Qualitative Market Research ? Part 3, How do I run qualitative research in low interest categories?


market research;qualitative research;focus group;marketing research;buying research;focus groups 101;an introduction to focus groups

Build a research panel of Fans

There’s a connection between qualitative research and word of mouth marketing, one that’s frequently overlooked. If you’ve run enough focus groups, you’ll know that there are people called ‘groupies’ but there are also people who have a genuine passion for the brand,product, service or organisation they are talking about. Groupies are people who attend a lot of focus groups and they can get bored with the process but every so often, you hit a genuine Fan and statistically that’s 10% of the market base of any brand,product, service or organisation.

So the first point is this, if you are running groups or qualitative research in low interest categories and you come across a fan, this is an open doorway to turn around to your client and say, look, we can build an on-going program where we listen to fans and work with them to improve things. It’s Fans that have the passion to think of ways to turn a low interest category into something special. Fiskars scissors did this, they make scissors and they create a fan base across America who are into scrap booking with thousands of people in it.

The second point is around process, if you’ve run enough focus groups, you know that sometimes it’s hard going, the brand,product, service or organisation simply isn’t that interesting relative to other things. We’ve run lots of focus groups on utilities and relative to people talking about cars, lipstick, stereo or food it can be hard going so here are some tips on how to make things flow.

Use more stimulus, differently

People find it fascinating to look at how people used to talk about things, the picture we have shows the idea of how Motorola promoted TV can get people together. A really great way to get people engaged is to show them communication and advertising from the past and structure the conversation in the following way:

  • What were the underlying assumptions about the product at that time?
  • What are the underlying assumptions about the product,brand or service today?
  • How could we challenge those assumptions?

It’s even better if you can give respondents in focus groups this work prior to coming along and attending so they are sharing their thoughts, it makes for a lively debate.

Use deep personification exercises

This is the usual response of a qualitative researcher but if in fact the subject is not interesting it’s hard labour. So if for example you take utility brands and you get people to imagine those brands as houses and imagine all the things in the kitchen, their record collection and so on – you can end up with the lots of houses being the same because people just think of the category as one thing.

So the ‘standard, safe’ professional thing to do leads to a poor result.

Introduce ‘jerker concepts’

Jerker concepts go from the sane (relatively) to the absurd to the outright impossible. Here’s what we’d do for a utility company for example:

  • A utility company buys a house building company, what kind of houses would it build.
  • A utility company creates a theme park, why would they/would they not do that.
  • A utility company teams up with Elon Musk to create flying cars.
  • A utility company decides to use it’s knowledge of power to engineer food that delivers more energy, ATP per gram than anything else.
  • A utility company decides to go into the restaurant business on the back of 4 and create a chain of power food.

Now your sane client is going to look at you like you are mad if you do ‘jerker concepts’ without talking with them. We’ve found the best way to introduce them is to get your client to think of something they find boring and create jerker concepts and get them to respond to them. We’ve found clients typically buy in once they’ve experienced this.

So in summary 1. Get communication from the past, 2. Do deep personification and 3. Do jerker concepts of these 1 and 3 are the best. (Some links below will help you)



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