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3 Key Take-Aways from the Nonconscious Consumer Forum

Last week (on November 14 and 15) I attended 2 days of excellent presentations about the “Nonconscious” consumer. If you are at all like me, your first thought might be, “What are they talking about, sleeping consumers?” Of course my next thought was to recognize that this forum could be a place to better understand how to research the subconscious decisions that influence and sometimes drive consumer behavior. Here are my top 3 Key Take-Aways:

1. Question the 95/5 rule. I have been hearing (from several leaders in the field, and previous to this conference) that the widely cited “statistic” that “95% of a consumer’s decisions are nonconscious” is misleading. First off, a good half of the brain’s functions are serving the autonomic nervous system and I would guess we are all happy that those functions are nonconscious – who would want to need to constantly make decisions regarding one’s heartbeat and breathing?

OK, so that leaves only 50%, and (yes, I’m simplifying here) while it has been shown that a good percentage of our everyday decisions are made before being conscious of them, it depends on what is being decided. If one is, for instance, thinking of a major purchase or a new category, typically many factors go into this decision and there is at least an element of conscious decision-making (e.g., what color, price, style, etc.). If, on the other hand, one is clicking around on the internet, then very likely the quick decision to click or not to click is 95% subconscious.

I’ll reflect more on this point in a future blog but for right now, let’s just agree that continuing to reinforce the narrative of “the 95/5 rule” in many ways undermines our believability and over-simplifies when it comes to the field of understanding decision-making. Several of the presenters strongly called on us to consider mixed methodologies in order to more fully accomplish our research objectives.

2. IAT (Implicit Association Testing) is rich and fascinating! My previous work with IAT primarily revolved around using pictures, personifications, collages, etc. as analogies of brands or products. Now Meta4 Insight has taken that technique and amped it up with a validated library of over 600 images that give, as they say, “qualitative richness backed by quantitative rigor”.

Then there was another supplier – Sentient Decision Science – who allowed us to personally experience their IAT method. At the forum they had a demo where one first sorted words into sets associated with the qualities of either honest/trustworthy or dishonest/untrustworthy – with truthful words being swiped down on the screen and dishonest words up. After getting used to sorting words, I was then told a brand image will appear before the words and I should try to ignore it.

The task was the same: to sort the words just as I had the first time. The brands were all financial and I watched myself have a momentary disconnect when I saw the brand name “Wells Fargo” and then the word truthful. As I noticed that I was having a hard time swiping the word truthful downward, it became clear that my implicit, unconscious associations were raising cognitive dissonance between the words “truthful” and “Wells Fargo”. I’m so happy to have been able to observe in myself what is being measured!

3. There is now a way to get biometrics in a natural setting! Anyone who has used facial coding and eye-tracking knows that it is tricky – while you can ask participants do this via a web browser in their home, you’ll typically lose half the measurements because people don’t sit still in front of their computers. It was great to hear that the MediaScience folks can capture a variety of biometric information (skin conductivity, heart rate, facial coding, response latency testing and eye tracking) in a fairly unobtrusive way in their MediaScience labs.

After the forum I visited their brand new Chicago facility and saw first hand how participants come in, sit in a very comfortable chair (which helps keep their gaze stable so that it is more likely their eye tracking and facial coding data will be readable) and then they might watch a 30-minute sitcom which has advertising inserted into the program. One can even allow the respondent to interact with their smartphone (which can be set up to also be measured) so that it is clear when and where they go on their phones while the program/ad is being shown.

In this way, the measurements are taken in a fairly real-world situation. AND, since 6 people can go through this testing at the same time (each in their own personal viewing room), when the client wants to discuss other ideas or probe more deeply with these consumers, one can easily run a focus group immediately after respondents have completed biometric testing.

#IIeX #NewMR, #mrx, #imd16, #qrca @HarpethMktg

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Are “Free” QR Methods Worth the Cost?

Patrick and Patrice Wooldridge are looking forward to presenting a look at free (and virtually free) QR methods at the 2014 QRCA National Convention in New Orleans on October 16, 2014.

We will cover the pros and cons of several free methods of conducting QR to assess what make sense – or doesn’t – to include in one’s bag of tool when we need less expensive options. Topics will include:
1. Overview of platforms like Google Hangouts and SKYPE which allow one to conduct video interviews as well as “free trials” such as GoToMeeting and WebEx
2. Ways to modify these platforms to suit our needs (e.g., how to let clients view real-time or after the fact).
3. Free methods to include homework, journaling/diaries, etc. and even real time feedback from smartphones
4. Security Issues, watch-outs, and how to handle this
5. DIY Short-cuts for editing and inserting pictures, audio and video

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Focus Group Temperature App

Introducing our new Next Generation Qualitative Market Research tool, the Focus Group Temperature App!

How many times have you wanted to have a quick read on the temperature and mood of respondents after they have been introduced to a new product, concept or advertising? Now all you need to do is ask respondents to load our Focus Group Temperature App on to their iPads or iPhones and then have respondents place their finger on the sensor area while hearing your new idea, concept, or advertising.

The App will measure the temperature of the respondents, which lets you visually see their mood. The team observing the group will immediately know whether the mood is more or less positive. It’s as easy as that. The Focus Group Temperature App – the mood ring of 21st Century Qualitative Research! Happy April Fool’s Day!

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The NGMR Top-5-Hot vs. Top-3-Not – From a Qualitative Perspective

HOT

1. Involving the client more directly into the research – Recently I’ve convinced more and more of my clients to open an IM chat box with me so that I can get their thoughts while I’m moderating a live, in-person group on the other side of the mirror.

