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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!

Will the Trend Toward Urbanized Seniors Affect Your Brand’s Future? Four Factors to Consider.

Posted on: April 12th, 2017 by doyle

From the desk of Carole Schmidt

If you’re not an urban dweller today, you will likely become one–within 15 years. In 1800, only 2% of the world’s population was urban. By 2014, 180,000 people were added to the urban population each day!  In 2030, 84% of the population in developed countries will be living in urban areas.  While economic powerhouse “megacities” have doubled from 14 in 1995 to 29 in 2015, the fastest-growing urban centers are small and medium cities — already accounting for 59 percent of the world’s population!

So, who makes up the fastest-growing population? As it turns out, that’s people age 60 and over, a group that is growing at nearly 3.7 percent a year globally—one quarter of each of the world’s urban regions is expected to be 60 or over by 2050!

Urban SeniorsWhat is happening in response to the emergence of the urban senior? What should you be thinking about for your brand? Are your brands positioned for success with this trend?

If you’re not exploring how urban populations might help or hurt your brand or business, you should be.  Here are four things to consider:

  1. More seniors are walking, biking, using public transit: This means there are increasing numbers of small businesses, local retailers and delivery services designed to meet the needs of this segment. E-commerce will continue to grow because it brings products and services to this population. Is your product’s packaging easily transported? Is your e-commerce strategy optimized? Are you looking at geo-located smartphone and kiosk advertising to replace freeway outdoor spends and conventional TV?
  2. Packaging that reduces waste is critical for urban living: Fast growing cities are aggressive about reducing future trash. San Francisco leads the U.S. with an 80% success rate at keeping discards out of landfills.  Keurig cups were just banned in Hamburg Germany. If you aren’t looking at reduced packaging by now, you’re already behind as urban restrictions increase.
  3. Personalized healthcare will influence CPG development: Medical needs of urban seniors will influence product successes and failures. Just as local “minute clinics” and home-based care are increasing, so are wearable medical monitors that will soon respond to product ingredients and features, warning users, for example, “no, too much salt or high in cholesterol,” or “reviews say this vehicle’s seat design yields poor back support.” How will your products fare as medical care, customer reviews, and products intersect more directly? 
  4. As urbanization increases, senior will favor more hedonistic pleasures and unique physical experiences as antidotes to the stress of dense environments. Global travel is expected to increase fourfold in the next ten years to help urban dwellers recharge. How and where will seniors engage with your products? As a replenishing snack after their local spin yoga class? Can your appliances be redesigned to promote a pleasurable experience, not just a functional one? Will urban dwellers find your product wherever they travel, reinforcing their loyalty to your brand?

Urbanization will produce economic, social, and environmental improvements. Don’t let doomsayers distract you from the opportunities before us. Prepare your brand strategy to work with the growth in urbanization. Giving thought to how you can engage and nurture today’s customers as they become urban seniors over the next decade may result in increased loyalists for a healthy brand future!

Qualitative Research: Through a Different Lens

Posted on: January 26th, 2017 by doyle

PrintFrom the desk of Kathy Doyle

I spent last week in LA at QRCA’s 2017 annual conference.   It continues to be the “go to” event for qualitative research practitioners who want to stay abreast of trends and share best practices with colleagues.

This year the theme of the conference was The Power of Perspective – looking outside our industry for insights, as well as observing our industry through a different lens.  Through five standout presentations, I gained insights from teen journalists, a radio show host, a comedian and theater major, an attorney, detective, ASL interpreter, visual illuminator, zoo director, storyteller, educator, conductor, social worker, and even a forensics expert!   Many thanks to Teen Press, Susan Sweet and Jay Picard, Laurie Tema-Lyn, Chris Kann, and Dina Shulman and Marc Engel for your fabulous contributions.

