‘Actual’ Ugly Happy Customer Vs Fake Stock Pics & Testimonials? Take Your Pick


‘Actual’ Ugly Happy Customer Vs Fake Stock Pics & Testimonials? Take Your Pick

Consumer businesses are built on trust and while it takes a lot of time and effort to build trust, many companies tend to use designs and visuals to reinforce trust (some just choose firangi branding).
For e.g. one of the standard means to increase trust is to use happy faces on the landing page. It is a very well established fact that human photos in landing page increases sales and conversion rate (one of the A/B testing study found out that there increase in conversion rate of more than 95% when human photos were used vis-a-vis paintings).
The question however is should you actually use an actual customer picture (ofcourse, with their permission) OR a stock *good looking* photo ?

Fake Vs. Real : Does It Matter?

Saw the Akosha funding news, went to their website and noticed the happy customer images. Just that they didn’t look real to me*.
A quick search and this is what came out:
Happy Customer #1
This happy Akosha customer says a lot of great things about the Akosha app.
 ..Is It A Fake Picture?

Same Happy Face..Elsewhere?
Same Happy Face..Elsewhere?

Happy Customer #2
Again, says nice things about the app and the product experience.
Fake Customer?
Spotted another site using the same pic.

The Impact Of Fake Happy Customers

Faking happy customers is as good as faking the customer itself.
Faking works when you do not have tons of (happy) customers and you need to fake your size (ideal for startups).
Fake happy faces also translate to fake testimonials – specifically in the case of Akosha, the fact that these customers are actually saying nice things about the consumer experience etc etc – all of these are fake testimonial, which is nothing but sad.
Once caught, this just leads to trust deficit in the brand (which is quite ironic in this case, since Akosha is all about solving trust/experience deficit consumers have with other brands).
Is this all worth it?
Is it worth trading ‘actual not-so-great-looking real customers’ with ‘fake happy customers’ ?
Why not go that extra mile?
*: I might be wrong. Maybe the same consumer had that same consistent happy face and pose for other sites too. Or maybe others plagiarized from Akosha.
My point is simple : Truth has only one version and that is the truth itself.

Grab a happy customer, take their pic/testimonial and post it. You will never have to worry about fake testimonials,licensing (read : Ola’s licensing issue with app load screen) or anything!

Comments (15)

  1. Very nice Article Ashish, I completely agree with you on this and I have personally witnessed the Impact of Truth. In my last organization focusadventure.in we made a practice to take video testimonial from the clients after the workshop. These testimonials were real and fresh after the workshop. When we published them on our website, it was an instant hit and pulled lot of traffic. Some new customers even tell us that they choose us over others after looking at those testimonials.

  2. While using stock photos and made up testimonies may be an accepted marketing practice, a real customer photo with an authentic testimonial and perhaps a real name to go with it is a definitely better way of doing it. Good photographers can make even plain people look good. Doing so is a plus for integrity of the brand.

  3. raksapp

    @ashish – nice article and tells the story whats going on in this industry

  4. ravimittal

    @ashish I stand with you on this. I had been thinking about the images when some articles posted screenshots of their website. I too wanted to ‘research’ these pics. I am glad you took the courage of writing this.
    While there are really two sides to the same coin:
    1. Showing such fake testimonials is certainly wrong.
    2. However, most customers dont have the time or want to give their photos for such promotions. In such cases, you do have to resort to such things. Alos, most brands like Colegate etc show Sonam Kapoor’s white teeth and make-believe it as a testimonial. Which is wrong too.
    How would you seperate the good from the bad?
    While this is one part of the story, you should also talk about how startups are churning out fake growth. Most of these ‘funded’ startups focus on showing huge customer growth / downloads growth by simply acquiring customers via incentivizations. Just log on to some free recharge apps like Mcent, Ladoo, Poktt, etc and you will find all funded start-up apps giving out money to bump up numbers. After all, the VCs are only interested in 50x 100x growth and it’s easy to show it that way. You should do some post on that too someday.

