Posts Tagged ‘Qualitative Research Strategies’

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!

Building Rapport: A Key Ingredient of Successful Qualitative Projects

Posted on: January 17th, 2017 by doyle

rapportFrom the desk of Jo-Ann Ryan

During the course of my qualitative career, clients and colleagues have told me that one of my strengths is being able to establish rapport with people from all walks of life. So I would like to share what I have learned about fostering trust and encouraging candid responses:

Setting expectations upfront. This seems basic but it’s important. When the moderator informs respondents about what to expect during a qualitative interview or group discussion (e.g., the length, the topic, the purpose, recording of the research, observers/listeners, etc.), it increases their comfort level and makes them more likely to share their thoughts and feelings.

Showing respondents unconditional positive regard (UPR). A good moderator should convey to respondents that all perspectives and opinions are welcome and respected. It begins with the moderator’s belief and attitude that everyone has something to offer – an opinion, an idea, or an experience — a potential nugget that could make the entire project worthwhile. During introductions, set the tone by acknowledging each person by name and thanking them for sharing information about themselves.

Being genuine. I think respondents are more apt to respond honestly if they sense that the moderator is being open with them, and is being true to their own personality and style.

Realizing you can’t judge a book by its cover. It is natural to form an initial impression of people based on appearance, but the moderator and clients should not let it get in the way of listening to each person and believing that each person represents a unique perspective that has value. I have been pleasantly surprised by what I had initially expected from a respondent versus what they actually were able to contribute.

Having an open mind. It is not uncommon to begin a qualitative study with client hypotheses about what we will discover during the research (e.g., why customers are dissatisfied, which ad or concept will be most appealing). However, the moderator and clients need to be ready to accept differing ideas and perspectives that could potentially lead to a complete redo of an ad campaign or a major refinement of a new product concept.

The bottom line – establishing good rapport with qualitative respondents can yield valuable insights for clients, and respondents will feel appreciated for their time and willingness to take a risk and share their honest thoughts and feelings.

ZOOM! 6 ways to cultivate attitudinal and behavioral insights faster

Posted on: March 23rd, 2016 by doyle

From the desk of Carole Schmidt

At the recent Quirk’s Event and in subsequent workshops, one recurring message for research practitioners was loud and clear—brand managers and marketing directors want SPEED SPEED SPEED! Decisions need to be made yesterday. Pressure to get to market sooner is stronger than ever. Can we really produce valuable and actionable insights, faster? And just because we can, should we?

Admittedly, the tendency among us qualitative strategist types is to balk at such a notion. Isn’t real insight–that latent gem or “aha”—discovered through distillation, incubation, reflection, analysis, and consideration?

Speed-of-LightIn truth, real behavioral or attitudinal insight can be expedited with an agile moderator and a collaborative team spirit. Here are 6 ways you can gain rich, actionable insight in a hurry:

Be laser focused: Instead of the conventional “narrowing funnel” approach to discussion, generate 3 specific hypotheses (not questions) before the research to optimize the recruit and focus the discussion on specifics first, to get to that revealing understanding sooner.

Go small: Individual interviews or mini-groups readily enable “laddering” or the use of projective techniques for higher order understanding, and reduce/eliminate respondent posturing.

Embrace the iterative approach: Question the need to mechanically repeat content from interview-to-interview in favor of debriefing after each mini-group to identify remaining gaps in learning, then, narrow the discussion scope in subsequent groups to gain clarity and richness.

Divide and conquer: Splitting your research design into two methods conducted simultaneously (e.g., an online community and a series of depth interviews) taps into different perspectives tackling the same hypotheses. Following up fieldwork with a robust, joint debrief leverages the contrasts for introspective insights.

Do your homework: Put your target respondent (and your team!) to work before you engage with them. Even the simplest exercises (an image representing everyday YOU and where-you’re-going YOU) captures emotional depth that grounds responses (and your team’s perceptions) in your target’s reality.

Look beyond the obvious: Examine social media first to observe conversations that surface language, imagery, and pertinent topics on which to probe further. Check out “dark social” too: peruse fans’ profiles and their “liked” sites/brands. Post a key question in your own social media channels and follow the positive and negative buzz to round out–or challenge–the insights gained in primary research.

There is no doubt that thoughtful design + incubation + comprehensive analysis = insights. But, to say that valued insights cannot be obtained through speedier approaches is hogwash. I’ve witnessed (and led) 4-days-to-the-finish-line projects. Admittedly, these projects take passion, energy, and rigor to focus narrowly — “go deep or go home.” Yet these sessions produce! And we all know that the cost of not doing research always exceeds the cost of doing it. So whether it’s 4 days or 4 weeks, with real insights come smarter business decisions.

