Posts Tagged ‘Qualitative Research Tips’

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!

Qualitative Design: Utilizing Positive Affect Techniques

Posted on: May 8th, 2017 by doyle

From the desk of Laura Duguid

Positive AffectTraditionally, positive affect techniques have been used in the context of brainstorming sessions, helping to free minds and encourage divergent thinking. Often overlooked however is how inducing positive affect in qualitative design can be beneficial.

Positive affect refers to the extent to which an individual subjectively experiences positive moods such as joy, interest, and alertness. Research shows that by inducing positive affect, one can improve a person’s verbal fluency.1 What’s more, positive affect has been associated with generating increased dopamine levels in the brain, which in turn has been shown to improve cognitive flexibility.2

Practically, inducing positive affect is all about establishing and maintaining an affirming, comfortable environment where respondents feel relaxed and completely free to express their thoughts and opinions. Telling them is not enough. The moderator, the room set-up, and the discussion guide all must contribute. For example:

  • A comfortable, living-room type environment rather than a formal conference table set-up
  • Ease into the discussion more slowly by doing an extra ice breaker, going beyond only respondent introductions
  • Humor! One idea is to find an appropriate yet comical video on YouTube that’s related to the discussion topic as a means of inciting laughter. Humor is one of THE most powerful, efficient ways to induce positive affect.
  • Incorporate movement. Halfway through the group, direct respondents to get up and move around or change seats. This helps literally and figuratively change their perspective, alleviating stale, repetitious responses.
  • Integrate highly engaging, respondent tasks into the discussion guide. Think of creative ways to garner information that require respondents to draw, assemble something, get up and walk to images posted in the room, do brief creative writing exercises, etc.

For research purposes, it’s important to understand that respondents can express negative opinions about a discussion topic without putting a damper on the positive affect. How? Through positive reinforcement from the moderator. Once a respondent has shared information – positive or negative – complimentary encouragement by the moderator (for ALL respondents) is key. In fact, according to Professor Norihiro Sadato, study lead and professor at the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Japan, “To the brain, receiving a compliment is as much a social reward as being rewarded money. We’ve been able to find scientific proof that a person performs better when they receive a social reward after completing an exercise.”3

While it’s highly unlikely respondents will trade their participation honorarium for compliments, the power of the two together, along with other positive affect influences will certainly assure rich, prolific qualitative results.

 

1 Science Direct, L.H. Philips, R. Bull, E. Adams, L. Fraser, Positive mood and executive function: Evidence from stroop and fluency tasks

2 Psychological Review, 106 (3) (1999), pp. 529-550, A neuropsychological theory of positive affect and its influence on cognition, F.G. Ashby, A.M. Isen, A.U. Turken

3Forbes Online, November 9, 2012, David DiSalvo

Loving the List: A Qualitative Perspective

Posted on: April 27th, 2017 by doyle


Reading-a-list-225x300From the desk of Natanya Rubin

Recruiting qualitative respondents from a database can be a challenge when the target is very specialized.  The solution is sometimes a list provided by the client.  But list recruits come with their own challenges and it’s important to face them with creativity and realistic expectations.

Factors to consider when determining the viability of a list include:

  • The type of contact information available: Does the list provide the full name of the respondent?  Does the list provide an e-mail address, home phone number, and cell phone number?  Often, e-mail is the most efficient way to reach respondents, but the subject line and body text must be very compelling to break through the general bulk of spam that people receive.
  • The accuracy of the list: How current is the list?  The longer ago the information was collected, the less likely it is to be accurate.
  • The size of the list: Conventional wisdom in the recruiting sphere says that for a “good” list—that is, one with full, current information—there should be 30 names provided for each desired recruit. But that number can go up to 70 or 100 depending on the factors above.
  • The ability to reveal the sponsor of the research: Can the sponsor of the research be identified, or is it a blinded study?  Often, there are compelling reasons to obscure the origin of the study.  But in a world where people are trained not to click on a link from an e-mail address they don’t recognize or pick up a call from an unknown number, it’s an uphill battle to get a reply from respondents not primed for research.

So how to break through and make a list work harder?  It’s important to consider the pitch that you’re going to deliver to potential respondents.  Thought needs to be put into a catchy subject line, a clear and compelling explanation of the study, and an appeal that makes it clear why they, personally, are so important to the study.

It’s also necessary to understand that even with a brilliant pitch, a lot more unprimed respondents are going to say no than yes.  Allowing more time for recruiting and considering sweetening the deal with a higher incentive are both ways to improve the possibility of a favorable response.

Sometimes a qualitative recruit can’t be completed without a list, but the challenges can be considerable!  Knowing the difficulties in advance can prepare you for success through careful planning, patience, and making the best case possible for a respondent to join the study.

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.

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.