How One Company Ingeniously Turned A 1-Star Review into Branding Gold

October 9, 2017

Any company that intends to hire great talent must have a cohesive, authentic brand. That’s just a fact in the competitive job market we’re in these days. But sometimes, it seems that even your best efforts can get totally sabotaged by those awful, negative online reviews. 

Whether you have just one or two negative reviews weighing on your brand or maybe a bunch, the ability to turn negative talk into positive talk about your employer brand is key if you want a chance at competing for top-tier talent.

We’ve covered some basic steps on responding to bad reviews here, but now, let’s talk about how one smart company in particular ingeniously turned a 1-star review into branding gold (and how you can too!) 

What company are we talking about, you ask?

A ski resort in Utah, Snowbird. Snowbird is known for its challenging slopes and they cater most to dedicated, advanced skiers. And funny enough, a reviewer rated them with a 1-star with the reasoning that  “it’s too advanced”.

You could argue that the reviewer’s perspective doesn’t really matter because, obviously, the person is not among Snowbird’s target audience of advanced skiers. BUT – does that change the fact that it’s a measly one-star? Nope.

So, instead of taking the punch and feeling insulted, Snowbird took the high road. They not only took the review as a compliment, but they went ahead and actually used the comment as the leading copy in a major magazine campaign (which features the review quote in the foreground and one of their stunning slopes as the background).

Here is look at the ad:

The simple yet power-punching ad is gaining tons of exposure already and will appear in magazines like Skier, Powder, and Ski Utah, marketing to adrenaline junkies and other adventurous souls

And while we could all stop there and move on like business as usual, there are some incredible employer branding lessons we can learn from Snowbird’s bold strategy in this situation. Namely, how to put a negative review into a positive spin that can strengthen how your brand is perceived.

Here are 4 main lessons from how Snowbird handled this review that you can use for your own employer branding efforts:

1. They Were Listening.

Snowbird obviously watched review sites to know what was being said about their slopes and amenities.

Companies frequently miss this opportunity. Some just think it takes too much time to conduct the research, while others don’t seem to realize how important online reviews are to their employer brand.

What to learn? It pays to be aware of the review sites and monitor them for feedback. HR and Talent Managers can get great insight into the positive and negative aspects of applicant and ex-employee comments.

Another way Snowbird handled the situation was….



2. They Didn’t Ignore the Comment

It’s tempting to avoid addressing unflattering reviews. Conflict is uncomfortable. However, Snowbird knew they needed to act on the comment, and it ended up actually being a testimonial.

While every bad review can’t end this way, some of them are valuable tools to know where to improve. Focusing on upgrading weak points of your hiring process, for example, minimizes the chance you lose top candidates to your competition. Harsh former employee reviews help you know where training is needed to reduce turnover.

What to learn? Kudos are fantastic, but employers can also improve their branding by absorbing and addressing negative reviews, not just online, but in their current processes and procedures.


[You might also like: Bad Reviews: Should Companies Leave ‘em or Delete ‘em?]


3. They Knew Their Target Audience

Snowbird saw that the reviewer wasn’t the level of skier they typically catered to. Employer branding works the same way. Building a recognizable company culture takes an understanding of the type of employees you have and need.

Seeing that an ex-employee complained about “long hours” or “too much responsibility” may sound negative, but it just means your company most likely wants a dedicated employee who is open to progressing into wider-reaching roles.

What to learn? Even negative reviews help build your brand and guide hiring managers to know the type of person they need to seek out that can handle the position.



4. They Took A Risk

Being bold can pay off big. Snowbird leveraged the dismal review to hit their true audience of advanced skiers. Creativity gains your message greater visibility and helps potential job seekers remember it longer than the same old ad they have read from a dozen other employers.

What to learn? Employers aiming to attract and hire A-players shouldn’t be afraid to use bold and aggressive measures to get their attention and stand apart from the competition.

By listening to what their guests were saying online, Snowbird was able to see what was being said about them and then turn a negative review into a wildly positive ad. Employers should use the same idea when dealing with negative information shared online by displeased job candidates or unhappy former employees.


Examining the review for validity, addressing it properly, and boldly using that information creatively can result in attracting a larger number of high-performing applicants. In addition, even though those negative reviews are difficult to stomach, they can help build a stronger brand image and a more solid company culture in the long run. 



Linda Le Phan
Senior Content Marketing Manager at kununu.

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