Rethinking Qualitative Research
A growing number of brands believe a 'less logic more magic' will pay dividends. 2CV's expert consumer strategists and experienced qualitative researchers reveal how the evolution of qualitative research is helping brands ignite their potential.
In an age where marketers demand complete confidence in their strategy, quantitative research, scientific and quasi-scientific theories are taking centre stage. However, unveiling the hidden forces that shape consumer behaviours is crucial for marketers and developing new strategies for unlocking this insight is becoming more important.
Kat Jennings, group research director at 2CV, says that understanding the way people behave in their environment can really help a business understand the path to change that is often so important to driving the emotional engagement or changing behaviours which can propel a brand forward.
Brands can now embrace a myriad of different strands of qualitative research tools, especially if marketers are prepared to work more closely with consumers. 'Bringing consumers into the process more through co-creation and investigation is key,' says Alex Nketiah head of qualitative research at 2CV.
According to Nketiah qualitative research can provide more than just consumer analysis to brands. 'Really listening to your customers is hugely inspiring, good qualitative researchers understand that people come before products.' It is this insight and creativity that is driving smart brands forward.
Less logic more magic
A growing number of brands are shifting their approach in order to forge better emotional connections with consumers. Last October, Unilever unveiled a fundamental change in its approach to marketing with the implementation of a 'more magic, less logic' marketing strategy. The FMCG giant's top marketers Keith Weed and Marc Mathieu want to shake-up its numbers-led marketing strategy and better reward marketers who take risks and reignite the creative spark.
2CV's qualitative researchers have developed a range of new tools to help marketers ignite this spark. One such innovation is the 'Imagination Days' it holds for brands, where consumers first look and record the way they interact with a product or category and then share their feelings directly to brands. This is where the little frustrations consumers have with everyday products and services come to the fore and the truth of how consumers feel and interact with brands is evident.
Imagination Days are just one example of the increasingly flexible nature of qualitative research. 'Bringing consumers' ideas closer to brands and having that direct inspiration can be hugely powerful,' explains 2CV's Nketiah. The days when marketers were used to being silently hidden away at the back of the room are over.
An evolutionary approach to insight
2CV's Jennings says brands should not be afraid of using qualitative research early on as understanding consumers' needs and attitudes when you are developing an idea is crucial. 'It is all about building a body of knowledge about the context of consumption and what frames consumers decisions,' she adds.
Brands should also put aside their fear that the contradictions in what consumers say and what they really think are impenetrable. In fact, according to Jennings, these contradictions can provide fruitful territory for unlocking groundbreaking insight. 'The fallibility in consumers' ability to accurately report behaviours and motivations should not undermine the role and validity of qualitative research,' she adds.
A journey of discovery
Smart brands are embracing a pick and mix approach to qualitative research in order to get the very best insight for each given project. 2CV employed a number of different methodologies to provide the best insight for TFL on how to best to build on the success of past campaigns and to communicate road safety to teenagers. 'It's a journey of discovery for us', explains 2CV's Jennings. This included running co-creation workshops and observing the behaviour of groups of teens in various London boroughs.
This multi-faceted qualitative approach delivered a phenomenal depth of insight to TFL. The 'Don't die before you've lived' campaign, which focused on the fact that teens were missing out on their lifelong ambitions, such as becoming a football player or pop star, was felt to be a bit far away to provide the immediate impact required. Insight from qualitative research established that it was the here and now - it was the friendships that teenagers had with each other which mattered most and were therefore more tangible. 'It was a much more motivating, but "everyday" insight,' explains Jennings. This simple yet profoundly resonant insight gave birth to the multi award winning and highly effective 'Don't let your friendship die on the road' campaign.
The campaign, which picked up the Research Award at the Marketing Week Engage Awards and the MRS Applications of Research award last year, helped cut teenage road injuries and fatalities in London by 18%. Its success has led TFL to increase the focus on consumer insight in its wider marketing and communications strategy.
According to 2CV's Nketiah there are now more ways than ever to see how consumers are acting and the marriage between behavioural data and qualitative insight is unveiling the truth about consumer behaviour. Life tracking apps such as Weight Watchers points diary are just one example of how consumers are using smartphones to diarise their life. 'We have become smarter about how we unlock the insight,' he adds.
As qualitative research continues to evolve, practitioners are becoming consumer strategists embracing a growing range of skills and practices. With an ever-evolving skill set, it's these strategists who can help bring the consumer's voice into the boardroom and unlock the creative sparks that can deliver the ever-elusive magic to a brand.