ROACHES AND WET SOCKS. WHAT I DID FOR LOVE…of Qualitative Research

Posted on: March 26th, 2018 by doyle

From the desk of Carole Schmidt

One of the coolest things about being a qualitative practitioner and strategist is to observe humans in all their idiosyncratic quirks (often unbeknownst to the respondent) and to carefully listen to the unique and impactful stories that led to those behaviors.  One of the coolest things about being part of Doyle is our unparalleled commitment to doing what is needed to surface those latent, below-the-surface motivations and beliefs. We are willing to get our feet wet–and literally have done just that—to develop the critical empathy for our customers that leads to impactful insight.

Sometimes these “deep dive” experiences are amusing.

In one case, we all removed our shoes as was the norm in our consumer’s home. Our ethnographic teams crammed into the tiniest bathroom to observe and listen to consumers show their cosmetic stockpiles and to tell their stories. Did you know that most women who wear makeup have three levels of cosmetic sets? “What I’m wearing now” (10-15 products), “what I was wearing that I’m bored with” (often 30-40 products), and “what-I-used-to-wear-but-don’t-like-anymore-but-can’t-bear-to-part-with-just-in-case” (dozens to hundreds of products). Interestingly, the inventory of that revealed that consumers heavily favored only three brands. Why so many products? Insights! Self-blame: “I must have chosen wrong.” And, Familiar + Foreign = Hope. Smart brands constantly promote twists on versions of the same products, leveraging that exact belief and behavior into strong sales. It wasn’t until we returned to the car that someone mentioned our collective soaking wet socks; our consumer had just showered and her bathroom floor was still puddled.

Sometimes our commitment to rich behavioral understanding takes us to heavy, emotional places.

The one-on-one intimacy of online interviews can be extraordinarily revealing.  One late evening we listened as a consumer described her painful feelings of romantic rejection, these deep-seated emotions driving her consideration of –but not action for–dermatologic procedures and skin care products. We had designed time and daypart into projects like this to create a productive environment for sensitive discussions. Yes, it’s hard working the guide topics through the tears and emotional tensions. Exhausting, yes, but through our fastidious listening, emerge patterns. Insight! A take-charge, self-worth positioning that motivates action.

Sometimes our commitment to discovering those rich insights has meant some outrageous experiences along the way!

On a lighter note, we have taped off rooms to observe consumers’ roach-killing solutions, chased down elusive car dealers for 4 weeks to complete 9 interviews, performed 24 interviews about the nuances of successful global currency exchange, followed the granular paper trail in engineers’ workflows, and noted specific consumer needs behind what we’ll call the results of “poor knife skills.”

We know that real insight comes from immersion into the experiences we seek to understand. So, even when it is discussing cat litter cleaning preferences, ahem, in the moment, we will go the extra mile to observe and probe the emotions and influences affecting customer decision making. Because we truly love what we do–yes, even getting our feet wet–to help YOU make smarter business decisions.

 

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