Perspective: Why don't we try to address the things that piss people off?
A view from Rory Sutherland

Perspective: Why don't we try to address the things that piss people off?

Last week, my wife and I installed the middle-aged, heterosexual version of Grindr on our mobile phones - it sends us a handy weekly reminder when Downton Abbey finishes.

Not that it'll do much good, really. For what you really want when you are a 45-year-old bloke is a location-based mobile app called Grumblr. Something that would allow you to post geo-tagged complaints to be shared with other, like-minded, middle-aged grumpy people.

I used to think this annoyance was just something that happened biologically when people got older. But now I've changed my mind. I've decided it's because everything in the bloody world is designed by people who are about 25 years old.

I'm staying in a hotel at the moment. The complimentary bottles in the shower both have large, bold, nonsensical words on the front: one even reads "Kinetic Botanics", whatever that means. But the words "shampoo", "body wash" and "conditioner" are in four-point type underneath, as though they were grudgingly added at the insistence of a lawyer.

Now there's nothing wrong with my eyesight at all - but in a steamy shower, I can barely tell the bastards apart at all. To anyone who normally wears spectacles, it would be impossible.

While we're on the subject, has no hotel owner ever thought of installing the shower controls outside the shower so you can turn the bastard on without being scalded or drenched with freezing water? Or even considered the fact that marble is a really stupid material for a bathroom floor?

They haven't. And there's a reason for this. Which is that, of all the activities in which marketers seem to engage, the simple act of sitting down and asking "what are all the little things which we do that really piss people off" receives proportionately less attention than anything else.

And yet behavioural economics suggests that it is these minor negatives that should receive the most attention - since it is often the elimination of annoyance which obtains the best returns.

If you doubt this, try Googling the phrase "The $300m button". It shows how the simple, $100 act of removing a minor irritant from an e-tailer's online check-out procedure increased sales by $300 million over the next 12 months.

Or, for that matter, think of all the times in your working life in advertising when you have been reduced to a screaming, apoplectic fit. It's rarely about strategy or remuneration, or other big things like that. It's about trivia: that missing twatty little white thing that connects a Mac to a projector, that biker who can't find your house - or the fact that in no agency, ever, anywhere on earth, is there ever a fucking phone list in the boardroom.

Rory Sutherland is the IPA president and vice-chairman of Ogilvy Group UK