Why Grizzling, Whinging & Unhappy Customers Are A Marketer’s Best Friend

Why Grizzling, Whinging & Unhappy Customers Are A Marketer’s Best Friend

Social media may have given your customers the perfect platform to moan about you and your products but if brands understand the frustrations it’s arguably the best way to innovate any business.

John Bastick
Posted by John Bastick

That’s the view of Dr Amantha Imber (pictured below) an innovation psychologist from Sydney-based brand consultancy firm Inventium that uses science-based theories on modern-day marketing problems.


Imber – speaking to B&T prior to her presentation at today’s ADMA conference in Sydney – believed businesses that recognised their customers’ frustrations and responded to them where the ones most likely to innovate.

The good Doctor believed every brand faced their own unique challenges when it came to customer frustration – long queues, paperwork – or a recent client of Inventium, a barbecue cleaning company that, after some research by the group found that stubborn marinades were customers’  number one bugbear.

“The question for brands isn’t ‘should we be innovating’? The question is ‘how should we be innovating?” Imber said. “I think most organisations are really looking for a sustainable and predictable ways to approach innovation in their organsiations because every man and his dog has an opinion and a lot of that opinion is based on what worked in the past but may not necessarily work now or may never work again.”

Traditionally, Imber argued, when faced with a problem brands would do focus groups or concept testing or panels. The problem with that, however is “there’s a big disconnect between people’s intentions to do something and their actual behaviour,” she said.

“Concept testing is done by a lot of marketers and it really just finds intention to buy and in most industries you see nine out of 10 products fail so really the intention to buy is no indicator of future behaviour. And that makes a lot of companies very risk averse and we know that one of the biggest drivers of innovation culture is being okay with risk and tolerating risk and feeling that failure is not a dirty word; and failure is how you learn most effectively,” Imber said.

But has all social media really achieved is giving customers a platform to whinge, often unnecessarily? “It all comes down to perception. If the consumer is feeling levels of frustration then that means things can be improved. If a brand is get whingeing, social media backlash then the opportunity is there for brands to improve no matter how legitimate we perceive those frustrations to be.”

Predictibly, Imber said the brands that were using new technologies – namely around improving processes and eliminating paperwork – were the ones most likely to innovate.

“If you look at any industry that’s been disrupted or is in the process of being disrupted – everybody wants to be the new Uber for their industry; so customers’ expectations are much higher and so the benchmark is so much higher for companies to innovate and do it well. You can’t just be a one hit wonder,” Imber said.

Personalisation, she argued, will be the next big thing for brands to tackle. “Companies that are using big data in effective ways are certainly realising that you can’t treat all customers the same and even basic segmentation that was fine in the past will no longer be fine in the future. And now there’s this great opportunity for brands to provide this ultra personalised service with whatever industry they operate in.

“The pathway to purchase is much different now than it was 10 or 15 years ago. It used to be quite a linear purchase – you thought about what you wanted, maybe asked a couple of friends and decided on a store – but now it’s all over the place and all of these different factors are influencing your decision. Take the likes of Amazon and Ebay – we now trust total strangers with our decisions on small and even significant decisions and there’s definitely been a shift there,” Imber said.

The ADMA conference runs in Sydney from 4-6 August 2015.