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Inspired Research

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 1 month ago

Laying the Focus Group to rest




Malcolm Gladwell once said, 'Asking people to explain their feelings is asking them to explain a visceral reaction - something that happens in the subconscious. We cannot understand what goes on back in the dark corners of the brain, much less explain it. So when focus groups ask people to explain their feelings, they make up stories that sound logical. They don't believe that they're lying. They're just groping to come up with a reasonable explanation for something they can't explain.'


Are focus groups the best way to get people to explain their feelings? To get at original and relevant insights?


There are hundreds of different reseach methods out there yet I am struck by how often we as Planners reach for the common focus group tool. Isn't it time we put the focus group to rest? Or at least explored other ways to find out what consumers are really thinking?


I have been inspired by the number of creative research methods used by resourceful planners, researchers and especially the design community. I invite you to share your experiences with non conventional research techniques here. Give us a bit of background, tell us what you did, and if it worked. I hope that this wiki will be a useful repository for all those who are eager to find original and relevant insights in new and engaging ways.


Thought Starters


IDEO Method Cards


The cards are 'intended as inspiration for practicing and aspiring designers as well as those seeking a creative spark in their work.'


Here are some of the best:


Try it yourself - create stimulations to help empathize with people and evaluate proposed designs.


Collage - ask participants to build a collage and to explain the significance of the images they've chosen.


Camera Journal - Ask potential users to keep a written and visual diary of their impressions, circumstances and activities.


Behavior sampling - Give people a paper or phone and ask them to record and evaluate the situation they are in when it rings.


A Day in the Life - Catalog the activities and contexts that users experience throughout an entire day.


Draw the Experience - Ask participants to visualize an experience through drawings and diagrams.


Narration - As they perform a process or execute a specific task, ask participants to describe aloud what they are thinking.


Time lapse video - Set up a time-lapse camera to record movements in a space over an extended period of time.


Word concept association - ask people to associate descriptive words with different design concepts or features in order to show how they perceive and value the issues.




Mobile research


Client unknown



IDEO was asked to develop innovations to the mobile phone.



The design firm's anthropologists never ask questions with a yes/no response nor questions which don't provide a platform for vivid storytelling. So instead of asking what someone hates about their mobile phone provider, they will ask them about a time when their mobile provider really let them down.



A colourful platform for rich insights.


Virgin Mobile



Launch Virgin Mobile's picture messaging service (MMS) and its 25c Virgin to Virgin price point. There was a need to find out how their core audience, teens, used picture messaging.



Planners at Host gave 8 pairs of friends within the target audience MMS capable phones with loads of credit for a week. Participants had to return the phones at the end of the week and they had to save every message they received (both MMS and SMS).



The core insight from research was that 'messaging, both picture and text, was being used in a very emotional and creative way. It was being used as a form of entertainment and as an extension of personality.'


Health & Beauty research


Elizabeth Arden



Launch the sexy new Britney Spears fragrance targeted at teens. We decided we needed to find out what sexy meant to women.



Inspired by the popularity of pole dancing classes, we interviewed a number of girls who were taking the classes (young and old) to find out why they were taking them. We also spoke to the teachers who were strippers to find out how they got into the industry, why the classes were so popular and how it really felt to be on stage.



We uncovered three interesting territories from the research. Being sexy is all about discovery and overcoming barriers of shyness, etc; Sexiness is all about being in control, having the power to manipulate your audience; Sexiness must be natural, it's confidence you can't fake.


Unknown client



Develop new health and beauty products to target at teens.



Interviewed the target audience not only about their attitudes and habits towards health and beauty but also about their lifestyle in general. Also spoke to people who could inform us about their lifestyle (ie parents, siblings, teachers, partners, cab drivers) as well as those who had a deep or weird relationship with health and beauty ie burn victims, drama queens, triathletes, plastic surgeons, cosmeticians,etc.



We uncovered a number of interesting territories including 'Beauty ROI' if you're going to invest in looking good, there better be some noticeable returns; 'Effortless Beauty' looking good is important but it can't look like you spent hours on it; 'Miss World' beauty is a competition, you need to not only look good but better than the person you're with; and 'Mirror, Mirror' if you feel beautiful/healthy on the inside it will show on the outside.







Launch the new VW GTI. Make GTI regain its position as the original hot hatch.



Crispin Porter and Bogusky's cognitive anthropologists conducted two-hour in-home interviews with two dozen VW GTI buyers, all men 18 to 30. The researchers sent the subjects an assignment in advance of visits: Make a collage with magazine pictures to illustrate how they felt about Japanese "tuner" cars, like Honda (HMC ) Civics, on which owners tack thousands of dollars in speed-enhancing and cosmetic accessories. Then cut out pictures representing the European tuner cars like GTI and BMW M cars that are accessorized at the German factories.


Crispin's researchers then asked them to write epitaphs on paper tombstones after the phrase "Here Lies the Japanese Hot Hatch," and recipes that begin with, "My perfect recipe for driving is..."



One GTI fan contrasted cutouts of Tweety Bird and a tuner "dude" wearing a chrome dollar-sign necklace to represent the Asian tuner "posers" with images of a black wolf and Ninja warrior depicting the "more authentic and serious" Euro tuner crowd.


One recipe read: "One S-curve, a pinch of fishtail, two parts turbo toast, an ounce of hard rock music. Combine and bring to a boil."


The strategy drawn from all this was to flog the GTI as tuned in Germany by speed-happy engineers rather than at some U.S. neighborhood retail joint.


Unknown client



Recommend new car innovations for women.