Five things I took away from the conference (plus so many more!):

  1. Talk less, listen more.    Across a variety of professions that listen for a living, some variation of that theme emerges.     Observe body language.  Mirror physical responses.  Empathize.   But stop talking so much!
  2. Resist the urge to fill the silences in an interview or focus group.  Sometimes sitting with the silence will reveal insights that simply take longer to emerge.   And sometimes a long pause is………… part of the answer.
  3. Look to Hollywood for storytelling inspiration.    View your report as a story, with a plotline and characters.  View the executive summary as a trailer.   Make sure your report features the equivalent of the “I want” song found in most musicals.   And, when appropriate, create composite characters (what we call personas) that represent key segments.
  4. Rethink the belief that maintaining objectivity is the best stance to take as a researcher.  Perhaps it’s OK to reveal parts of yourself–to be human, and to truly immerse yourself in your respondent’s world–to convey context and gain deeper, more authentic insights.
  5. Reconsider how we ask Q’s.  Consider starting specific rather than general, upsetting the funnel approach which has been our gospel. Perhaps that completely open-ended question is too open and leads to responses that are too broad to yield true insight.  And consider the value of asking your respondents to ask questions of themselves, rather than doing all the questioning.   You might be surprised at what you learn.

I walked away feeling energized and empowered to look at what we do, on a daily basis,  with a fresh perspective.

Qualitative Research: Can it Produce System 1 Thinking?

Posted on: October 10th, 2016 by doyle

From the desk of Kathy Doylesub-con-mind

Multiple times in recent months, I have been told by clients that they are being advised to forego conducting focus groups because they elicit rational, logical responses – System 2 thinking – rather than tapping into subconscious, emotional responses of System 1 thinking*. These methods include facial coding, biometrics, eye tracking, EEG’s, etc.   However, while Doyle Research has experience with some of these methods, I’d like to go out on a limb and argue that qualitative research, when done well, can actually produce System 1 thinking.

The issue we face is that most traditional research methods ARE tapping into System 2 thinking. We are asking questions, and waiting for answers (“look at this, and tell me what you think”).   What we get are rational, considered, thoughtful responses.   But that is only a portion of what really drives human behavior.  So we need qualitative approaches executed by trained moderators that can tap into System 1 thinking in order to better understand the subconscious influencers and drivers of human behavior.

Here are four ideas to consider:

  • Incorporate projective techniques.    An easy “add” to a focus group session, projective techniques are designed to get below surface responses to uncover subconscious attitudes, feelings and behaviors.    Just one example is the use of picture sorts. Respondents are given a series of pictures totally unrelated to the topic at hand (perhaps scenery or animals for a CPG category) and asked to select the picture that best fits their feelings about a brand, a product, an experience, a situation.  They have to step out of their System 2 thinking in order to do the exercise and emotional, subconscious thoughts are the result.
  • Incorporate an observational component, so that you can observe discrepancies in behavior between what someone says they do vs. what you observe.     A classic example that actually came from a laundry care project many years ago:  as respondents were sorting their laundry during an in-home interview they would say “I sort my clothes into whites and darks”.   But time after time, respondents would generate 5 or 6 different piles that did not appear to fall into either a “white” OR a “dark” pile.  What you are seeing are behaviors that are automatic and, sometimes, totally subconscious. By discussing what we had observed, more nuanced answered were elicited.
  • Capture behaviors over time, in a short-term community, or using mobile ethnography.    An example: we recently followed new moms for a month to understand how feeding decisions were made.  They used their smart phones to complete a guided audio and video diary, sharing their thoughts and experiences as a new mother.     They were not aware that understanding their feeding decisions was our end goal; we wanted to observe the context, influencers (medical personnel, literature, family, employers) and emotions that went into their decision.
  • Capture “In the moment” behaviors using mobile technology.   Example:  mobile intercepts with panel members whose location services are on, and who enter a geo-fenced location. This allows us to capture respondents’ reactions to an experience, as it takes place, and while respondents are literally in- the-moment.

It is our responsibility, as qualitative researchers, to continually seek ways to get below surface responses and gain insights that are grounded in consumers’ actual behaviors rather than their reported ones, and more likely to uncover a more complete story than techniques that rely solely on System 2 processing.

*Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.