No7's Testing Panel - Underhand Marketing Tactics?

From vanity sizing to product placement - covert marketing is all around us. 
But are some brands now turning to social media as a way of easily swaying and exploiting there own customers?

One brand in particular that has caught my attention is No7 at Boots. I own a lot of No7 product and genuinely like the brand  - there products are always of good quality and there advertising is always spot on. Which is why I was quite surprised and let down by there recent choice of marketing. 

Let me explain...

I first noticed something abit on the odd side when I visited the Boots website to check the price of the new Exquisite Curl Mascara. Even though the mascara had only been released that very day there were already over 15 five star reviews about the product. I quickly read through the glowing customer reviews and most implied/mentioned that they had been sent the mascara and had been testing it for 3-4 days. 

My first thought was that a select number of beauty bloggers had been sent the new mascara and had been kindly asked if they could write a review on the website. I personally think even that is abit underhand seeing as it's clearly states that the reviews are 'customer reviews' but something I could maybe see happening.

I then totally forgot about the reviews, until I noticed that No7 were recruiting 30 panellists to try out their new tinted moisturiser on their Facebook page.

Here is the actual note from No7  -

Now writing about your experience on the No7 Facebook page is one thing, but asking the supposed 'panellists' to write a review on the official website which is meant for customer reviews is a different story all together. A story that definitely explains the now 17 five star reviews for the exquisite curl mascara.

I am by no means suggesting that No7 or the PR company involved even hinted at giving good reviews but surely these panelists will think they stand a better chance of reviewing more No7 products if they review there 1st product quite highly or any product for that matter. Which is clearly true from the amazing reviews of the mascara. With one 'customer' stating that out of her 50 mascaras the No7 Exquisite Curl Mascara was the best she had ever tried.

I was actually sent the exact mascara by the No7 PR team and I should state I wasn't directly asked to write a review on my blog in exchange for the product nor was I asked to write a customer review on Which is pretty much the norm for PR companies as they understand that if you like the product you will give it a review of some kind in the future - something that is totally fair.

The mascara itself was good but not the best one that No7 do and I truly felt for that reason I couldn't write a full post dedicated to the mascara, so planned to just write about it in the next month or so along with other products (some pr samples some bought) that I quite liked - just a general post really.
So to be brutally honest I know from using the mascara that it doesn't warrant the huge amount of praise it has received so far on the Boots website.

Which is why it think type of marketing is underhand. Actual Boots customers may look at the star rating and buy a specific product based just on that alone (I know I have done a similar thing on Amazon in the past). Customer reviews are there to be unbiased and honest.

I also have a problem with how No7 are recruiting the panellists - On one hand they are suggesting that you could be one of the lucky few almost like it's a light hearted competition but then with on the other hand by commenting you are agreeing to there terms - almost like you are working for them and therefore you have an agreement to up stand.

The word exploitation comes to mind!

I know that alot of you may not care about the customer reviews on as most beauty bloggers rely on other blogs & forums as there source of honest reviews. But at the end of the day alot of people don't even think to google a specific product to see different independent reviews  - they just read the customer reviews that are give or go off the star rating next to each product.
Which is why I feel it could mislead a lot of customers if this carries on. 

I would really love to hear all your opinions on this - is it a case of marketing gone too far or are they just getting with 'the times'? 



  1. I always check the star reviews on before I buy something new...I definitely don't agree with they way No7 are going about getting them, it's very misleading :(
    Great post xxx

  2. according to the dictionary on my mac's dashboard, a "customer" is defined as "a person or organization that BUYS goods or services from a store or business." states a "customer" is "a person who PURCHASES goods from another."

    i don't think i need to provide anymore examples. we all know what a CUSTOMER is.

    sure, i'm nitpicking, but it clearly states CUSTOMER REVIEWS on the site. now, we can all argue about the reviewers honesty and integrity but i think we can all agree we would be more inclined to trust the opinion of someone who actually BOUGHT the product and i think NO7 knows this, which is why they have asked them to do a review on the site and not just on people's blogs.

    i wouldn't say it completely turns me off from the brand, but it does make me cringe and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. i would've rather they said reviews were made by a testing panel and not by "customers."

  3. I think they're just getting with the times. So many companies do similar things that I barely notice any more! I do think that sending people products and asking them to write a review for the site is a bit dodgy though - that should be for genuine customers only.

    I also think it's unfair to people who aren't up on the latest products out, because they wouldn't even think about bloggers being sent samples or PR tactics - they'd just see 5 stars and buy. Yes, a good marketing strategy, but honest and fair? I think not.

