When it comes to consumer feedback, should we sweat the small stuff?

When it comes to consumer feedback, should we sweat the small stuff?


Sep 08, 2015

Share It

As market researchers, we too often focus on the almighty number. The higher the percentage, the more likely it is to be considered significant and reported on in the findings. Even in qualitative research, a specialty where numbers ostensibly take a backseat role, more weight is often placed on the prevailing trends, the majority’s perceptions, than on isolated comments or minority opinions. However, perhaps it’s time that we begin to move away from this tyranny of the majority and begin moving towards giving the voice of the minority equal weight.

In July 2014, Airbnb unveiled a controversial new logo that was criticized for being too sexual and graphic, with interpretations ranging from female genitalia to somebody’s rear end. Clearly, Airbnb would have done their homework before unveiling the new face of their brand, indicating that if this interpretation had reared its head, it was likely not considered a plausible or widespread enough interpretation to warrant concern. However, the rise of social media has allowed anybody with an irrational, albeit somewhat reasoned, interpretation to spread their views across the internet in no time flat. Twitter, and other social media sites, exploded with snarky comments and memes, transforming something as innocuous as unveiling a new logo to a scandalized (sometimes comedic) free-for-all. Although Airbnb continues to use the logo and the conversation eventually died away, other brands have not been as lucky and have been forced to apologize and retract media that have inspired consumers’ ire.

However, the minority opinion should not always be approached with trepidation and should instead be welcomed as an opportunity.  When solicited for feedback, consumers too often tell researchers and brands information that they already know and identify issues (such as price) that cannot be easily changed. By focusing on smaller, less systemic issues, brands can combat issues with the potential to grow into larger problems as well as more quickly begin to affect their ratings. After all, it’s easier to build institutional alignment and requires fewer resources to alter a talk track or update help articles than it is to restructure a company’s pricing model.

This is not to say that the voice of the minority should always be given precedence over that of the majority, but rather that these different voices each have their place in better understanding consumers and that we as an industry should start taking a more holistic and inclusive approach to the feedback they’re giving us.

New Call-to-Action

  • Andrew Fu

    YES. This is a question I ask myself all the time as a researcher – how do you find those hidden, minority opinions that may not be popular until they have had a chance to influence others? Perfect example of why you need skilled analysts and not just hard numbers.

  • ResponsibleVoter

    re: Sonic survey
    Look. . .

    I didn’t keep notes as I went along – so I’m doing my best to remember.

    Are you really interested in what I think – or, are you just interested that your numbers add up ???????

    I’m stuck on this page: http://survey.imoderate.com/survey/selfserve/53b/8498i

    either you let me think that I had a soda 2x at McDonalds in the afternoons – or, you cut me loose (because I didn’t list it on a previous page).

    I have a long day every day this week and I need a shower more than I need to fill out your stats.

    I want off this page: http://survey.imoderate.com/survey/selfserve/53b/8498i

    but, I can’t remember all the minutia you want.

    if you want me to start over 3 nights from now – then I can do that . . . but I’ll have to keep notes.

    I can’t handle any more tonight! I’m going around in circles.

    Sorry I sound so mad – but, I’m very tired and drained.
    Do you tell your customers that your stats mean more to you than what customers actually think?

  • Adam rossow

    Responsible voter, sorry I am just getting to your comment now. I apoligize you got stuck in the confines of the survey and couldn’t express yourself. The way these are built don’t always lend themselves to flexibility. We, and or client, are interested in your opinion. Please fell free to email me at [email protected] .com with any comments or opinions you have and I will ensure those get passed on.


Our relationship with iModerate has enabled us to quickly and efficiently seek the voice of the consumer or customer, and incorporate it into our business decisions, allowing us to become smarter and faster to market. The team iModerate is, in essence, a virtual extension of the Abbott research team – from them, I know that when I pick up the phone and call, on the other end will be someone who understands my business, knows my target consumer, and will always deliver high quality results.

Kristen McLane, Manager, Shopper Insights & Category Development, Abbott Nutrition