The word “research” doesn’t exactly touch the heart. My immediate associations include ‘cold, scientific, burdensome, necessary, intellectual exercise” — and I’m in the business! In qualitative, we work hard to humanize the endeavor. Dig deeper, be more flexible, more creative. Use interesting techniques that stimulate and reveal tension and emotion. But it still feels like research. Clients file into the back room, set up their work stations, turn out the lights and hunker down for a few days of serious learning.
Recently I did a project that felt different, and it’s redefining what I want to provide for my clients.
We were exploring people’s food philosophies, as part of a new brand development effort. We converted the facility into a warm and welcoming restaurant environment…not a fluorescent light in the house! Then we hosted a dinner party. A carefully selected group of gregarious folks each brought a dish that reflected their values. And we all sat down together (clients included) to enjoy a meal. It was an unstructured affair that lasted four hours. People presented their dishes and told their life stories. We ate the food they prepared. They shared their secrets, tips and hints. We asked them what they cared most about. And it didn’t feel like research… it felt like life.
The evening was strangely transformative. Instead of being defined by our roles, marketing managers, consumers and moderators became human. Our clients went from from slightly scared (“we’re not behind the glass!”) to closely attached and truly engaged. And we became more than informed – we were inspired.
Everyone was strangely touched by this shared experience. At the end of the evening, we were sad to part ways. People lingered, exchanging phone numbers and wanting to set up recipe exchanges. As a team, we sat for a long time afterward talking about what had happened, without knowing exactly where it would take us.
But there’s one thing I know for sure. People in our business are craving something, and it’s not research. I believe the unmet need is a deeper connection, a sense of purpose, a feeling of inspiration and the energy to move forward. And that’s the kind of thing I’m happy to facilitate!
Consumer Marketing Research Consultant