2. Combining different methodologies – Where we used to be innovative when we offered online bulletin boards for homework to be completed before in-person groups we now have a large variety of ways to interact with participants (from mobile platforms, webcams, Vlogs, Blogs, Social Media, etc.). These methods will be combined to ways that expand how we understand our consumers and the needs, wants, desires and benefits they expect.

3. Teams of Researchers – In the past if one decided to become a Qualitative Research Consultant (QRC) it typically meant working on one’s own. In the last few years I have had the opportunity to team up with other talented QRCers in order to accomplish more research in a shorter period of time. While timing was what drove the initial foray into this area, I found the creative jump of 2 or more QRCs working together provided far more than quicker turnaround.

4. Quali-Quant – While some of us have been offering this for 20 some years, there are now many more software platforms to make these projects turnaround faster and more cost effectively. The question will be whether the abbreviated qualitative information actually provides the depth to get below the surface.

5. Qualitative Social Media Research – Up until now, most social media research has been done with word and phrase counts. There are finally new methods that will help us dig deep into what is being said online without being swallowed whole.

NOT

1. Standard 2 hour focus groups – Yes, there is still a need to gather a specific group of consumers together and have them sit around a conference table to respondent to materials that have to be touched, smell, tasted, etc. Yet there are so many more ways in which to have this conversation, even if it is only changing the configuration of the room so that it is more “homey”.

2. Taking time to think about what was learned – At this point virtually all my clients are looking for a topline that includes specific recommendations, within 24 hours of finishing qualitative interviews. While we are still asked to put together a complete report on the findings – which then takes the time to analyze and think about what was said – few clients seem to read this. Are the topline and final report all that different – well first off, let’s say, gosh I hope not. But then let’s ponder whether one can’t help but look for what reinforces the decisions that were made in 24 hours or less rather than being open-minded while conducting the final analysis.

3. Small Business Consultants Most large companies that hire qualitative consultants are making it extremely difficult to stay in business. Payments, even for out-of-pocket costs, are now 45 – 60 days, consultants have to deal with SAP, and Ariba and various other elaborate accounting software that is of no use to a small business (and some require a company to pay to use them – which means we have to pay to get paid).

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Embracing Change

This week, while away from home and office, I had the time to reflect on how different we all communicate today vs. as little as 5 years ago. My phone sends me updates on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as text messages, phone messages and also lets me check in at Foursquare to find specials and free stuff. And of course I have all my books in e-reader (haven’t read bound books since early 2004), games, video, music, camera, etc., — all in the one device. It is interesting to observe how often I use all of these items — almost without thinking. I now routinely google a topic while at dinner to find out more about the subject, or pull up a book I had read some time ago to find a quote. It’s remarkable the ways in which this one device has altered how I communicate with the world.

Then there are the other toys we carry with us on the road. We have an HDMI cable (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) that allows my laptop to connect to newer televisions as an external monitor. We even have a hand-sized Bluetooth speaker that is paired with the computer so that the sound is great. Last night, as Patrick and I were deciding whether to watch a DVD, use hulu.com to watch a favorite TV show, or even download a movie from Blockbuster and watch that, I reflected upon how profoundly technology has changed our lives.

This made me aware of how easy it is to forget how things were. When I learned to drive, one actually needed to insert the key in the lock to get in the car. But it’s been forever since I’ve had to use the key – in fact, I really can’t remember how long ago. A few years back I walked to the garage, clicked the car remote and the locks to the door didn’t open. I clicked again; the locks still wouldn’t open. I stood there dumbfounded and wondered, “Now what am I going to do? It looks like the battery is dead in this remote and I need to get in the car.” Fortunately, not too many seconds later I remembered, “OH, the key will let me in the car!” It was like a revelation.

It’s clear that, to stay up on how the generations behind us are viewing the world, we need to immerse ourselves in the continued changes in communication and technology. What fun to watch oneself evolve and adapt!

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In the past, websites were intended to inform. But that doesn’t make sense in today’s marketplace.

When we decided it was time to redo the WA website, our webmaster asked me, “What do you want visitors to the site to do?” I had to seriously think about that. What did I want them to do?? In the past, sites were intended to inform. That meant that giving a basic description of who were are and the services we offer was sufficient. But that doesn’t make sense in today’s marketplace – not even for the smallest of small businesses.

It occurred to me that this was an opportunity to gain some personal experience with an issue all my clients were wrestling with – creating sites that engaged visitors. And what better way to engage with someone than telling stories. So, for instance, by reading this blog you have given me your time to share a part of my story with you. If you find that what I have to say is interesting, perhaps you’ll come back in a few weeks for a new blog installment, or follow me on Twitter, or make sure we are connected on LinkedIn. All those are ways to share more of the story.

When I got my first job at TLK advertising (now EuroRSCG), we were taught that one of our key job responsibilities was to “surprise and delight” our clients. At the time, that meant a variety of actions such as pulling relevant articles out of trade magazines for clients, giving them a call to say hi and to make sure they had everything they needed from the agency, taking them for drinks and meals when they were in town, etc. Yes, it’s great to still do those things, but most of us don’t have the time to interact the way it was done 25 years ago.

In today’s context it seems to me that finding stories that engage the reader, leaving them with a pleasant feeling, or new information, or a fresh way to think about something answers the question “what do I want visitors to do at the site” and might even fulfill the objective of surprise and delight.

So I’m challenging myself, Patrick, and Cheri to write the stories that our clients in today’s web connected world might find useful. We’d love to have your comments and hope you’ll come back again.

Thank you for visiting.

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