So many pearls wait to be discovered and presented to the marketers of the world.
By Sharon Livingston, Ph.D.
THE LIVINGSTON GROUP FOR MARKETING
Londonderry, NH firstname.lastname@example.org
As I am writing this, it is September 2007. Most of the people I know who conduct or use qualitative research are booked for the next couple of months, running from city to city, country to country, via airplane, car, telephone, video conference or online. Whew! What a hectic but exciting lifestyle we have all chosen as marketing researchers. So, as you are reading this, I am hoping that you are preparing for the holidays and looking forward to a break from all the stimulating but time-intensive work you have been doing all year long.
It is a time of celebration and a time to be grateful. Isn’t it an incredible gift to be able to do the kind of work we do? We get to explore the habits and practices, attitudes and beliefs, minds, hearts and souls of all kinds of people from every possible vantage point. We are detectives of the highest order, using all of our senses and faculties to tease out facts from fiction, wishes from reality, and wants from needs. Our respondents give us permission to peek behind the façades of everyday veneer to help us know them, sometimes even better than they know themselves!
From my vantage point of listening to research clients (with the cast of thousands who attend projects in the back room) and talking to so many professional colleagues who conduct the varied shades of qualitative research that are possible, it is clear that the needs and uses of qualitative research are expanding and growing at a rapid rate. The creativity demonstrated by research designers from the client and consultant side is at the highest level since I have been in marketing research. We stop at nothing to solve problems in gathering information appropriately, intuitively and richly. We invite people to come to us to tell us their stories in person and on the phone, and we also visit them in their real-life environments. We bring roving focus group facilities in RVs to their homes to run friendship groups. We tag along as they shop in person and watch them surf online. We can talk to them via webcam on their computers and invite them into a group of peers from everywhere while they interact, comfortably in their homes. The ways to reach out, touch and understand grow every day.
Well-orchestrated, often-multifaceted qualitative research approaches provide us with the ability to identify problems and solutions that can grow our clients’ brands, creating relationships between the brand and the users who make them indispensable parts of their lives. When planned and conducted with such foresight, openness, understanding and positive intent, the result can only be eye-opening and meaningful.
With this privilege that is our profession, however, there is also a challenge. We need strategies to communicate with upper management to help them listen with an open mind. Sometimes the most inspired ideas born of months of research and diligent analysis with critical implications for marketing are unceremoniously dismissed. What they do not always see, and what we need to help them see, is that these are the same findings that could transform their company’s strategic thinking to better reflect what their targeted customers really want and hunger for, which will better drive purchase and loyalty.
So many pearls wait to be discovered and presented to the marketers of the world. At the same time, more and more innovative qualitative methods emerge to find them. Let’s actively partner with each other to help take this wonderful depth of rich knowledge to its rightful place in informing strategy and modifying marketing applications. Our consulting and leadership skills are the key. Together, we can help each other accomplish this in the most effective and meaningful ways.