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Bringing YOU closer

There are two schools of thought around being customer-focused.

The first lectures you on how ‘you are not the consumer’. You cannot see your product from the customer’s perspective, so don’t even try.

I prefer the other school. When I start on a qual research project, my implicit goal is always to get you, the client, closer to them, the people you want to target.

This starts with me getting close to them. But running the groups, watching the videos back, taking pages of notes, working out the story, writing the charts, doing the show - none of it is of any use if the deck ends up as a file in a folder.

I want to get you to see the world you’re interested in like the respondents did. To think like them about the products, to feel like they do about the brands, including yours. We all make the mistake of seeing the wood our brands are made of rather than the woods in which they stand.

But the one thing I’ve learnt is I can’t get all that across in a debrief. The way to do it starts way back.

Firstly, with the briefing. What do you already know about your consumer? You don’t need to learn all that again, even if the knowledge may need dusting off.

Then the methodology. If you want to see what people actually do, you need ethnography. Whether that’s shopping for something or using it.

If you want to get to know people, you need to use smaller groups. Three’s the perfect number, I reckon, although pairs and quads can be better in certain situations, even one-on-ones.

And if you want to dig to their deeper needs and brand associations, you have to use projections. It’s the only way.

When it comes to the fieldwork, you need to be involved. At the very least, watch some of the groups, however they’re being done.

Or run a Closeness programme. That’s when you and your team, armed with some basic training, go off to spend time with a consumer of interest in your category, either in-home or in a shop.

Even better, run some of the fieldwork yourself. Maybe not groups as moderation experience is definitely cumulative. But some shopalongs, followed by an interview in a nearby coffee shop to try out a projection or show some stimulus.

Then you can be part of the analysis process.

A workshop to compare your team’s Closeness findings to what has emerged from other fieldwork.

A working session to piece together the shopping journey and the points of pleasure and pain along it.

Detailed studying of the projections to create a map of people’s deeper needs and the different brand anchor points.

Then when you get to the debrief, you already know the story. You’ve found that need inside of you. It’s in there somewhere.

And that means you can answer that question of your target that all writers ask themselves of their protagonist.

Not “if my character were in these circumstances, what would they do?”

Nor “if I were in these circumstances, what would I do?”

But “if I were this character in these circumstances, what would I do?”

Because writers know that if a moment in a story means something emotionally to them, it will mean something to their audience. Stanislavski’s ‘Magic If’.

And my magic trick for you.


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