I go by instinct - I don't worry about experience. Barbra Streisand
The Way We Were ... in qualitative research were things so much better then? Or was it all too simple then? Did we really understand our respondents? Did we spend time just thinking? Did our clients make strategic business & marketing decisions based on our findings?
We didn’t tweet, text, follow a sat nav or download an update ... we did everything by long hand, on landlines not desktops, PC’s, laptops or tablets. We didn’t listen on multi channels ... we conducted most research face to face.
During the 80’s in New Zealand (a country providing unique, cutting edge qual research), most of the qual research was conducted in the homes of respondents ... out came the map books venturing into towns & neighbourhoods, meeting differing cultures, some of which we had never heard of before! We were armed with story boards, tape recorders, tapes, notebooks, short discussion guides and a box of the client’s products as incentives ... all before we started the interview!
In their own homes, our respondents opened up to us, they weren’t intimidated by strange viewing facilities or ‘posh’ hotels, or ‘alien’ board rooms. We sat over cups of tea (or potent Fijian cava!), talking about their wonderful lives & families, peering into their cupboards, visiting their bathrooms ... enjoying the connection between us, albeit for an hour or so.
What did we find out that was so much different than today? By taking our time, we began to understand holistically their lives and families, where the products & services fitted into their differing ways, why they made choices on brands, products, services, supermarkets, colours & design. We visited the home where life was not always a bed or roses, due to sickness or financial pressures, and we explored the good things, all the aspects of life that made them happy. (I remember fondly sitting, as an honoured guest, on the back step with a Samoan grandmother, eating KFC, talking about her island life, her children & diets ... all for a study on baby food).
During these times as a young researcher we worked closely with the client & ad agency ... all of us having an interest in the success of the brand. The ad agency creative’s & suit’s came with us to see the customer, to live part of their lives for a day ... all added richness & depth and a closeness to the brand for all brand personnel ... all working together with a passion & enjoyment of the customer.
So what is so different in the UK in 2012? We ‘do’ ethnographic research, we ‘do’ go into homes ... but constraints of time, of money can prevent us sometimes coming face to face with customers & their real homes & lives. Technology is great, online panels & surveys cost effective, quick and without a doubt the future of research, I couldn’t live without my mobile phone & sat nav but ...
... are we missing the passion in our understanding & connection with customers?
... are we in such a hurry we forget our thinking & analysing time?
... are we working together to develop the essence of the brand going forward?
... are we making business & marketing decisions based on a depth of customer understanding?
In sum, were things so much different then? ... Yes they were different, but with advanced technology let us not lose the connection of seeing, feeling, observing & hearing our customers. So in the words of Barbara Streisand ... could it be that life was all too simple then?
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