Methods to Combat Madness
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” ~ not Albert Einstein or Benjamin Franklin (author unknown)
Merely admitting a lack of knowledge can go against the grain of some of the most successful brands today. Many have pointed to Apple and Steve Jobs as examples for the lack of research in design, product or brand decisions.
In a famous quote by Steve Jobs in a 2008 Fortune article, "We do no market research. We don't hire consultants. The only consultants I've ever hired in my 10 years is one firm to analyze Gateway's retail strategy so I would not make some of the same mistakes they made …” Which was later countered in a famous Wall Street Journal article, “Turns Out Apple Conducts Market Research After All.” The Steve Jobs persona was omnipotent and all knowing, yet in any organization there have to be outside sources of knowledge gathered.
Perhaps, for Steve, it was a matter of methodologies. He also referenced focus groups and not asking consumers what they want from Apple. Rather, his team created what consumers didn’t know they needed. It is the brand owner’s responsibility to dream, create and invent new offerings for customers. It is the customer’s responsibility to react.
This makes intuitive sense, any research conducted to get explicit answers on where to go with a product, brand or experience will certainly be flawed. The most brilliant scientists and scholars can’t predict the future, so why would you expect your customers to? And, if they could, do you think they’d do it for a $100 incentive in a room full of strangers in front of a two-way mirror?
This brings up the world of qualitative research methods used to discover hidden needs in the marketplace. Capsule grew up in qualitative and a fascination with ethnographic methods. We even used these methods to study how people shopped for nail care products at Target, for our client, Coty Beauty (original study here). The study, which included observations, behavior interviews, task analysis and an exhaustive analysis of any existing behavioral research for which we could get access.
The results from this year-long study set up Coty Beauty (Del Labs at the time) to be the category captain for the nail care aisle. We found nuanced behaviors like shoppers centering themselves on the Target 4 ft display sections. The implications for certain purchases led to a remerchandising and dramatic week-over-week increases in sales for Coty, as well as a decade and a half long relationship with our NY based client.
When we flip the coin to quantitative, the stories also have a compelling finish. Our work with NGL (National Guardian Life) brought a blend of methods together in order to help their team make more informed decisions. The employee net promoter score was obtained through an online survey, which was paired with a client version of the same. With the cultural changes happening at NGL, the new leadership was signaling change to external and internal audiences. Having a quantitative method to showcase the change over time was essential for future confidence in this new direction.
We have found in our experience, matching the methodology to the objectives is a critical first step in any research effort. It sets up the team for success and frames the effort around the learning objectives.
If you’re looking for some perspective on methodologies, we are always happy to share.
Read more from this series below: