Sensory scientists are those in the research and development(R&D) department who operate as liaison between R&D initiatives and the consumer. Through testing, they determine what the consumer wants. As such, these professionals take great care in designing field experiments that eliminate, or control for, a wide variety of confounding variables that can otherwise invalidate the findings of the studies they conduct.
Recruiting participants for in-home-usage tests (IHUTs), on behalf of these sensory scientists, can be done in a variety of ways, but really boils to just two different approaches: (1) electronic (email) only, and (2) live recruiter.
The Email Way to Recruit Participants
The email way to recruit IHUT participants is to treat the recruitment process as one would for a quantitative study in which a survey is administered online, and a sample provider’s panel is used to source the study with respondents. While this method, at first glance, may seem less expensive and easier, there are several things wrong with this approach.
First, panels from sample providers are strewn with “professional survey takers” whose key motivation is to complete surveys as fast as they can and redeem their rewards for doing so. Their mindset is not necessarily focused on the subject of study, nor are they inclined to be thoughtful in their responses and aid in the discovery process for which the research has been sponsored. As such, about three (3) times as many participants need to be recruited in order for the target amount to actually participate. Moreover, those that do participate usually do only the bare minimum required in order to receive the promised incentive. If part of their involvement warrants keeping daily logs, you can count on them to do nothing until the very end of the test period, at which time, many will fake their way through and provide false data. The main reason for this low quality result is that these email-driven participants were recruited in a manner that does not lend itself to inspiring them by detailing how important their opinion is, or what purpose the research serves in the business of the sponsor. Even those that may want to fulfill on their study-related responsibilities may be left in the dark about questions they may have, or instructions that may not be clear to them. Simply, there is no live person with whom they can follow-up and obtain clarification and any issues about which they may be unsure.
The Live Recruiter Way to Recruit Participants
Instead, more care can be applied to the recruiting of IHUT participants by using telephone calls from professionally trained qualitative research recruiters that will fulfill on several key objectives of this aspect of the study, namely:
So many colleagues have come to Accelerant Research for just this purpose, and have shared their war stories of how they learned the hard way with email recruiting. Although their stories vary, they all center on the age old lesson that cheap is dear. We invite you to request a cost estimate from us as a first step. Simply give us a call (704-206-8500) or send us an email (email@example.com). If we are granted the opportunity to work with you, we are confident that the quality of recruiting service you receive will be a marked improvement over the email method of recruiting for IHUTs.
Using its proprietary Agora USA consumer insight community, Accelerant Research polled Americans before and after the big game.
Marketers and Market Research Agencies have a lingo all their own, but some terms that are intuitive to us leave consumers scratching their heads during discussions. Brand Personality can be one such phrase. Consumers sometimes view their relationships to brands in rational terms, and when asked to describe the personality or persona of a brand, initial responses may be heavy on product traits, experience, and price. While that information is valuable, it doesn’t illustrate the consumer’s emotional view of the brand landscape, and sometimes, that’s where the real insights gold is buried. Time to go prospecting.
Discussions of brand persona are a nice opportunity to dust off what may be the most classic of projective techniques in the marketing research arsenal: describing brands as people. Asking participants to imagine the brands they use as fictional characters, what they look like, how they dress, and what types of personalities they have, frames brand persona in terms consumers can understand without the need for a detailed explanation that bites into valuable discussion time. In addition to being both fun and insightful, it also naturally lends itself to a host of probes if descriptions for different brands seem highly similar, widely different, or you have the desire to dig a bit deeper into what certain characteristics mean to a consumer.
Since the exercise is so common, it’s sometimes tempting to cast around for a unique set up or one that fits neatly with the research topic at hand. There are dozens in use: brands as people in elevators, attending parties, dramatis personae of a play, or marooned on desert islands. Generally speaking, it is sometimes best to lean away from any setups that have any built-in cultural or demographic context. Though it seems counter-intuitive, a very generic set up can avoid inadvertently tapping into any preconceived notions your participants have about what type of people frequent certain environments. The goal of the projection is to offer a completely blank slate for participants to fill in as they will.
If you’re doing research, for example, with coffee, it might seem natural to ask your participants to imagine brands as folks in a coffee shop; but you run the risk of precluding unrestrained creative thinking if a given participant imagines coffee shop goers to be younger and tech-savvy as a rule. Framing the task as describing brands as supermarket shoppers seems like a good fit for the grocery category, but for some of your participants, glamorous jet setters might then be off the table even if that perfectly describes how they would think of a certain line of upscale crackers. Likewise, castaways on a desert island may have some respondents trying to shoehorn their brands into the closest equitable Gilligan’s Island character, and you lose quite a bit of nuanced imagery as participants try to force-fit roles artificially. A brand will end up as Gilligan, fit or no.
