm being too generous...
I think you get the idea. Long story short, this product totally sucks. It has 55 1-star reviews and two 5-star reviews, which, as one reviewer points out, sound like they were written by a Crayola employee:
A mess worth making
I bought these over the weekend and I can't believe all the negative reviews! We had so much fun with the colorful bubbles! I had neighbors coming over to try them out. I had no problems washing them away when it was time to clean up. It came out of light colored clothes, brick, vinyl, cement, and off skin just fine without any traces of blue, orange, red, purple or green left behind. It was great seeing the colors float through the air. They were super messy, and I think because the solution is a bit thicker it took a bit more effort to make the bubbles but it was still a great time and I would buy them again. Not sure why people would use them indoors but I wouldn't suggest that. Buy them and try them for yourselves. I didn't have any problems. Just needed a bit of soap and warm water to clean up. Thanks Crayola!
(This is this reviewer's only review on Amazon.)
Customer reviews are huge and getting huger –surveys indicate that most buyers consider customer reviews much more important than marketing descriptions , as in an order of magnitude more important, when weighing purchasing decisions. Especially if you sell products online, it's so easy for potential customers to check around and see what people are saying about your product, whether those reviews are hosted on your own site or someplace like Amazon, Yelp, or Google. So keeping an eye on those reviews is a crucial part of your reputation management strategy.
If you get one or two negative reviews, there are straightforward ways to manage this. You can reach out to the customer who had a bad experience and try to set things right. This won't always work, but it often does – you save the customer and in some case you can get them to delete or amend the review. (Trying to balance out negative reviews by writing your own positive reviews isn't the best idea.)
But what do you do if 90 – 100% of your reviews are negative? (And in the case of the Crayola colored bubbles, "negative" is really putting it lightly.) This, my friends, is your wake-up call. The only way to manage a situation like this is with a full-on mea culpa, and that means:
- Issue an apology. You obviously screwed up, so apologize to your customers so you can regain some of the trust you have lost.
- Offer refunds or some other monetary retribution. When customer satisfaction is this low you really need to be willing to give customers their money back, lest they resent you forever and tell everyone they know.
- Go back to square one with your product. Crayola, your colored bubbles aren't cutting it. Clearly you spent less than 14 years in the development of this product. Take it off the market and make sure it's awesome before you release Colored Bubbles 2.0.
Web Marketing Highlights of the Week
Georgie at PPC Blog reposted this great video from Converse, describing a brilliantly creative use of AdWords for branding . Major "I wish I thought of that" material:
For more inspiring marketing ploys along those lines, I recommend Damn! I Wish I'd Thought of That , a fun blog I've been following lately, from which I learned about Blu Dot, a design store that left 24 GPS-bugged chairs around New York, an experiment that "generated nearly 60 million Web impressions" and garnered coverage from Fast Company and security blogs.
"Please Exit the Link Building" : This long post by Ross Hudgens explains how "good SEOs" do link prospecting, acquisition, reporting and maintenance as part of a truly scalable strategy (using the New York Times' and Reddit's link graphs for inspiration).
"There Are No New Ideas, Just New Buzzwords" : AJ Kohn of Blind Five Year Old posits that buzz concepts like "social proof" and "crowdsourcing" are just new names for things marketers have been doing for decades.
Sparksheet talks to Slate editor David Plotz  about online publishing models, aggregation, SEO, content farms and Slate Labs, a multimedia journalism and technology experiment.
Real-time marketing can mean big-time bucks, but it's easy to screw up. Read Lisa Barone's tips  for doing it without "elephant-sized backlash."
Learn what retargeting is and how to use it  to follow your web visitors around like a lost puppy dog until they are overcome with guilt and are forced to take you home. (My stupid metaphor, not Joanna Lord's.)
Have a great weekend!