Posts Tagged ‘Market Research insights’

Where Do You Do Your Heavy Lifting?  More Muscle Up Front Means More Insightful Research on the Back End

Posted on: January 22nd, 2018 by doyle


From the desk of Carole Schmidt

Pop quiz! Think about the last research project you did. What proportion of your time was assigned to design, logistics/set-up, execution, analysis, and reporting?

If you’re putting anything less than 30% of your project muscle into the design stage, securing the foundation of the project, I contend that you’re likely wasting your valuable time and research dollars.

What fills that 30% proportion of time? Planning for success. We like to call this “The Wonder Session.”  This is not a project “kick-off.” This is what happens in the most successful research projects well before the kick-off.

Another meeting. We hear the groans. However, I’ve never left one of these sessions where the team didn’t have greater cohesion and increased precision about what we really wanted to accomplish in the research.  Including your research partners to hear it all makes The Wonder Session even better. The result? Thoughtful design, richer insights, and smarter business decisions.

Five essential elements comprise “The Wonder Session.” Yes, in this order:

  1. State the research objectives: What is the problem that we’re trying to solve? What is the business decision that needs to be made? What has led to this research need? Are you really seeking, e.g., appeal, perceived competition, or product distinction? Putting in time to define the problems fully and in depth makes them easier to solve, which means saving time, money and resources.
  2. Present existing research: What do we already know related to this challenge? What don’t we know enough about? What do we believe is still true? Meta-analysis of primary and secondary research saves money by utilizing existing knowledge, and clarifies research gaps. And examining previous research further defines who exactly we need to speak with, and most importantly, illustrates why their voices matter to your business in this research effort.
  3. Probe the stakeholder voice: Who are the stakeholders that matter most? What are stakeholders’ needs vs. wants? What investment, resources, and capabilities are available? There’s nothing worse than retrofitting stakeholders’ concerns after research is in the field. Allocate time to surface stakeholder agendas, note (and share!) the political watch-outs, consider the what-if’s well before the project is a “go.”
  4. Capture team members’ hypotheses: There’s no better way to refine objectives than by listening to team members’ expected results. How do they think the customer will respond? Press further–what are the optimal responses, the language and commentary that they’d love to hear? In what ways do they expect (or hope) participantswill express their needs? Make a list of hypotheses, guard it, and bring it back for the post-field analysis.
  5. Refine the research objectives and “criteria for success”: After completing the above steps, revisit the initially stated objectives with a red pen. Now, who is really the target? What do we expect to learn from those key participants? What is “need to know” vs. “nice to have?” And end The Wonder Session by defining the 3-5 elements of a successful project; what will a successful project deliver?

 Consider The Wonder Session the “breakfast” of your project–as we all know, the most important meal of the day!  Putting more muscle into the up-front, pre-field planning serves as the “protein” of the research project—it’s filling, satisfying, and provides lasting energy.  The reward? Efficient and insightful research learning that will ultimately help move your business forward.

NOW it’s time for the formal research kick-off meeting with your core team and your qualitative strategists. Go forth and prosper!



Craft Beer: Qualitative Insight into Emerging Trends

Posted on: August 23rd, 2016 by doyle

Craft_BeerFrom the desk of Natanya Rubin

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 1,000 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?

  • Gluten free products have earned a place at the table. Following a major food trend, gluten free has made its way into the world of craft alcohol. It has been striking to see the explosion of cider options featured at a fest that has traditionally been strongly beer focused. This year’s fest featured not only many ciders, but also a large selection of meads, a brewery that specializes in kombucha (a lightly alcoholic fermented tea product), and even a Madison-based brewery called ALT Brew offering a selection of five entirely gluten free beers.
  • Unexpected fruit flavors surprise and delight. Might watermelon smoothies be next? This year’s oddball fruit trend was watermelon-flavored beers. It’s a flavor I’d never seen before, but that was featured in no fewer than seven different offerings at this year’s fest, from cucumber watermelon to watermelon wheat.
  • Boutique brands lend authenticity to their corporate parents. At this fest that 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 continue to 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!

Counter-Trends: 5 Consumer Food Truths That Just Don’t Change

Posted on: August 13th, 2015 by doyle

From the desk of Carole Schmidt

Just eight months into 2015, we’ve already spent over 5000 hours with your shoppers/users.

Multiply that by 4 qualitative strategists’ cumulative years of experience and that’s a lot of insight! We’ve observed Millennials ordering dinner on smartphones, shopped alongside couples choosing among brands at the grocery shelf, witnessed moms preparing snacks and meals, even chatted with gamers stealing from their secret stashes of treats at midnight.

Putting our trained brains together, we noted remarkable consistency in 5 food attitudes and behaviors across food projects, year-to-year:

  1. Taste remains king. Even over “premium quality,” “organic,” or “natural.” Yeah, consumers want to eat healthier. But we’ve seen consumers’ real pantries and refrigerators. They’re not willing to compromise on taste to get there.

loaded yogurtCase study: Research to help revitalize a declining shelf-stable snack brand revealed that even the health-focused segment regularly rejected buying “light” versions of several snack types, and instead bought the full-calorie, but perceived better-tasting competitor with the intention of eating smaller portions (yet they didn’t!).

The take: “Tasty made healthier” trumps “healthy made tastier”.

  1. Consumers don’t read labels or packaging copy. In reality, most American shoppers rely on what they perceive your food to taste like using packaging photos, color palette, graphics.

Case study: A baking company sought to distinguish itself in the U.S. super-premium cookie category by featuring its unique product history through copy points. In “mock aisle” research, consumers overlooked the brand story in favor of the competitors’ delicious-looking photography. Research insights helped fuel a graphic “map” of the brand story, enhanced with cookie photos and iconic imagery.

