What makes up a successful product review?

I am not talking about the product end of things. I am referring to the people like myself that either write or do video reviews of spicy products. How do we take it from our experience to the world wide web and make it a respectful one. Many of us have debated this before, and it is a very opinionated topic, so I am going to give you my thoughts on it. Maybe you will agree, maybe you won’t, but you are free to voice your opinion on it.

Having done spicy product reviews since 2007, I feel a lot more comfortable than I have ever been in voicing my opinion. I have never had much of a filter anyway, and sometimes I might go a tad overboard on my feelings on a particular product whether it be positive or negative. As much as I have given feedback on a product, I have taken much in over the last 4 years from the community good and bad. I want to click off some of the major points of my experience and tell you how it relates to making a product review one that is respected and carries much weight amongst my peers.

1- Being Fair– While honesty should be on top of the list, I think being fair is just as important if not more. When a product comes to a reviewer there are certain obligations that person has to the maker of the product. While this is not a paid monetary service, (unless of course you resemble Mr Burns from the Simpsons), you are still being paid in fiery goods. You have in some way entered into a contract, and you have a job to do. In this job you are asked to be as fair and impartial to the goods you are entrusted with. If you just taste the sauce and make an evaluation based on that, then you are doing a disservice to the product. If you eat food that the product was not intended for and make an evaluation, then you are doing a disservice to the product. If you make just 1 attempt on a product that can be used in many different ways, then you are doing a disservice to the product.

Being fair comes down to sampling the product as it was intended. Each reviewer should try the product in more than 1 way to be as fair as possible. Sometimes one food just will not work, and if you call it a day after that, then you are not “reviewing” the product, you are mailing it in.

2- Honesty– It is paramount to a company to make sure they have a product worthy of the investment they put into it. Sometimes getting feedback from family and close friends is like telling your ugly child they should be models. I am thankful my parents were so honest with me before I chose my career on the runway. With product reviews, brutal honesty might not be what makers want to hear, but it is a necessary evil before money is wasted on a product that just can’t compete with all the other products out there. There is nothing wrong with a mediocre product, unless it is you who spends the investment on it. It isn’t easy telling someone who put their time into the creation of a product that it just doesn’t fill a void in the marketplace. It doesn’t have to be a bad product at all, it could be a good one, but if it isn’t different AND good, then why make something that is all ready out there?

The makers do not want a bad review, but it happens. The other day a maker told me that they appreciated all my reviewers’ honest feedback, even though they wished they didn’t have the reviews out there for all to see. It has inspired them to fix the issues presented by the review team, and their drive to make it work is admirable. Going back to the drawing board might be humbling, but it is a necessary evil. So often a reviewer is afraid to hurt the feelings of the makers, but would they feel more comfortable knowing that they contributed to the failure of the product or worse the company? Money doesn’t grow on trees. Each reviewer must realize that their honest assessment comes with a price.

3- Treat the product as if it was their own– Each review I do I consider that review to be of a personal nature to me. I look at it as if it was my product, and if I was to spend my hard work in the creation of it. Then to spend on the shipping and handling for someone to review, I ask myself, what would I want from the reviewer? What kind of feedback would I expect? I would want them to do everything they could to treat my product with #1 and #2 above- to be fair and honest. If I drop the ball as a reviewer, then I not only let down the maker, but I let down myself.

4- Review Format– For years I have been pushing the use of multiple person reviews. The reason is simple, one person should not be the judge, jury and executioner/savior for any product. I am sure my peers will disagree with me because most of them do it the solo route. It is so darn tough to organize the 3 person video reviews we do most of the time. There is so much time that goes into it from the exchange with both the makers and the review team, all the way to the gathering of the reviews and posting it. I can’t tell you how many times I have had two reviewers finished and waited on the 3rd reviewer. I have 1 reviewer now holding me up for 3 months now, while the other 2 had the review done in 2-3 weeks.

