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.