Market research has evolved, for sure, when it comes to how it views qualitative data. Market researchers, for the most part, understand thye need to get beyond the numbers in quantitative data and dig for those emotional qualitative responses.
But the benefits of qualitative data extend beyond just giving us depth and emotion when it comes to responses. One thing I rely on qualitative data for is to find what I call “insight treasures.” These are those little nuggets that bring to light findings or insights that otherwise would have been unknown. Only in qualitative data do these treasures come to life. Sometimes you have to look long and hard for them through mounds and mounds of responses, but when you find them and apply them correctly, these little nuggets of insight can yield tremendous gains.
In my experience at Invoke, our unique methodology has definitely uncovered some treasures. I can think of quite a few times this has happened when doing advertising or packaging research, such as when I noticed a few respondents reacting negatively to some ads being tested by a tech services company because their humorous tone did not jive well with what they saw as too-serious subject matter. Another recent example also comes to mind:
- In doing some advertising work for a large consumer products company, I noticed that some consumers reacted quite negatively to a small nuance of the ad that apparently made it seem the main character was being mistreated. This was not something neither I, nor the client, anticipated. After pointing this out, the company made adjustments to this piece of the ad and it went on to be very well-received by audiences and critics.
Now, you may be wondering if there is any type of method to uncovering these insights and the short answer is, not really. Sorry. Other than ensuring you have a good amount of qualitative data at your fingertips there really is no magic way to go about getting these. A lot of actually finding these insights comes down to gut instinct and experience. However, I do try to keep in mind a couple of helpful tips to ensure that, should I come across a potential insight treasure, it is a finding worthy of including in a report for a client:
- Know your client – Not everyone is open to this sort of insight gathering, so ensure you have a client willing to listen. Some are still very stuck to their quant numbers and will only listen to qual data if it serves as support for a percentage.
- Balance it against any prevailing contradictory data – If you do find any of these treasures and are thinking about bringing them to a client’s attention, ensure the majority of respondents do not feel different. This is still research and majority will rule so don’t bother mentioning the few who like the orange logo if the majority prefers the blue.
- It should tell you something new – Again, some common sense here, but this insight should be – well – insightful. It should break through and really bring to light something you or the client might not have anticipated.
- Consider whether it’s actionable – This may be a tougher call to make, but consider whether it is something the client can act on. Ask yourself the simple question, “Will this make an impact?” One way to gauge this might be to think about your overall objectives. Does this insight feed into the objectives? If not, it may not be worth the trouble.
Of course, these are all guidelines and, again, it really comes down to instinct. A skilled market researcher can tell the difference between a valuable finding and just “something somebody said.”