On the analysis end of the spectrum, the brand as person exercise provides rich descriptive imagery, both illuminating and worthy of summarizing. Here’s another place to use some caution though. Consumers are complicated and when interpreting their responses to the exercise, trained insights professionals and marketers know it’s best to avoid assigning personal judgments about whether certain persona characteristics are positive or negative. Take for example, a brand described as young. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? One consumer might tie youth to high energy, which they see as a positive; another may equate youth with inexperience, which they view as a negative. Any value judgments on dramatis personae should come from the consumer themselves in the way they frame and describe the context of their responses as they respond to follow-ups.
The brands as people projective exercise has long been a moderator staple for good reason. It’s well worth the relatively short time investment and moves discussion along to deeper emotional insights more quickly than direct questioning. And it’s hard to argue the outputs. There is strong value in understanding the below surface emotional and aspirational lenses through which consumers view the brands with which they’ve built relationships. Context of the projective exercise task and interpretation of the descriptive responses, however, can be critical to successful use.
If you’re looking for some skilled moderators for your next qualitative project, we invite you to give us a call (704-206-8500) or send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). With our support and guidance in participant recruiting, technology/logistics management, and moderating/full-service support, Accelerant Research can provide you with similarly successful and impactful insights.
We’ve all been there; you’ve got a topic that, as a researcher, you find nuanced and fascinating or one that your client teams wax eloquent about for hours. Everyone is looking forward to getting lots of juicy detail about this topic your focus groups, but consumers find it, well, not necessarily riveting. Or the subject is so complex that participants just don’t know where to start breaking it down so they can effectively frame their answers. While a quality recruiter will screen to make sure your participants are articulate and have something meaningful to say on the issue at hand, initial answers can still skim along the surface or consist of overly simplified high-level summaries. The situation is not uncommon for qualitative and even the best of moderators has been there.
One area of research this seems to crop up on is journey mapping. Journeys can be complicated affairs having lots of steps, so it’s easier for consumers to gloss over the agonizing details (buying a car). They can be journeys taken out of necessity rather than personal interest (resolving a customer service issue). And there are journeys that some consumers just don’t find particularly thrilling (insurance shopping anyone?).
Time to plan for a good projective exercise; one designed to help organize the process, encourage focus on the below surface motivators for each step taken, and recast the routine in a more action-oriented framework that helps consumers be as engaged on the topic as you are. A role-playing exercise that tasks customers with stepping back and narrating their journeys as observers may be a good solution. Start by asking customers to think about the steps they took during the journey and write each on a post-it note, trying to leave nothing out. Coach them to make sure the narrative is complete and has a continuous flow. Then, have them arrange their notes in sequence on a sheet of blank paper with their name written across the top.
Once participants have completed this task, ask them to imagine themselves are the director of a blockbuster film, a film whose plot is the journey they just mapped out, and they are now providing commentary on the DVD release. Encourage them to work through the steps as scenes, what the goal of each ‘scene’ was, highlight the victory or defeat in each scene, and describe the purpose of the scene in the overall film. Then ask for a few volunteers to give a sample narration of their films before continuing discussion.
The technique can be particularly useful for qualitative that includes journey mapping discussions where answers are routine or overly simplified; the nature of the exercise focuses on reframing events in terms of action and encourages participants to dig a little deeper for their motivations in each “scene,” even if it’s something they report, on a rational level, they did just because that’s the way they did it. If you’ve got a group who is giving surface-level summary answers in a lower involvement category, this is a chance to drive into the detail. If you’ve got a low energy group on your hands, this is a nice opportunity to stack the deck in your favor by calling on one of your livelier participants to start.
Once a couple of narrations have been given, there are several different in-room follow-ups you can use. You can follow up by asking if anyone had any scenes not yet discussed that are part of their own films, heard, any scenes they wish they had included in their own films, or if there were any scene motivators shared by others with which they also felt a personal connection. Participants can ‘grade’ themselves on their journeys as if they were film critics (How many Rotten Tomatoes, Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down) and volunteer where they feel their movies fell short, or why it was Oscar-worthy. The projective assessment exercise lends itself to a group discussion of what information, tools, products or other resources would have been helpful to the heroes of their films.
In terms of interventions, the exercise has some practical elements as well since it introduces a natural break for the moderator to visit the back room and check-in with the extended research team. The moderator can step away while participants are mapping out their film sequences, or toward the end of the session, after tasking participants with creating an “ideal” process as a group, deciding collectively which steps are worth taking, writing these on fresh post-its, and coming to a team consensus on what sequence they belong on the whiteboard.
For complicated or less recent journeys, ones that might require some heavy back-thinking, the mapping portion of the exercise can be conducted before the groups and submitted in written form, then brought into the group for discussion. If there’s a lag between when participants arrive at the facility and when the group begins, handing the initial mapping portion of the assignment out as an exercise to work in the waiting room following completion of check-in documentation saves some in-room time, as part of the heavy lifting is now done.
We invite you to reach out to us for more information about conducting qualitative research. Give us a call (704-206-8500) or send us an email (email@example.com). With our support and guidance in participant recruiting, technology/logistics management, and even moderating/full-service support, Accelerant Research can provide you with similarly successful and impactful insights.