The real truth behind a qualitative research group.

How refreshing to hear WPP’s planning guru Jon Steel, on a recent visit to MediaCom, talk about the need to get under the skin of what is really meant and felt in a qual research group, rather than simply reporting what has been said during it.

We live in such a world of instant accountability on a huge scale via Google Analytics and real time results that it’s more important than than ever before what the role of indepth qualitative analysis is.

Years ago I was massively impressed by one qualitative research moderator who we had used to probe new car buying patterns amongst men in their 60s. This generation were underwhelmed by the concept of sitting in a stranger’s living room and not warmed up by the available beer and crisps. When the discussion moved to the possible emotional motivations behind car buying decisions (this set of blokes were strictly rational as far as their conscious process went) some of them came close to aggression.

The moderator was unphased by all of this turbulence. She calmed them down, kept the discussion moving along, and came back with an analysis of the declared and undeclared car purchase process that transcended mere reporting of what was said.

I asked her how she’d managed to pull such nuggets from the somewhat dry groups I’d witnessed.
“Sue,” she replied, “I barely even listen to what anyone says in a research group anymore.. I simply soak up the atmosphere and deliver a version of what’s happened based on the unspoken feelings in the room”.

Many of you may find this ludicrous. And I’m sure she somewhat exaggerated her litmus like capabilities. But she uncovered a barrier to purchase that, though unspoken, was so deep rooted that it was obvious that it would be too difficult to target this group with this particular model, so we reallocated the budget more profitably against an alternative target group.

With so much true and instant quantitative data at our fingers tips it is crucial to dive deeper than ever with listening techniques – to not just listen to what is being said – but to feel what is not being said out loud too.

2 Responses to “The real truth behind a qualitative research group.”

  1. Patrick M says:

    I love the idea of interpreting the unspoken atmosphere to reveal barriers.
    I like to go to groups to see if that happens.
    Those are the things that can radically change your approach for the better.

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