  4. Biased reviews come to mind. The sample of 'customers' on boots is not an accurate representation of their actual customer base.
    People who get sent the product and write a review on boots are more likely to be affected by the fact that they like the brand and didn't pay for the product. Individuals that wasn't as keen on the product would be less likely to write a review, firstly the may think its not worth the time, or they don't want to bad mouth a company that has sent them an item.
    It just all seems abit biased. I'm sure people who go out with the intention to buy the item would probably have very different varied reviews.
    We all have different mascara preferences anyway, no everyone will find one mascara amazing.
    Sorry for the ramble! I really agree with your post! :)

  5. Ouch - think they are going to regret that. zzz

  6. I think you make some valid points here Fee. I struggle personally with the whole concept of being given something and then writing a review on it, now this is my personal struggle mind, I am not decrying established bloggers being given products to try at all it is just a personal struggle for me - not much of a struggle mind because I have never been sent anything! For me I am hugely influenced by daft things like packaging and friendliness of the SA.
    I do wonder whether they have left out any of the unfavourable comments if they had any. I like QVC for that reason because they do show all reviews good and bad.
    Food for thought as always. Thankyou Fee. Jan xx

  7. this is so ridiculous and totally not fair. like you said not everyone thinks to google/check other places for reviews. it's made me think differently of them for sure, which is a shame :/ xo

  8. I just thought I was unlucky to have followed the exact same handful of blogs that the PR's had sent this item to, because I've seen about 10 posts through google reader about this mascara.

    While its good they are getting more involved with the buying public, the "post review" part is going too far.
    "Here, we'll send you a free [expensive] mascara, you write a great review, and we're all winners; because you don't have to buy it and we get loads of other people buying it from what you said".

  9. I've seen so many blog reviews on this mascara that I now won't read them as not sure it can be trusted? It should be made clearer on their sites who has reviewed and left comments. I'm not a fan of no7 (only have their nail polishes), their products irritate my skin! great post! x

  10. That was a bit cheeky!
    I do look at the stars but I don't go only by that to be honest. I do further research and I always search for bad reviews or negative comments because those are the ones that will tell me the truth about a product.
    I also do not (normally) jump straight away into buying something new. I get other people to be the guinea pigs for me :-P
    Brilliant post. Love your dedicated research phase.

  11. The people on the testing panel also appear to have got a No7 goody bag since writing the review from what I can see on the page... Something that rewards them for a good review.

    No7 seemed to have considerably more PR samples to get rid of than is normal for a brand too as I got one and in general I don't get that many PR samples, particularly not the big new release ones that bigger blogs gets all at once.

    Interesting! Thanks for the work you put into this Fee! x

  12. Not impressed with that at all, fair play to you for posting this :) I got one to review and am now considering removing the post. I pride myself on giving honest reviews for those who haven't tried the product and that should go for customer reviews on the Boots websites. Thanks for researching & posting this.

  13. Your like a beauty detective! haha x
    On a more serious note I completely agree.
    I would feel really cheated after buying the product due to 'honest' 'customer' reviews and realising they weren't quite what they seemed. I think you have sparked a bit of debate here babaz! Good points and I'm quite disappointed in Boots, I always thought they were a brand to be trusted... :/
    On a lighter note, Ihm a big fan of your blogg, and always look out for your latest post as they always manage to include intelligence :)

    Izzy xx

  14. I agree with parts of this post but there are parts I really disagree with. I don't agree that the integrity of the reviewers is in question any more than any blogger. Of course there are plenty of people who find it impossible to believe a blogger is unbiased when sent a product which drives me completely insane. I struggle to see the difference. If you think that a reviewer for No7 is unlikely to give an honest answer for fear of not being asked again then does the same apply to bloggers? They're not a different breed, all the same humans, some reliable and honest and some not.

    I also think it's nitpicking to say they are not customers. They may not have bought the mascara but I think the fact that they are registered on the FB page probably implies they are customers. I'm not registered there, don't like the brand much. Not a customer.

    In addition I don't understand why you wouldn't review it? You only review the best products a brand produces? I find it important to review products saying "I don't love this,but it does have its good points which are blah blah"....

    Having said all that, I did receive the mascara and I'm not reviewing it.

    Why because I dislike the over saturation of the blogging world with one product. I hate Eyeko for doing it and I don't want to be part of it. Maybe I'll review it a few months time when everyone has forgotten the copious amounts of posts we've all endured in our feeds. I did however take time to filter back to the PR company why I wouldn't be reviewing it, that I thought it was overkill and no one would read it, that generally this kind of market saturation was disliked and that there lots of grumbles on twitter about it. I think the PR were really interested to hear my thoughts and very grateful and agreed that I shouldn't review it if I thought no one would read. In actual fact I have lots of readers who don't read other blogs which is why I'm thinking I may revisit it at some point because friends and family won't have seen it plastered everywhere.

