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Soothing a Tantrum

Soothing a Tantrum
Arnott’s caused a stir with Shapes. Consumers didn't like it.

As proud Australian citizens, you’re surely aware of the enormous disaster Arnott’s have caused with their new line of Shapes. If not, here are the basics. Aussies asked Arnott’s for more flavour on their Shapes. Arnott’s dramatically changed the existing flavour recipes. Aussies chucked a huge tanty. Arnott’s went into major damage control.

It’s not the first time a market has thrown a significant ‘toddler’ tantrum and it certainly won’t be the last. So, let’s discuss the parental responsibility brands face in keeping their customers – or ‘children’ – happy.

Silence the Screams

Loud, negative reviews plastered all over social media can damage a brand’s public perception drastically. Ever sat on a train or a plane next to a crying baby and developed a silent resentment towards the baby’s parent? A big part of you realises that parent is doing their best under the circumstances, but realising it doesn’t magically improve the situation.

For Arnott’s, it’s the same thing.

With former Shapes fans declaring the range as ‘disgusting’, ‘revolting’ and a ‘literal life-ruiner’, consumers are screaming to anyone who will listen. And it’s working, with more lifelong fans turning their backs on the classic brand everyday.

So how should a company best discipline this bad behaviour?

Help them Cope

It’s important to consider the market’s perspective in all of this. Arnott’s took childhood memories from their customers the way a bigger kid claims a smaller child’s toy.

Consumers don’t work for Arnott’s. They don’t know how to replicate the old flavour recipes. They definitely don’t want to eat what they’re being told to. So they’re left with few options. Of course they cry out! How else are they supposed to communicate to the company that they’re really, really upset?

When businesses make big changes, they genuinely believe the difference is in everyone’s best interest. Customers, like children, don’t always comprehend that.

Some may be more vocal about their disdain than their peers, but when placed in an uncontrollable situation, they’ll all find a way to let you know.

Assume Responsibility

Blaming the customer for your mistake is an unacceptable form of discipline.

Arnott’s is the adult in the scenario. With a responsibility to the happiness of their market, suggesting consumers caused the change only worsens already strained relationships. Customers did not ask for the new flavours. Customers do not like the new flavours. Customers will continue to boycott the new flavours until one party backs down.

Even if you know they’re totally wrong, the customer is always right. Criticising them for your bad decision only doubles everybody’s aggravation.

They don’t like what you did. So what are you going to do about it?

Keep Calm and Carry On

Sometimes you can’t change your market’s mind. Forcing a child to stomach sprouts for the sake of your clean conscience will just build resentment on their part – and probably earn you a Brussels sprout to the head.

To mend the delicate relationship between consumer and brand, often all you can do is apologise. And apologise. And apologise again. Arnott’s Shapes – with the urgent aid of marketing’s equivalent to Super Nanny – is still in the process of doing so.

Parents commonly assume they make the best choices for their children, and mostly they do. But people are human; they make mistakes. And so do businesses.

Here’s where children and customers differ. We’re born into our families without choice, but we do get to choose our brands. Those brands better take good care of us.