IDEO anthropologists often draw on learnings from other industries and apply them to their particular challenge. This is called cross-pollination. Their researchers recruited female staffers and friends to shop till they dropped at retailers like Urban Outfitters and Origins, immersing themselves in the culture of women's shopping. They also gave a number of women a fictional budget and sent them out to dealers to 'buy' a new car.



While many women love to shop, most car dealers make them feel miserable. The shopping experiences at home decor shops demonstrated that women were drawn to certain lightness and whimsy.




Unknown client



IDEO launched a new food product.



Anthropologists at IDEO asked moms to create a food map of everything eaten during the day. Then the researcher handed out emotional stickers bearing evocative words like guilty, healthy, satisfied, balanced, and stuffed to stick on their food map for the day. The words were meant to help express how people's food choices actually made them feel. Above where they described their meals was a separate line to put in what they wished they'd eaten. Moms were also asked to plot their energy throughout the day.



The process created a series of richly textured food journeys that conveyed an individual and emotional sense of what people eat and aspire to in their daily routines.




Unknown client



Design shoes.



Each unfocus group (people with extreme and exceptional profiles) participant was asked to bring a couple pairs of shoes. The participants showed the shoes they'd bought and talked about their feelings for footwear. The researcher went on to introduce some design themes IDEO had developed through its work on the project - Relaxation, Secrets and Invisibility. The participants were split into small groups in which they had to prototype a shoe that represented on of those themes.



The prototypes gave IDEO a clearer sense of some of the qualities people desire in shoes.


Financial products


Unknown client



Innovate financial services products.



Each unfocus group (people with extreme and exceptional profiles) participant was asked to bring in something that represented their approach to finances, which ranged from impecably organized binders to haphazard shoe boxes crammed with receipts.



The 'homework' gave IDEO a much richer starting point for people to start discussing their financial habits.




Border Film Project

Hundreds of disposable cameras were distributed amongst two groups on different sides of the U.S.-Mexico border: undocumented migrants crossing the desert into the United States and American Minutemen trying to stop them.



Anatomical basis of facial expressions learning tool - help decoding non verbal behavior



A national project to instruct and inspire people to record each others' stories in sound. Stories are recorded in soundproof recording booths across the country.



Want to see video of consumers grocery shopping? Look no further.



Wonder what's in people's fridge these days? This one's for you.

Hoping someone will reveal the contents of their bag to you? Here you go.


Consumer generated media

Do you work on pain-relievers, dental floss, shampoo/conditioner, plastic wrap products, deodorant, or instant coffee? Make sure you checkthis out.



a la Saatchi's



See what people are saying about your brand and graph how much buzz your campaign has generated.



Find out what people are saying (both positive and negative) about your brand.


Grocery Lists

Tap into the largest online collection of grocery lists.


Social networking sites


Curious as to what women really think about beauty, health, and relationships? Then check out Sisterwoman, think My Space for girls.


The Bubble Project

Ji Lee posted bubbles on top of movie posters, ads and signs all over New York City. Passers were invited to fill them in.



An ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.


We Feel Fine

Every few minutes, this site searches the world's newly posted blog entries for occurences of the phrases 'I feel' and 'I am feeling.' When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence and identifies the feeling expressed in that sentence. The results is a database of several million human feelings.


More methods





Importance of storytelling


[http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/8486.asp|Encourage Consumers to Tell the Tale

'Smart marketers should be enabling storytelling (via blogs, communities, podcasts, camera phones), on a multitude of platforms (SMS, web, email, retail environments, IM, video games)'


Jason Oke, senior planner at Leo Burnett Toronto says, 'how we feel about a brand, and which products and services we choose, is usually explained by a fantastically complex set of factors: the brands our parents used, the brands we see people around us use, the image of the brand, our personal experience with it, a sale, a half-remembered ad from 10 years ago, and so on. This is probably best explained as a story - we may both buy Tide, but there's a different narrative that brought each of us to pick it up.'


What your drink tells me about you

Are you a martini drinker or do you prefer G&T? How bartenders decode your personality from your order.


The Exotic in the Everyday

'How do we get inspiration? How do you get away from your own world and experience another? How do we question our values and beliefs?'


Design consultant, Rory Hamilton, suggest that one way to broaden your horizons and generate original ideas is to explore the Exotic in the Everyday. Here's some of his ideas:


1. Take photos or get someone else to take them.

2. Take a friend with you.

3. Go to unusual shops.

4. There’s something about travel.

5. Go abroad.


Qual Remix

Fascinating paper written by John Griffiths (and a few others) of Planning Above and Beyond. The paper challenges the so called independence and authority of the research group moderator.


The Brain

Paper by Jon Howard-Spink entitled 'Current thinking about the brain means we need to change the way brands are researched.'



Great article on how companies are increasingly using ethnography to influence product desing.




Bug lists and Idea wallets


From IDEO's Ten Faces of Innovation, 'Anthropologists write down bits and pieces that surprise them, especially things that seem broken. A bug list focuses on the negative - the things that bug you - while idea wallets contain both innovative concepts worth emulating and problems that need solving.


Thoughtless acts


Jane Fulton Suri from IDEO has compiled a book of pictures of humans going about their everday lives conducting thoughtless acts. 'Some of the curious quirks and habits of people navigating their ever-changing world: how they respond to their environment, or exploit a novel situation, or adapt objects for their own use-often in ways the creators of those objects never anticipated. Some of these clever human adaptions are quite intentional, while others are almost unconscious. These 'acts' can spark your thinking.'

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