Consumers have been benefiting from reviews, ratings, leaks, reports and other sources of unfiltered information about brands for years now. For the 21st century’s informed consumer, this wealth of information is never more than a Google search away.

Now, we’re seeing more brands embrace this reality – the reality that they cannot hide anymore behind a façade of expertly-fabricated perfection. Consumers will discover details – good, bad and in between – regardless of brands’ readiness to accept this fact or not. Slowly but surely, brands have embraced this idea along with the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mentality, accepting and even showcasing, unfiltered consumer-created social content.

Supporting this realization are some recent statistics (quoted from Trendwatching) showing that consumers accept and expect that brands will not be perfect:

  • 68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores, while 30% suspect censorship or faked reviews if there aren’t any negative comments or reviews (Source: Reevoo.com, January 2012).
  • Shoppers who go out of their way to read bad reviews convert 67% more than the average consumer (Source: Reevoo.com, January 2012).
  • 71% of people who complained on Twitter received no response from the brand. But among those who were contacted, 83% liked or loved that the brand responded, and 85% were satisfied with the response (Source: Maritz Research, September 2011).

Trendwatching’s recent briefing – Flawsome – included some examples of brands embracing this new mentality, including:

Four Seasons website integrates customer comments

“The Four Seasons luxury hotel chain overhauled its website in January 2012 to include customer reviews from TripAdvisor and comments from Facebook and Twitter. Comments are placed prominently and users can click through to external content, something that is still a rarity on luxury brand websites.”

Just search for any property within the site, and you’ll see the customer content prominently displayed.

Smashbox Social Shop

“Beauty brand Smashbox’s Social Shop shows Facebook ‘Likes’ and comments alongside specific products. Users can also see products that their friends have commented on or liked.”

The more likes or comments a product has, the easier it is to find in the shop.

Esurance: Insurance for the modern world

“Allstate-owned Esurance released a new campaign in December 2011 asking what makes a company trustworthy? The commercial suggests that hearing what a company’s customers have to say is the most reliable answer, and encourages potential customers to check out the brand’s Facebook page to see what customers really think of their service.”

Even when fans post negative comments, Esurance is good about responding in a timely manner.

As humans, we are drawn to other humans that are confident and comfortable with themselves – quirks, flaws and all. We can be turned off by seemingly “perfect” people that attempt to hide all their flaws. Why wouldn’t we feel the same about our favorite brands?