Those Who Speak the Loudest, Don’t Always Speak the Best

In today’s world we are inundated by incessant chatter. Be it social media rants by friends, celebrities or athletes on Instagram or Twitter, or even special interest media outlets. By choosing to follow specific individuals, brands, or news stations, we are apt to surround ourselves with others whose opinions are similar to ours. These “echo chambers” can reverberate and reaffirm what we believe, and its easy to lose oneself in the perception that these opinions are surrogate for those of a larger and more representative population.

Often, it is easiest to hear those who talk the loudest, while the other voices and opinions just simply become background noise. By only hearing the loudest noise, or that with which we are most comfortable, it is easy to lose sight of what the silent majority may be thinking, feeling, and saying. The recent presidential election is a perfect, salient example of this. Particularly, in our large metropolitan centers, there was a definitive conclusion that the results would go in the opposite way that they actually did, across the nation as a whole. As research driven marketers, perhaps the biggest lesson to be drawn from the 2016 election, is that if you do not carefully listen to a truly representative group of people, you can get the wrong answer.  As a subtext, we can misconstrue that a particular point of view is more pervasive than it may actually be. All too often in the industries we serve, we see poorly executed, do-it-yourself research, that errs in the utilization of self-selected convenience samples. Perhaps the worst example of this is when one simply speaks to colleagues or friends who have the same opinions. We assume that we are the target audience, and that often yields very flawed information and outcomes, that would be entirely different through traditional marketing research that uses a full, representative sample.

Amplification of echo chambers or noise can also lead us to incorrect conclusions in times of potential crisis or controversy. In some of our ongoing work for a leading high profile sports brand, our client received a significant amount of feedback from consumers expressing a strong point of view that could have been concerning or damaging to that brand. The organization expressed concern that this was a major, pervasive issue that needed immediate and potentially drastic action. Yet SLRG research with a broader and representative sample, revealed that the individuals who voiced these strong concerns, were only a small fraction of their overall target audience. Without this research, it would have been easy to misconstrue the objections of this smaller group to be fact. The lesson this brand learned was that they didn’t have a pervasive issue; yet they were still thoughtful enough to be responsive to that faction of people who felt strongly. It would have been easy for this organization to overreact, or to take actions that would have been excessive, for a circumstance that was only applicable to a small group of individuals. This is where the opportunities to hear the silent majority, instead of the loudest noise, for brands, teams, destinations, or properties lies. Contact us today, to see how we can do this for you.