Brand Activation Management

Why anecdotal feedback can be as powerful as data for your brand

January 2022 5 min read Written by Dave Thompson

In this article, you’ll learn…

  • What anecdotal feedback is
  • Why a healthy mix of data and anecdotal feedback is beneficial
  • Examples of brands that used anecdotal feedback to their advantage

Anecdotal feedback can be a dirty word for digital marketers who live and breathe by quantitative data and hard facts. But anecdotal comments and feedback deliver something that black and white numbers simply can’t – that something is emotion.

Whether it’s a positive, negative or downright ridiculous bit of feedback, you never know where it might take your next marketing campaign. That’s not to say you should throw out your sensible, goal-oriented strategy. But taking a moment once in a while to put your head above the data pools could see you strike a nugget of gold.

The success of user-generated and social content alone is enough of a testament to the power of anecdotal stories and comments, but let’s take it right back to its simplest form and apply it to a real-life example.

Let’s say you’ve been served a digital advert for an event, and were then remarketed to it via other mediums. You do a little bit of research, look at some reviews and eventually, you think about booking a ticket.

You then call a friend to see if they would like to go, but they advise against it as they saw a Facebook status of someone that said what a disappointment it was. You decide against going to the event, despite the research you have undertaken.

The comment from the friend was anecdotal, and contradicts all the facts and research you have done to date, but you listened to it.

This is one example out of thousands, but it shows just how powerful a piece of anecdotal feedback can be when an emotional connection is made.

Emotions in marketing can be the driver of a great story, but they can also cloud your judgment, and the latter is where a lot of the hostility comes from. Below, we’ve listed 6 ways you can harness anecdotal feedback as a positive, and provided some examples…

#1 Products being used in different ways

When Crocs came onto the scene, they were initially developed as a boating shoe. Today, they have taken a surprising turn as somewhat of a fashion symbol. But somewhere between their inception in 2002 and the present day, people from medical professions across the world started wearing them, and telling their colleagues about them on social media and in real life.

Crocs soon picked up on this feedback and trend, and has since introduced initiatives such as "A Free Pair for Healthcare" and become generally associated with the medical industry. With medical professionals known to spend long hours on their feet, this anecdotal movement has helped solidify the perception of Crocs being comfortable and good for the feet.


Outside of the footwear world, companies can learn about the ways their products are used differently through the power of social media. Whether it’s a new cooking trend involving Oreos or using Alka-Seltzer to clean a toilet – anecdotal stories can take your marketing in new and interesting directions.

#2 Specific flaws in your process or product

While customers are much more likely to leave a negative review than they are a positive one, both can be incredibly useful. If the same keywords are repeatedly popping up on review sites, this could be a much wider issue to address.

For example, you may be getting a high number of drop-offs at the online checkout, without any data to shed light on this error. However, social media and review sites might point you in the right direction, if users have taken to the platforms to vent their frustrations.

#3 Ask better questions

When thinking about your brand’s next strategic move, data can help you define the right answers. What the anecdotal evidence can provide is new perspectives and raise new questions.

#4 Find new perspectives

When LEGO noticed fans exchanging ideas online about what to build and how to adapt existing sets to make other items, they had a stroke of genius. LEGO ideas is an online community where users can submit new ideas for products and, if successful, they get paired with a product designer to make their idea a reality.

Another example is when Uncle Ben’s rice came under the spotlight for racial stereotyping on its packaging. It’s pretty incredible that it took so long for someone to speak out against this, but the brand was quick to react by changing the branding and name in the U.S. following an outcry of criticism.


What started as some comments on social media ended up revamping an institutional brand and creating a massive positive change for the representation of African Americans.

#5 Find new audiences

When a new development in London came across some negative Daily Mail comments on their press article, they decided to do something more than wallow.

It made them realise that the people who read the Daily Mail are definitely not their target audience. They instead used the comments in actual advertising campaigns to further iterate this point. It helped them refine their audience and turned negative feedback into a push of positive advertising.Feb-A5-Article-visual-01

#6 Generate new content or campaign ideas

There were rumours circulating that Starbucks was intentionally instructing their baristas to write people’s names incorrectly. While there is no confirmation of this being true, it does beg some questions.

When Starbucks started writing names on cups and calling them out in their stores, people took to social media to vent their frustration that their names were spelt incorrectly. It happened more and more until it became a trend to post your white and green cup on social media.Feb-A5-Article-visual-02

This demonstrates once again how anecdotal feedback can turn into a movement, and though on the surface it appears negative, Starbucks didn’t dip in sales and got free promotion worldwide.

In conclusion…

Anecdotal feedback can’t be measured or exactly defined, but it can provide insights that would have otherwise been unavailable to you by simply staring at a spreadsheet or dashboard. Strategies will never rely solely on anecdotes, yet there should definitely be an allowance for occasionally exploring this kind of feedback – you never know what opportunity you might find.

It’s also important to remember that emotion tends to carry more weight than data, even for you as a marketer, so try not to get too bogged down in the odd negative comment – if the data is promising, then not everything needs knocking down.

If you are keen to supercharge more content with the anecdotal feedback you receive, BAM by Papirfly™ makes this infinitely more attainable. Our all-in-one brand activation software allows users to adapt and evolve content in just a few clicks through our fully bespoke, intelligent templates.

So, should you want to change course on a campaign or brand asset based on the response you receive, this can be rectified in a matter of minutes. You don’t need to be a design expert or enlist the help of an agency – anyone can create and edit assets in BAM with no risk of a drop in quality or a break in brand consistency.

Plus, these assets can be adapted and shared with your teams worldwide through our software’s dedicated DAM portal. This ensures that any change you make can be applied across the board, so there is no chance for inconsistencies to creep in.

This is just scratching the surface of how BAM can accelerate and enhance your marketing. To discover the full possibilities, get in touch with our team or arrange your own personal demo.

by Dave Thompson

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