My point is that I understand fully the effort it takes to put those kind of reviews up. Yet, some of these solo reviewers found out first hand recently that their opinions were the opposite of other reviewers. I did so myself as well. It is why I think it is important that we review as a team, even if it crosses chile blog lines, just to make things as fair as possible. There is that “fair” word again.

Another format issue is the look of the review. I am forever trying to make things better with our reviews, but I have had ongoing issues. Since we do video reviews, I want my reviewers to look at their setup before they start reviewing.
a- Is it bright enough? If you show the product, can you see it? It doesn’t take much to film a snippet and adjust.
b- Are you wearing another company’s swag? Don’t promote someone else on your maker’s dime.
c- Is the background disrupting?
d- Sound okay?
e- Chance of disturbances? Make sure your time is uninterrupted if possible.

5- Rate the Product– The company should understand completely what you think of their product before your review is over. We have setup a rating scale to force our reviewers to put their reputation behind their review. For the past year plus we have marked our reviews with the “flaming heart” rating , that uses the measurement from 1-5 including 1/2 marks. In the near future we will be unveiling a page where all the spicy products we reviewed this way can be referred to by anyone looking for some kind of critique before their purchase. We will post them alphabetically by each company with each of our reviewer’s rating.

5- Marketability of the Review– If the review is a successful one, then the maker can use it for their own personal marketing purposes. Whether they link to it or use the videos embedded codes, you can provide something to them they can use way past the shelf life of the chile blog’s front page posting. Since we do 3 videos, the product maker can use any or all 3 of the video reviews. If they have 1 or 2 bad reviews, they still can use the 3rd if they wish. While our overall review is together, our videos are separate on our YouTube page.

6- Keep Ego in Check– Don’t make the review about you, make it about the product. It is okay to shine with personality because people will be entertained at the same time as getting the facts in your review. Just be careful about taking the attention away from the product. Also try not to curse or say something unsavory so the positive review can still be seen by their family, friends and customers.

7- Focus on the Product– I mentioned not showing swag from another company, but note that it is just as bad when mentioning another company’s product in the review. A company doesn’t want to hear that unless you are trying to make a comparison that a majority of us understand like Tabasco for instance. Mentioning another small market company is not a good practice. Remember what I said in #3 about treating the product as if it was your own.

8- Handling Feedback– There will come a time when you will be criticized about your review. You might be verbally lambasted on your own blog. If you can give your opinion, you have to learn how to gracefully accept others. Control your emotions, and kill them with kindness. No sense to take it down to a level where you will not want to go. You can not control how someone is going to react to a bad review, so just learn to accept it and roll with it. Hey, it might actually be our fault. Something we missed. Not giving the product a fair shake. Having just a chip or a pretzel with a product could send someone over the edge. Whatever the criticism is, handle it with maturity and do not let it get you down. Rise above it.

9- Contact Info– Make sure you list something, even if it is just an email or Facebook in the contact area. Is there anything worse than not being able to buy a product that the reviewer just raved about? Sometimes it is out of our hand when the product maker has so little information to provide, but whatever it is, provide it. You never know who might be dialed into your review.

10- Business First– You have to remember this is more than a review to the people who send you products. This is a money making venture to 99% of these product makers. Don’t take light of this fact. I am driven to help this industry and the people in it. If I could cross promote companies and events with all the other chile blogs to better this industry I would consider it. The same goes for these reviews. Connect to ours with a link if you see a product you reviewed. If it helps, then I am all for it. There is a reason you do not see me on Twitter or have my own Buddah Facebook page. I rather promote and entertain with my blog than be the focus of attention. Sure I am ambitious and want to make some money eventually to pay for the trips I make to shows, but I sleep very well at night knowing that I can make an impact in some way to help out this great community.

Please feel free to comment if you agree or disagree with anything I have said here today. Add your own points if you think I left something out. This is my opinion, and not those of my review team. I do not have such a large ego, and understand that most times reviews are not much of a factor in a company’s success. I try to do my little part, and if it helps then even better.

Thanks for your time.

Please Share this Review:

24 thoughts on “What makes up a successful product review?