  5. I side with you Ashish.
    I remember watching a Snapdeal commercial on TV which featured a handloom maker (I don’t remember the specifics). They clearly said, “no actors were used for filming this commercial”. Don’t know if that is true on their part, but they made me believe so and I was actually impressed. It was one of those commercials that didn’t have girls in bikinis but still stuck and the best part, for a moment it made me forget the shitty experience I had with Snapdeal.
    Anyways, my point is, actual customer photos and testimonials work.
    For those who said that stock photos are just like clothes, they don’t matter.
    Do you go and talk to the guy sitting on the footpath to see if he is a beggar, or do you judge him by his appearance?

  6. Ashish you should do some meaningful stories that are helpful for the readers rather than wasting your time on such useless stories. ….There is so much out there to write about. All this appears absolute junk and crap to me..I hope better sense prevails on you here on…Else This way you will lose your popularity and credibility….

  7. @ashish, I dont seem to understand why some fancy looking pictures used for a promotion of a brand bothering you. Is not that what you are supposed to do. Are not all the TVCs doing that. Colgate and pepsodent showing how their product give you white ” shining” teeth. Do we really get it ? And does that mean I stop using them. Your point is moot and has no credibility.
    I have used akosha app and its quite useful.

  8. Hi Ashish, I shoot pictures for a living and many times my clients do not want to spend money on taking pictures of real staff/customers. Also some feel their ‘real’ staff/customers don’t look as good as the ‘stock’ ones. When I ask them if your customers expect the stock faces and go back disappointed when they don’t, they say it’s a common thing & customers are knowledgeable enough to distinguish a stock from real, beats me as to why have it then! Boils down to the business’ priorities & values.

  9. To those who are replying from the same IP, please chill.
    I like what akosha has done and the way Ankur has created this!! The piece is and should be read from product management point of view.
    Its weird that s company which has actually a great fan following resorts to fake people giving fake testimonials (of course, freahly launched startups are okay to do this).
    That’s your ATD, if you know what I mean.

  10. @ashish I believe and trust in akosha not becoz of the pics on the website but because they have helped me and my family on 2 occasions by getting my issues solved. Stock pics or real pics doesn’t matter.
    UI images and content is more like the clothes you wear but the service is the soul.
    Congrats akosha on the funding. Hope u bring smiles to more lives. Request everyone to concentrate more and more on the consumer experience than proving your worth on such forums.

  11. @ashish using stock photo is fine, it should not confused with customer review/testimonial, On a 2nd note, seeding initial content etc is fine (depends startup product at which stage)
    On a 2nd note, Running twitter/fb contest to grab screenshot of review of the app is good? People are crazy to win stuff, thousands of people will review app good start (4-5) in hope of winning contest, will product last longer? (some startups are doing that stuff).

  12. Hema_Saxena

    Hey Ashish, I have used Akosha. And yes they do resolve problems without any charges.
    By the way, I guess everybody use some face to show end users as their representative. Do you still think Shahrukh khan is really using Pepsodent, Or really Coke/Pepsi is that good that if someone drink it, He/She can do any think like Hrithik roshan drinks dew and than do the impossible.
    Why only blaming a company who is actually trying to help customer.
    Just think about it what you doing nothing but writing shit about people who are actually doing something.
    They are serving society and you are burning society

  13. Ashish,
    I have been developing android apps for a while now, please let me know how to fake reviews on google play store, where you can go and click on the user profiles and see who they are actually (google plus profile).
    Boss if you want to ride on someone’s success at least do your homework properly.

  14. @kali_charan_shukla : thanks for replying. really appreciated. If pictures are representative, so are the testimonials. I think that’s not right.
    Quick correction : this is not journalism et al – pure product management 🙂

  15. Thanks for this Ashish. We appreciate your feedback and we’ll relook at our policy of using stock pics. BTW stock pics are standard for most marketing materials, so users know that they are representative. If the point is that we don’t have genuine reviews, would request you to go to: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.akosha.directtalk&hl=en and start scrolling through the reviews. Thanks. Keep the excellent journalism coming.

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