Shots Fired: Market Researchers Suck at Communicating Research Results

Posted on: November 22nd, 2015 by doyle 1 Comment

From the desk of Alice Morgan

I have a challenge for you. How do you define these terms?

  • Findings
  • Insights
  • ImplicationsShots fired jpeg
  • Recommendations

At a conference I recently attended, these results-related words were used indiscriminately. Bandied about, willy-nilly. They have become “buzzwords,” so diluted and blended over time that they lost their meaning.

How “Insights” differs from “Implications” is not a small thing. How we communicate, what we communicate, and the words we use to identify and explain our research results impact the validity and integrity of the market research profession. How are Findings, Insights, Implications and Recommendations distinct from one another? Which are fact-based – and which are not? Are we all on the same page here? In my humble opinion, absolutely not.

Insights, in fact, are so important that people in the biz are now in “Consumer Insights” instead of “Market Research.” So I think it is safe to say that Insights are a pretty big deal.

Here, without further ado, is Doyle’s stake in the ground, our point of view on results communication.


Findings are derived from observation and investigation. Findings are facts.

Sample Finding: When consumers shop online for cars, they avoid dealership websites.


Insights are discoveries derived from findings. Insights explain the emotional drivers of human behavior.

Sample Insight: Consumers don’t trust dealership websites because they think they are biased and hard to navigate. Today’s consumers turn to independent sites containing user-generated content.


Implications explain why Findings and Insights are important to our clients’ businesses. They tell our clients what it all means. Implications link Insights to Recommendations.

Sample Implication: Dealerships need to create websites consumers trust. As the initial touchpoint to the path to purchase, dealerships are squandering a critical engagement opportunity.


Recommendations are the actions clients should take to make smarter business decisions given the prior Findings, Insights, and Implications.

Sample Recommendation: Car dealerships need to optimize their websites by offering greater usability, transparent pricing, real-time vehicle inventory information, and unfiltered user reviews.

So – back to my challenge. What do you think of these definitions? Do you have a different take? An enhancement? I’d love to hear from you. When market researchers consistently and precisely communicate research results, everybody wins. Our clients understand the big picture. They know what they need to do going forward. And after all, isn’t that why they hired us to begin with?



Lessons Learned from Zelda and Mario: 4 Tips for Adapting Gaming Principles for Deeper Qualitative Insights

Posted on: August 21st, 2015 by doyle

From the desk of Christine Efken

 Over the past few years the MR industry has been talking about how gamification can increase engagement in quantitative surveys, yielding more actionable results for brand managers.  We believe the same impact can be achieved in qualitative research studies.

To uncover deeper insights and more brand-building ideas, here are 4 ways to leverage key gaming elements in your qualitative projects:gamification2-games

  1.  Tap into consumers’ competitive spirit: Leveraging the “beat the clock” spirit behind games like “Minute to Win It,” give participants a timed challenge such as “generate 10 new product ideas or line extensions (flavors, textures, scents, etc.) in 2 minutes.” A timed task will yield a broader array of responses than simply asking, “How can this product be improved?”
  2.  Include role-playing, a series of quests or a challenging task: In the Legend of Zelda video games, different roles and decisions yield new powers, skills and opportunities. To uncover new opportunities for your brand, consider adding a role-playing activity: “If you were a NASCAR pit-crew mechanic, how could you help airline mechanics to turn planes around more efficiently?” Or give participants a specific task to complete, such as creating a menu to exclusively address a given need-state like “Mom’s night off.”
  3. Add mental puzzles or problem-solving activities: Chess is a wonderful game of “what if?” Players consider the possible moves for each of their own pieces as well as for those of their opponent. Design-thinking teams can benefit from “what if” challenges by having participants answer questions such as “What if all flour was gluten-free?” or “What would life be like in a world without oil?” Consumers’ input on possible implications/ramifications helps teams consider alternate outcomes and craft more relevant solutions.
  4. Offer rewards: In Monopoly, players collect $200 each time they pass go.   Why not reward or incentivize participants to complete tasks, create video blogs or provide detailed product-usage diary entries?  The participant who earns the most points is then rewarded with an additional incentive and the brand manager is rewarded with deeper insights.

Leveraging elements from card, board and video games can not only make qualitative research more fun and engaging for participants, it can also yield insights for products that win in the marketplace.