  • November 11, 2011 at 4:08 pm
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    Did anyone really read this and not just look at her ass 🙂

  • November 11, 2011 at 10:10 pm
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    I’m not sure what your reasoning behind posting this, Al. Is it more for I Love It Spicy reviewers? If so, why couldn’t a mass e-mail be sent out to all of them? Is it in reference to mine and Ryan’s reviews that differed greatly from the others for the Rising Hy products?

    These aren’t knocks against you at all, Buddah. Just questions.

  • November 12, 2011 at 8:15 am
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    Scott, as in any posting like this, it is to create dialogue. I have been planning to post this sooner or later since my trip, but have been thinking about it since a FB Chileheads post on reviews got me thinking. The RisingHy, my review with Benito, and another unpublished review got me motivated for sure. It gave me an opportunity to talk about some of the things we do on ILIS and plan on doing. You know I have been a proponent to multiple person reviews for a while, and I wanted to make my points again. This was not to knock any of the other fine chile blogs, but to find a way to share our reviews/opinions with each other and to make the reviews better. I do want my reviewers to be on the same page and to read what I have to say, and I have frankly talked to many of them individually to get everyone on the same page. I have sent out mass emails before to them as well in the past. This post was meant to discuss, similar to a post you made over a year ago with blogs, and PNM’s challenge to do better reviews than just the tasting spoon and on the spot reviews at shows.

    I am not sure how much discussion there will be since it was posted on a holiday weekend. I definitely would like to get feedback good or bad, and feel free to be open and honest if you feel I crossed a line. I know I did, but I have challenged the multiple person review since I started to do reviews back in the HSB days. A lot of the other stuff is to try and drum up more reviews for my review team by giving an clearer understanding on what kind of review we do here.

  • November 12, 2011 at 1:26 pm
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    Scott, I’m finding some of my ILIS reviews differ a good bit from other reviewers. I don’t seem to be as generous as most in my ratings. Maybe that’s just inexperience on my part, so as a new reviewer, I would appreciate feedback. I don’t personalize the feedback, and try and take it to heart and use it to improve with each review I’m privileged to provide. I do try and adhere to the guidelines Buddah posted above, and I believe them. If I’m not, then I want to know about it, because the makers deserve it.

    I don’t have a firm opinion on the multi-person reviews, but it does make sense. But there’s lots of blogs reviewing the same products often times, so in a sense, it’s easy to get multiple opinions if you want them about a certain product. I think ILIS does a good job making that task easy for the viewer and the maker. Eventually I want my own blog, and I’ll be putting out one person reviews, but hopefully still sharing with ILIS and HotSauceDaily, etc., just like you do. Bottom line- we all want to do right by the makers and the industry. And there’s No one right or wrong way to get there. Just my 2 cents

  • November 12, 2011 at 2:17 pm
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    I don’t think you crossed the line. But this was odd, and I think some of it could have been better suited for private correspondence. For a good comparison, think of how a few of you guys think that I post things that are too personal on Facebook too often…there’s nothing wrong with me doing that, but you think I put too much out there. I think the same of this, Al.

    I totally and completely get your rationale behind having multiple person reviews. Believe me, I do. I just think it (sometimes) can backfire for a few reasons:

    1) If two people love a product but one pans it, that one negative review can easily be negated in the viewer’s mind. Even if that person doing the negative review is experienced in matters of hot sauce and can have a lot of legitimate, constructive things to say about the product in question, they can easily get passed over.

    2) These videos can run long. If each video is anywhere from 7 to 10 minutes long, a viewer has to invest 27-30 minutes watching videos just to see what three peoples’ opinion is on one product.

    Peoples’ attention spans on the internet are extremely short. A lot of folks want instant gratification. How about a time limit on product reviews, such as 3 or 4 minutes?

