Roger Ebert, the movie critic, hates my favorite movie.
October 15, 1999
"Fight Club" is the most frankly and cheerfully fascist big-star movie since "Death Wish," a celebration of violence in which the heroes write themselves a license to drink, smoke, screw and beat one another up.
Roger Ebert (2 stars)
But, how can this be?
I've seen this movie at least 200 times and I still love it. It's considered a "cult classic" and it has been said that it was the "highest point in the careers of all those involved in the making of a masterpiece."
Rolling Stone said this:
The film’s bold, bruising humor leaves marks on a wide range of hot-button issues: It’s about being young, male and powerless against the pacifying drug of consumerism. It’s about solitude, despair, and bottled-up rage. It’s about how not to feel dead as Y2K approaches. It’s about daring to imagine the disenfranchised reducing the world to rubble and starting over. (Peter Travers - 5 stars)
How can two reviewers that rarely disagree about the merit of any movie have such differing opinions?
The truth is, it wasn't made for Rober Ebert. It was made for a reader of Rolling Stone. It was made for a specific generation of people and ol' Roger in 1999 was not a part of that generation.
The fact is, you can't please everyone -- and if you don't have someone that hates what you are doing, you are doing something wrong. You haven't pushed the envelope at all if no one is getting their undies in a bunch.
If this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight.
If you're a local business, then reviews can be a real concern. A coherent but negative review can really hurt your business.
Consider this. If all your business comes from sites like Yelp or Google, then you REALLY need to diversify your marketing.
Yelp, Facebook, Google, or other sites can "flip a switch" and turn off the tap at any time. You are sitting on a ticking time bomb. Except when the bomb goes off, there won't be any explosion, there will only be a quick silence as your phone stops ringing.
That aside, let's talk about consumer behavior and reviews...
A study by the Journal of Consumer Research showed that people who read negative reviews with honest-sounding language were MORE likely to buy a product or do business with a company.
Language in a negative review such as, "To bed honest, I didn't like this because I needed X feature and it has Y feature" or "I like this place a lot but I had a bad experience because of XYZ" will actually encourage people to use it as long as they do not have that specific issue.
For example, I recently looked at bookcases for my office. A negative review said this one specific bookcase only had 2 starts... because it was too heavy. I want heavy. I want something that is real wood and will last a lifetime. This made me more likely to choose that bookcase, even though the review was "negative."
Even though a study by Price Economics showed that 78% of reviews online actually don't contain grammatical or spelling errors, the lower the rating of the review, the more likely for it to contain errors.
Spelling and grammatical errors are often associated with low intelligence or making poor choices.
A Harvard Business Review survey found that most employers trying to hire management level employees would not hire someone who had spelling or grammatical errors on a resume or cover letter. (proofreading is key)
Though there doesn't seem to be a study directly confirming people care less about a negative review with bad spelling or grammar, there are considerable studies and anecdotal evidence to support this theory.
Let's say you're not a business with a storefront. Yelp, Google Maps, etc, aren't important to your business success because you don't even technically qualify to have a listing on those sites. But, how do you avoid reviews completely?
Step 1 - Make exceptional things for people who's lives would improve if they had them.
Step 2 - Ignore all the reviews.
Step 3 - Keep doing exceptional work for people who deserve your time.
We don't need more sub-par copies of other people's work. Make the best stuff for people who appreciate it. Be exceptional. Say, "We are the best at this thing and if you need it we will make it for you."
As a business-author and exceptional person, Seth Godin would say, "People like us, make things like this."
Seth doesn't read reviews. He says, "What I'm making isn't for them, so why do I care what they think? It's not for them!"
The truth is, it doesn't matter if Roger Ebert hates Fight Club. I like it.
It was an exceptional movie made for people feeling a little lost in the consumer driver lifestyle of my generation. But "People like us, make things like this." It was made for people like me, not Roger. So his review doesn't matter.
It wasn't made for him.
And the messages in the movie still resonate with me.
Fight Club isn't about fighting each other. It's about the fight with yourself to overcome consumerism. "The things you own, end up owning you."
It's about building a tight-knit community because consumerism is unsustainable. "Martha (Stewart) is polishing the brass on the Titanic."
It's about not caring what Roger Ebert thinks about my favorite movie. I like it, and everyone else isn't in my "club." And that's fine.