Monday, April 19, 2010

The Art of Consumer Empathy Part III - Insight Techniques

Do Your Approaches to Deep-rooted Understanding Maximize Your Insight AND Empathy?
Of the many tools employed to unearth empathy-driving insight, well-utilized consumer communities and well-constructed ethnographic studies can enhance insight and consumer intimacy greatly by revealing deep-rooted motivations and behaviors. This deeper insight is often what separates "me too" innovation from "Wow!" innovation.

Consumer Communities: Are you primarily using online communities for on-demand but traditional tabulated surveys, open-ended questions, and focus groups? Your ability to drive deep and spontaneous insight may be limited to what marketers feel is important versus what consumers are naturally discussing as important to them. Think about pushing your approach. Below are three ways to get more from your online communities:

  • Vary your exercises to tap into the diversity of how people think and create (we call these the consumer thought centers). If verbal language is the only way you communicate with online panels, you miss the richness members can contribute.
  • Augment your community periodically with new and surprising participants and sources of expertise to expand the conversation and generate participant excitement. Don’t restrict yourself to those with an obvious connection to your category or topic. Work the peripheries, or be brave on occasion and go beyond the edge. Working on a food product? Invite a yoga instructor or musical artist into the conversation as a creative expert. Want to uncover what’s really irking your consumers? Announce that your CMO will be on the panel to discuss whatever is on members’ minds. Need to spark excitement and spontaneous conversation? Access a celebrity personality who can open the door to unexpected avenues of discussion.
  • Consider new analytic approaches to derive more from your interpretation. For example, consider content analysis or laddering of online dialog to better understand consumer language and latent emotional connections.
Ethnography: If your ethnography resembles on-location structured interviews, you may be missing the opportunity to leverage this tool for its full worth including understanding the cultural context and emotional drivers of behaviors. Explore new and unique approaches, such as the three described below.
  • Employ less intrusive (unmoderated) observation. The less intrusive your presence the more honest the behaviors and conversations you will observe. Place video cameras in-home, in-store, or in-hand for video journaling; then flesh out your understanding with follow-up interviews or video chats to more closely examine the most perplexing, interesting, and repeatedly observed behaviors. One of the most revealing and actionable ethnographic studies I experienced involved a triad of exercises. A motion activated camera in respondent kitchens provided a 24-7 look at food preparation; a new product was entered into the mix to capture real experiences preparing and serving it in their natural environment; in-home family interviews conducted after analyzing the video provided additional explanatory texture.
  • Mix up your ethnographic techniques. Supplement traditional in-home and on-location interviews with silent observation (friendship gatherings, shop-alongs), and even join-in techniques (where you become a participant during at home dinners, parties, spring-cleaning, internet shopping, etc.). Yes, join-in techniques are not anthropologically pure, but they can be great ways to break down walls and engage in real conversations.
  • Use ethnography for downstream innovation, not just upfront. Observe your prototypes in use or consumer reaction to a new product in store. The more realistic the task, the more actionable the learnings. This is particularly helpful with new package structures, recipes, and even technology use.
The Power of “And”: Whatever your preferred insight techniques, consumer empathy comes from weaving together the complete consumer tapestry, not from isolated events with unconnected threads. Create a portfolio of approaches for both “exploratory” and “explanatory” objectives. Seek the power of “AND” by combining unobtrusive observation, hands-on and join-in participative tasks, and conversational approaches.

Expanding the power of your insight techniques is important when creating a consumer-empathetic organization, but has its limits. If you are ready to make the ultimate commitment to consumer empathy building in your company, it is time to engage the organization to “live your consumer” outside the official research plan…the topic of our fourth and final empathy post.

source: Food & Beverage Matters Blog

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