The take: Especially as online grocery shopping increases, the more graphically intuitive your packaging can be, the better.

  1. Consumers believe that local tastes better. Consumers expect better taste from–and feel better about–your brand when your product includes ingredients produced in their state/region, or is associated with local people, co-marketers, or events. Consumers take pride in supporting their local economy.

Case Study: A beverage producer wanted to regain lost share in the U.S. south. “Deep dive” research into resident lifestyles uncovered unique market “insider” activities/events to sponsor, and language for more effective messaging.

The take: If you manufacture or package using local, state, or regional resources, promote it!

  1. Mini’s motivate! Whether it’s miniature versions, duos, trios, “pop-ables,” “2-bites,” or “flights,” shoppers typically perceive multiples of smaller pieces to be tastier, more fun, and to offer more control to the user than a single larger version.

Case study: A leading manufacturer of breakfast foods was looking to enter the to-go snack marketplace. Ethnographic research surfaced consumers’ compensating behaviors of breaking full size foods into pieces. Developing half-size versions generated significantly higher concept scores, perceptions of being healthier, expanded dayparts, occasions, and users for the food.

The take: Explore creative ways of going smaller!

  1. Foreign, yet familiar: Indeed, consumers want new taste experiences. However, when every aspect of a new food is, well, new, the niche adventurer interest may not be enough to sustain a business or brand. Average, everyday consumers trust and buy new products rooted in a familiar element.

Case Study: Our client wanted to strengthen brand engagement among Gen Y singles and families by contemporizing the beverage delivery experience. Consumers balked at a combination of new brands, new flavor varieties, and a new delivery method. Insights helped optimize the concept with existing beverage brands which reduced the perceived risk of trial, reduced capital investment, and increased excitement around the concept. Research identified improvements for service operations and sanitation practices, as well.

The take: Too much “new” at once may alienate more buyers than attract them. Increase consumer confidence and trial by grounding your product with familiar forms, flavor varieties, or formulations.

More Blurred Lines, Still No Twerking: Merging Quant and Qual Studies for Superior Insights

Posted on: April 12th, 2015 by doyle

what-whyFrom the desk of Christine Efken

Breakthrough insights are more important than ever before. Yet, more than ever before, we find our clients challenged by tighter timeframes and more limited funds. Studies that in the past were comprised of three or four separate phases are now evolving into a single study that leverages the best of both the quantitative and qualitative worlds.

Though there are research purists that might resist this evolution, blended  designs leverage elements from a variety of methods to craft a design that best addresses clients’ business and research objectives.

Consider making a minimal investment in blurring the lines of your next quantitative study with one of these four qualitative “add ons”:

  1. Ask a sub-segment of survey respondents to participate in a follow-up bulletin board discussion or webcam focus group.  By simply clicking a link at the end of a survey, select respondents can be immediately directed to a qualitative platform to gather additional insight.
  2. Add moderated in-depth interviews to the end of mobile surveys.   To bring additional context and insights to text-based survey findings, opt to have select participants interviewed by a moderator.   Participants can provide additional depth and understanding, respond to follow-up probes, send photos or videos of their product usage behavior, purchase triggers, usage environment, etc.
  3. Conduct an IHUTnography where a sub-segment of participants from a quantitative Product Placement study participate in a more in-depth in-situ interview. Using a webcam to stream the depth interview, participants can be observed using the product, asked about product usage and key features, and probed about challenges and/or benefits, unmet needs.
  4. Add a post-research assignment to an advertising research study. Consider placing the new product with your research participants to assess how well it delivers relative to the claims communicated in your test ad.   Have participants use the product, complete an online survey and/or email a video selfie sharing their thoughts and opinions with the team.

So why not try blurring the lines of your next quantitative study to see what adding a little qual can do for you.


Dear (Mom), are you even listening to me?

Posted on: February 11th, 2015 by doyle

Dog-listeningFrom the desk of Chris Efken

As the mother of a teen, listening has heightened stakes. If I don’t listen carefully I miss the subtle insights into my son’s world — what his plans are on a Friday night, the due date of the next dreaded English paper, or the latest college he plans to attend (the one that likely has annual tuition in excess of $50,000!).

As marketers, listening also has heightened stakes. We seek to hear the voice of the consumer so our marketing efforts can be grounded in these insights.   Yet, whether we are focusing on consumer or shopper insights, we can inadvertently miss hearing, seeing (or perhaps even misinterpret) the information as a result of not fully listening to what consumers are both verbally and non-verbally communicating.

With so many distractions, all too often “fake listening” occurs. Whether listening for comprehension, empathy or judgment, we need to ensure that we don’t miss out on those elusive “Ah-has” or the key insights needed for product innovation and marketing plans.   To avoid some of the pitfalls associated with selective, biased listening or simply partial listening, let’s consider a listening tune-up by paying closer attention to the following when working with participants…

  • Listen with Unconditional Positive Regard—Strive to eliminate passing judgment by focusing on what’s being said rather than risking dismissing the learning based on a participant’s appearance or mannerisms.
  • Listen for critical content–Focus on the content of what’s being said, by stripping away and ignoring a consumer’s ums and ah’s.
  • Listen to both verbal and non-verbal communication to identify contradictions and/or understand the intensity of their feelings.
  • Be patient, listen for the complete story making decisions based on responses to a single question.
  • Listen to the answer you are receiving, rather than thinking about what you would like the moderator to ask next.
  • Listen to a comment in its entirety—Let a respondent finish his/her comment before reacting and jumping to a quick decision.
  • Be fully present when listening—Multi-tasking and distractions prevent us from hearing consumers’ entire product stories, keen insights and even potential new product ideas. Be fully present when listening to consumers or reading their online posts.

Great listening helps ensure we won’t miss that next big insight or product idea.