  • November 12, 2011 at 2:47 pm
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    I have told my reviews that unless it is a solo review, that to keep it around the 5 minute mark. I have the most trouble, but I have cut it down considerably when we do the multiple reviews. I agree to the length and the attention span comments. As for marketing aspect, the multiple reviews work out more for the maker. A reviewer’s ego has to be in check when it comes to being the odd man out in a scenario of 2 vs 1. I know there are a lot of “I don’t want to give a bad review” going on with some reviewers, and I have tried to address it with the individuals I think do that. I do not think of myself or any other reviewer to be an expert in the field of spicy product reviewing. It is all based on our own unique food experience and we might not have all the same taste. You said you do not like olives, I hate them too, but my Sister loves them. 3 reviewers loved the Danny Cash Jolokia wing sauce, and we did not. I can not stand coffee or licorice. If I get something I do not like I feel inclined to say as much in the review, and therefore might be a cause for a bad review. Every review is just an opinion, and we give them on video here. If the viewer feels they need to negate 1 of the 3 reviews, then it is their choice. They might see your review as more valuable because of your amount of experience than the other reviewers. That is also their choice too. We as reviewers just lay it out for them and let the chips fall where they may. I think as long as we give them a fair deal, more than 1 opinion in this case, then I think we have done a solid job.

  • November 13, 2011 at 12:31 pm
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    This is a good read Buddah, but if I try a sauce that I just don’t like, the chances that I will go out of my way to cook with it 2 or 3 more times for the sake of a video are slim. I’m busy. The the best I can do is suggest another possible use for it based on my experience. If he viewer wishes to try it to “see for themselves”, well then go for it. The fact is, I know what I like, and I think most of the people who visit this blog can attest that my tastes are reliable for the most part. Look, If your movie stinks, Roger Ebert isn’t going to go see it again and again just to make sure it stinks. GO RAVENS!

  • November 13, 2011 at 6:20 pm
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    Great comparison with movies.

    And to continue on that vein…some reviewers might like the crappiest Rob Schneider movies and rave about them, but that doesn’t mean I do. NO, I’m not a film snob and I’m not a hot sauce snob, either. And I certainly don’t let my ego come into play when tasting and tasting a sauce.

  • November 13, 2011 at 6:46 pm
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    Everyone is different, and once again that is why we do multiple person reviews. By the way Roger Ebert’s tastes are strange to say the least, so that is why I go to Yahoo Movies and see what the critics average is. It is a great system. No one is calling anyone a snob here.

  • November 14, 2011 at 11:30 pm
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    I never thought I’d have to cover the screen up so my wife didn’t see me on ILIS! Ok, reading it now… maybe…

  • November 14, 2011 at 11:56 pm
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    Al, I really enjoyed this write up and had no issue with it being placed here rather than a mass email. With the email I never would have been able to read all the great comments above this one. I learned almost as much from them as I did your original post.

    As I was reading I saw some things that I already knew I was guilty of and read a thing or two that I didn’t realize until now that I had done poorly. I am still pretty new to this and my ability to talk about what I am eating is developing as is my knowledge of video editing. I have a *@# camera and a computer that is on it’s last leg. That has certainly made this a challenge and a headache at times. I do believe that I have recently figured out some of the quality issues with my video’s look as well as finally figured out a time when I can do this in daylight. Before, it just wasn’t very easy with my work schedule.

    Honesty is one thing I don’t have an issue with. I don’t WANT to give a bad review or bring up negative issues but I will. I think those can be at least as helpful as positive thoughts.

    Also, I have no ego issues – I am way to perfect for those.

    Anyhow, Al, I appreciate you giving me the chance to do this and I think I am getting better as time goes by. I have to thank all the other reviews that I watch since I pick ideas up with every one of them and I have to thank posts such as this one.

    I am still a rookie. Mays looked horrible his first few games and let’s not forget Nolan Ryan had an ERA over 15.00 (!!) his rookie season.

  • November 15, 2011 at 3:51 am
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    Derrick, as with all my reviewers I appreciate your contributions. Especially the fast way you turn the reviews around. I have not had to notify you once about a time limit. Thanks for your feedback. I do not expect people to be perfect nor mistake free. I make enough for all of us. I am just looking for people to respect the review and put their best foot forward.

