Archive for the ‘Qualitative General’ Category



Craft Beer: Qualitative Insight into Emerging Trends

Posted on: August 16th, 2017 by doyle No Comments

From the desk of Natanya RubinBeer 2

Every year, on the second weekend in August, 6,000 beer enthusiasts gather in Madison, WI, to partake in the Great Taste of the Midwest Brewing Festival (fondly referred to as GTMW).  With close to 200 breweries represented, and over 1,200 beers available to taste, GTMW is one of the premier craft brewing festivals in the country, and for the last ten years, I’ve been lucky enough to attend.

What brings me back year after year?  It’s the opportunity to be among others who share my deep passion for this product—both creating and consuming.  And every year, I get a peek at the emerging trends in craft brewing, trends that are often mirrored in the greater marketplace.

What notable trends were on tap this year?

  • Low ABV beers make a resurgence. After years of craft breweries competing to provide the highest alcohol content per glass, this year’s fest provided a refreshing range of low-alcohol or “session” beers to a somewhat relieved audience.  Light and refreshing pilsners and pale ales harken back to the Midwestern roots of craft brewing, when breweries like Pabst and Coors, now enormous national brands, delivered easy-drinking but full flavored beers to the local populace.
  • Wild flavors tantalize and delight. With an audience increasingly open to palate-challenging flavors (witness the increasing popularity of fermented drinks like kombucha and tangy condiments like kimchi) this year’s fest was rife with wild and sour ales, whose pungent, distinctive and downright funky flavors are starting to challenge prestige favorites like IPAs and barrel-aged stouts in sheer numbers.
  • Boutique brands lend authenticity to their corporate parents. Although GTMW started as a celebration of home brewing, there were a striking number of breweries that have been purchased in recent years by multinational conglomerates.  These well-considered craft breweries have continued to turn out creative beers under the umbrella of much larger corporations.  But in an industry that values individuality, there is a perceptible tension to the question of which companies belong in the craft category.  However, the long lines at the Goose Island booth (purchased in 2011 by Anheuser-Busch InBev) seem to indicate that consumers will, in general, continue to enjoy familiar local brands even after they’ve been acquired by larger entities, echoing movement in the larger market.

The creativity, growth, and surprises to be found at GTMW every year make me confident that I can look forward to many more years of learning, exploring, and of course, tasting!  Cheers!

Advertising Communication Checks: Valuable or a Necessary Evil?

Posted on: July 26th, 2017 by doyle

adcommchecksFrom the desk of Kathy Doyle

I’ve been conducting advertising communication checks for over 30 years, and one thing has not changed…   most of the parties involved dread them. The agency doesn’t like seeing their creative work questioned based on input from a small number of research participants in an artificial setting.  The client does not like navigating the politics of getting the job done, all the while knowing the agency is less than thrilled. And no one really likes sitting in a back room, or in front of a computer screen, for hours on end listening to the same questions being asked every 20-30 minutes.

Yet there are some very compelling reasons why we continue to conduct communication checks:

  • To make sure we haven’t lost sight of who the target is, keeping our finger on the pulse of how best to communicate with them, and mitigate coming across as pandering or tone deaf
  • To make sure we haven’t missed the mark on messaging, and mistaking what we thought was crystal clear for a totally unintended meaning
  • To make sure the visuals support the message, rather than conflict with it
  • To make sure that brand/product recall is strong. It’s great if people love the ad, but if they don’t know what it’s advertising, what’s the point?
  • To optimize (or eliminate) executions prior to quantitative testing and/or final production. Why not find out if there are ways the execution can be tweaked to strengthen it before spending large sums of money?

Clearly, I’m coming out on the side of considering communication checks valuable.   To maximize their value, here are Six Tips for More Productive Communication Checks:

  1. Limit exposure to three executions per respondent, to prevent fatigue from clouding candid feedback
  2. Video storyboards with audio are acceptable; a complete video (albeit rough cut) is better; don’t make the consumer work too hard to see the idea
  3. Consider exposing the ads in a clutter reel to more closely simulate a real viewing experience and more accurately assess breakthrough
  4. Keep them 1:1 for the most honest commentary. People rarely watch programs or web surf with others, let alone strangers!
  5. Keep them short (20-30 minutes) to prevent over-thinking and to be efficient. We often do 12-18 interviews per day!
  6. Consider conducting the interviews online rather than in-person. When people are at home, they are more relaxed and more likely to provide candid feedback.  Use a platform built for research for the most problem-free experience.