    I suppose what I'm trying to say is that in my experience PR's really appreciate your feedback about things like this, they wanted to hear all your thoughts and why, in this case, I thought it was detrimental, and listened carefully to what I was saying, actively encouraging open and clear communication with PRs. But generally I try to be this way with PR's anyway, I always filter back my honest thoughts.

    I think if they listen it's the only way to go about changing the things you don't like... of course that all depends on people listening!

    Even though I disagree Fee, great post that really gets you thinking as usual. Keep trucking you still have one of the greatest blogs out there! xx

  15. I always read both the boots website reviews and independent reviews. I find you can get a better idea of the product from a blog, and decide for yourself. Also, boots reviews have to be approved- what if they just omit bad reviews? xxx

  16. I'm not a beauty blogger but I also rely on customer reviews and BEAUTY BLOGGERS to give honest feedback about the products they have tried. Thank you for being one of those people! Love your blog.

  17. Uh-oh!! Not good.. I happen to have seen like 12 blog reviews of this mascara by now, and I was sent it, but didn't write about it anywhere, as I feel like I'd be boring the world to death with all the reviews of it everywhere!!

    But that is rather sneaky of Boots/ No 7,to get people to review in their customer review section!!!

  18. Yep, I received this as well but won't be writing about it anywhere as their marketing tactics have left no one who reviews it any credability!
    It's a useless mascara anyway, if I hadn't been so bored of Reading about it already then I would have done an UNfavourable review x

  19. Brilliant scoop. Thanks for this, it was a bit of an eye-opener and a thought provoking read.

    I had seen the mascara in question being raved about, more so than the Exceptional Definition one, and it had made me curious....

  20. Interesting but not surprising, although that might be my cynical nature I expect all big brands to do something sneaky. I rarely go by 'customer reviews' as they always seem to be glowing and I find that hard to believe.. I tend to read blogs, get personal experiences and then try stuff.
    Saying that I don't use No 7 as Ive found their stuff really irritates my skin and I don't wish to push my luck.

  21. I think it's a mix of marketing and moving with the times. It's definitely true that panellists will be bias as they received it free and to non bloggers it would be like winning a prize, so they must feel they have to put it in a good light. However, I don't think this is the fault of Boots, it's just how their panellists responded.
    I know a lot of companies do this, it's generally recruited on the sly though so the bias opinions may not be as obvious.

    Great post!

  22. i used to alwayssss check the customer reviews on boots online now il not bother vvery annoying

  23. Wow, I did not know that. I always look at the reviews of things before buying... and that does make them seem less trustworthy (after all, people are always more positive about something they got for free!) They should really have a separate section called 'tester reviews' and keep that separate from actual customers'.

  24. Hi, I've just been asked to join a product testing panel for boots and they have asked for honest ratings and reviews. Although I agree with some of your points, I feel becoming part of a panel is similar to bloggers receiving free products. Some beauty bloggers will provide honest and impartial reviews and others will not. I intend to review every product as if I had bought it myself and give an honest review :)

  25. I agree with Idbaker - I've just been invited to join a product testing panel for Boots and I intend to be honest. They can see for themselves how honest - in the past I've given a 1 star rating to a Boots 17 mascara and they still invited me!

    However the No.7 issue is quite interesting - if you 'like' them on Facebook perhaps you ARE predisposed to like their products, whereas the product testing panel is completely random as to what they send you.

  26. Very interesting - thanks for this. I've included a link to this post over on my blog,

  27. A "review panel" hand picked by Boots?
    They don't sound like "customers" to me.
    Free samples/gifts without purchase are not usual "customer" perks !
    I would take everything written by a so called "customer" on that panel with a pinch of salt.
    Great article thanks !

  28. I am one of Boots reviewers and you are way off base. Boots have a panel of reviewers, these people are customers who have reviewed on the website before. You sign up for the panel get sent products and you leave reviews on the website, good or bad and believe me I have slated some products on there. We don't get paid, the idea is when a new product is launched people already have an idea of what it's like as there is already some reviews on there. This isn't just no7 either we can be sent anything, any product any make that Boots sells. please don't slate things you haven't researched properly.

  29. That's an interesting point by the way, I hadn't even thought of it that way. Thanks for elaborating on that.


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