  • November 16, 2011 at 1:14 am
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    The “snob” comment has to do with the talk of reviewers not having an ego. Of course there’s someone who lives in the Carolinas who’s had it out for me and has always accused me of having a big ego.

    I understand the idea behind Yahoo! Movies. I frequent Rotten Tomatoes, but I always gravitate towards a few single reviewers whom I trust. That doesn’t necessarily mean I will agree with them, but they will describe their opinions on a movie enough so that I will know where they are coming from.

    Roger Ebert was one such example. I used to buy his “Movie Guide” books for decades and would look at his website every single week during the first ten years he was on the internet. Even though I disagreed with his assessment of movies 25% of the time, I knew that he didn’t like X type of movies whereas maybe I did. Through Roger’s in-depth writing, he was able to convey the ins and outs of what he thought of certain movies along with his tastes and I was able to make an informed decision on whether or not I might like a film.

    I think the same burden lies on hot sauce/spicy food reviewers. If a blog reader or video viewer knows Buddah’s tastes, preferences and style enough, they might like a particular sauce even though Buddah might have not given it a favorable review.

  • November 16, 2011 at 3:50 am
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    I am always adding on new reviewers as time goes, and that goes with new readers/viewers to this blog/vlog. If I present a standard review with the above criteria and everyone is on board with how it is done, we as a team look like we are cohesive in our efforts. The burden will always be on the reviewer individually, but to stay within the guidelines of the review standard I am trying to set here. While individuality is something I like with personality, it is not what I want when it comes to following the above criteria.

  • November 16, 2011 at 10:23 am
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    I know one headache I have with my videos are getting my volume on the actual review louder.I use a a Sony Bloggie Camera it shoots up to 1080p but seems the sound at times is low and I will talk pretty loud.I try to make it loud for everyone to hear my hillbilly accent.LOL I use windows basic movie maker.If there is a free utility or download to boost or something reasonable to buy to do it for me.I’ll look at it.I am always up for tips to make my vids better such how to put graphic overlays on it also.My pc is getting old and it has windows vista.I am not sure if those have a negative effect on my video editing or anything.I always express my true feelings with any review I do and will always do so in the future.

  • November 16, 2011 at 11:23 am
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    Oh wow, I could go on for days commenting on this post!

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    Great post Buddah. Best thing I’ve read on ILIS regarding reviews. Especially #2 and #8.

    Should be made into a checklist format, then printed out by anyone doing reviews and kept on their desk to be used with each and every review.

    :lick:

  • November 16, 2011 at 1:59 pm
    Permalink

    Forgot to add, loved how you worked in the word assessment in #2. :love:

  • November 16, 2011 at 5:00 pm
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    Steve, I have never noticed any issue with the volume. You have seemed at ease the more reviews you have done over time. Thanks.

  • November 16, 2011 at 5:01 pm
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    Thanks for the huge compliment Doug.

  • November 17, 2011 at 12:01 am
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    I think Steve’s voice volume was good. The only issue I’ve had was wearing earbuds and getting my eardrums shredded by the metal version of “Welcome to the Machine” intro. 😉

  • September 14, 2014 at 9:50 pm
    Permalink

    I’m all for what was said, I’ve been watching some reviews by others and for most part the reviewers are honest and fair towards the company they are reviewing for. I have seen one review that was pretty blunt about one product tasting nasty…and with what he was reviewing I would agree just by the name and content of the product and I figured it would end as such. The reviewer did his sincerest and fairest for that product and I commend him for the necessary evil he had to do.

  • September 14, 2014 at 9:53 pm
    Permalink

    [img]http://www.iloveitspicy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/41SP8ggjvnL.jpg[/img]
    I’m all for what was said, I’ve been watching some reviews by others and for most part the reviewers are honest and fair towards the company they are reviewing for. I have seen one review that was pretty blunt about one product tasting nasty…and with what he was reviewing I would agree just by the name and content of the product and I figured it would end as such. The reviewer did his sincerest and fairest for that product and I commend him for the necessary evil he had to do.

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