One rule to keep in mind: Avoid using communication checks to kill a creative concept. Not only is the sample size too small, but the research is designed to assess communication not the core concept, so elimination is incongruous in this research context. Follow this one simple rule, incorporate some of the tips above, and the needle can easily be moved from “necessary evil” to truly advantageous!

Five Divergence Strategies for Breakthrough Ideation

Posted on: July 10th, 2017 by doyle

From the desk of Laura Duguid, Qualitative Researcher, Innovation Specialist

Recently I was asked to help design a workshop for aspiring idea generation facilitators. My charge was to devise an overview of divergent thinking techniques for use as a reference tool when designing ideation sessions.

The challenge gave me pause. How would I distill my 25+ years of ideation session design experience into a two-night class? Well, by starting with divergence of course! So, I let my mind wander, allowing incubation and inspiration to collaborate in my subconscious and…voila! A solution emerged. The scores of divergent processes I’ve played with, employed, customized and created over the years seemingly stem from five basic creative thinking strategies:

Divergence2Free Association: A multi-purpose strategy useful for just about any ideation objective. It starts with posing a basic question, “What all comes to mind when you think of __________________,” then what the blank contains really gets creative juices flowing. Consider inserting rich language/descriptors, photography, art, music (actually play some!), texturally rich tactile items, scents, tastes/flavors, you name it! Ultimately, the group ends up with a wealth of divergent starting points to inspire new ideas. Popular free-association exercises include Creative Group Conversation, Mind Maps, and Lights Out.

Snowballing: This multi-purpose strategy encourages brainstorm participants to continually build on each other’s ideas again, and again, and again stimulating volume and therefore divergence. A technique called Brainwriting is one way to do it, but consider also things like teams filling-in two dozen empty blocks on a piece of easel paper or a relay race with prizes to generate the most ideas. Also, after any small group exercise, always group share and snowball further on the ideas.

Personification: Bringing to life a product, brand or service is a fantastic way to generate ideas for positioning, messaging, language, and descriptors. Portray your inanimate subject as super heroes; first, second, and/or third generation relatives; or famous people. For more tangible ideation objectives like new products, services, or line extensions, “person” work can also take the form of role playing (e.g. a target audience in various situations), and hypothetical product or services marriages and/or imagined offspring.

Force Fit: Taking what’s familiar and making it strange to get something new is a wonderfully radical way to get at new products, services, and line extension ideas. Popular force fit techniques include Random Word (pull a word at random from the dictionary and use it as a springboard to stimulate a new idea); Arthur Van Gundy’s Product Improvement Checklist (PICL); and Cross Categories.

Characterize & Change: Mostly applicable to product, service, and line extension work, simply characterize all the benefits or attributes of something and change one or more to get to new ideas. Or, use the more guided S.C.A.M.P.E.R. technique (take an existing idea/product/service and Substitute something, Change something, Maximize/Minimize something, Put it to other uses, Eliminate something, or Reverse it somehow). Another variation is the Negatives to Positives technique (list all the negatives of an idea/product/service then change them or replace them with something positive).

I encourage you to try a technique or two in your next brainstorming session, and experience first-hand the creative power of intentional divergence. Enjoy the ride!

IIeX 2017: A Qualitative Recap

Posted on: June 21st, 2017 by doyle

iiexgeneral

Once again, I attended what I have come to consider the premiere event for MR’s who are interested in staying abreast of trends, the IIeX Conference in Atlanta.   A combination of excellent presentations as well as a very robust exhibit experience – often with vendors I have not yet seen at another conference – makes it a “must” on my annual conference list.   Here are a few of my takeaways:

  •  There is a sense that the industry has swung too far in our focus on technology at the expense of insights.   It’s not enough to have whiz bang, gee whiz technology unless it is helpful in producing strategic insight.    As one panelist stated, technology should be assisting us in freeing up our intellectual capital, so that only 20% of our time is spent on analysis, and the remaining 80% is on the storytelling.
  • Qualitative seems to be making a comeback, as the antidote to  overwhelming amounts of data that are lacking insight. As a qualitative research consultant, it is both gratifying and a very welcome trend.
  • We have reached the point where there is no longer much meaningful distinction between online research and mobile research. Even when respondents are participating using an online platform, they are highly likely to be accessing it on their smartphone.   Essentially, we have moved into an era where research has become “device agnostic”.  I heretofore resolve to refer to Doyle Research’s online and mobile capabilities as our “digital” methods.
  • The panel and recruitment segment of our industry is struggling with the fact that screeners and surveys are becoming longer and longer, sharply increasing the cost to complete a study. Some vendors are considering charging for Q’s above a certain number; others are taking the approach of refusing to accept more than a certain number of questions.   Clearly, as researchers and clients, we must question the need to ask so many questions.   Do we really think the quality of the insights is going to be improved by surveying respondents who are impatient and fatigued?
  • One thing I heard that disturbed me: some clients reported that they receive deliverables from their MR partners that they need to rewrite before issuing them.   In some cases, they have defaulted to asking only for the raw data and writing it from scratch themselves.   We cannot let that happen!   Our long-term value—the value that cannot be replaced by technology — lies in our ability to deliver insights, as well as the strategies for acting upon those insights, in a clear and compelling manner; and to engage our clients in co-creating solutions.

Once again, I left IIeX exhausted (did I mention that it took 15 hours to fly home from Atlanta to Chicago?) but inspired.    Keep up the good work Lenny and crew!   I’ll see you next year.

Garbage in. Garbage out. The Need for Concept Optimization.

Posted on: June 1st, 2017 by doyle

From the desk of Carole Schmidtsusana-fernandez-56313

I’m just going to say it. We see a lot of bad concepts.

Look, we fully understand that it’s not easy to create a compelling new product and seemingly impossible to carve out real brand distinction in crowded categories. And rocket speed-to-market means you’ve got six months to get this thing on shelf!  But, sheesh, too often we are handed concepts that are still being written as we’re performing participant introductions during the research.  In other real world scenarios, waves of team review, and legal’s approval, have created some real concept doozers, delivered to us researchers either diluted to mush, with the core idea buried in euphemisms, or wholly lacking a reason for being.

I’m just going to say it. Spending time getting the “test” concepts right is worth its weight in gold.

Checking in with your customer along the way, while you’re crafting those concepts, reduces the misses on the back end, saving valuable time and money. Several “presearch” avenues are inexpensive and fast and they will help you get to great concepts, faster.

Relate to a need: The most successful concepts address a real customer’s unmet need or compensating behavior. How do you discover those? Get out of the office to observe your customer in situ by going in-home or in-car.  Tap mobile journals or geofenced intercept interviews to capture and understand the customer experience at the point-of-purchase or use.

Reflect the language of the target to increase relevance: Yogurt eaters are particular about thick vs. Greek. Gearheads know what a four-banger is. Tap qualitative social media analysis to get a handle on the language your customers speak.

Understand concept-product fit: When you have a product in mind as well as a concept, go both ways. Explore your concept first among some and probe for product expectations. Investigate your product first among others, then probe how to communicate about it.  This is where your internal employees/staff can be of great help, formally, with a series of moderated on-site or webcam interviews, or informally, discussed around the water cooler or lunchroom at the office.

 Consider exposing the concept unbranded, too: Probe, “Is there an idea here?” independently of revealing the brand behind that idea to better assess the concept’s strength and the power of your brand as part of that concept. Branded and unbranded concepts can be rotated in online boards just as readily as they can be in focus groups.

Communicate as intended: “Gives you energy to take on the day” was meant to be a sustaining and satiety benefit, but in research it was also incorrectly perceived as a telltale sign of high carbs or sugar to many. Communication checks for concept clarity are efficient and inexpensive; they can be done in a day, in–person or online.

 I’m just going to say it again. Take your concepts as seriously as you do the rest of your research spend. Get your customer involved in optimizing your concepts before testing them. We look forward to your future successful concepts!