Investor Daily, 26 April 2007
Research Manager, MarkPlus Insight
A number of clients questioned me on why their products have low sales levels while research show that consumers are most familiar with their products. Why is there some sort of discontinuity between top-of-mind awareness and purchase decision?
For me the answer would be simple enough: There is actually no direct connectivity between top-of-mind and purchase decision. Top-of-mind only demonstrates how familiar the respondents are to a certain product. Whether they will actually buy it or not is a different matter altogether.
Such case happens because top-of-mind evaluation is conducted through quantitative research while consumer reasoning that form the base of purchase decisions can only be analyzed through qualitative research. Thus in reality, quantitative research results can only skim the surface and not actually capture insights from respondents or consumers.
Therefore, as I’ve explained in a past article in this column, starting a few years back we’ve been trying to concentrate more in qualitative research. We believe the result of qualitative research will be more beneficial to companies and can act as the basis of determination of competitiveness excellence.
Now I will re-elaborate qualitative research. In qualitative research, there exists such premise: “What counts is what cannot be counted”. Thus, in qualitative research what is of importance is not the percentage of top-of-mind, for example, but factors that influence the respondents’ decisions – especially subconsciously. These results will help companies understand consumers better and consequently create better products, better service, and more effective advertising.
We should bear in mind that respondents are not conditioned to thinking deeply about the reasons they buy/don’t buy or like/don’t like a certain product, service, or advertisement. Probably they would quickly respond to direct questions such as “How often do you shop for baby formula?” but tend to keep silent or have difficulties in giving an answer clearly when asked more abstract questions like “By feeding your child this particular baby formula, what would you expect from him/her when he/she grows up?”
To capture such things, a number of tools and techniques are needed to help respondents access what forms the base of their rational reasoning of an issue or a topic. Other than by using VenuSight®, as I’ve written before, we can also utilize focus group discussions (FGD). Most importantly, respondents must have the freedom to express their deepest thoughts without feeling that they are being questioned or interrogated like crime suspects in a police station.
The most common technique used is called “projection”. In short, this means letting respondents externally talk about internal subjects. The respondents talk about subject external to them, when these subjects are actually a representative of their inner or deepest thoughts. This method makes them more open since they don’t feel shy, anxious, or responsible of their opinions.
For instance an FGD is conducted with a client of an automotive company. The FGD moderator is free to come up with a scenario that enables the respondents to openly express their opinion around strangers, in this case other FGD respondents in the room.
A sample of such scenario would be a fictional story about a family that consists of a father, a mother, a son, two daughters, and a grandfather. The son will be graduating from his Bachelor’s program next month. Both parents have agreed to buy a car as graduation gift for their son but they have yet to pick a model.
Now the respondents in the mentioned FGD are asked to do a role play and act as characters of this fictional family. They can openly express their opinions on what brand and model of car they should get for the son. Respondents have to keep in mind that the opinions they express are not their personal opinions, but rather opinions of the characters that they are taking the role of.
I’m sure that a lively discussion will ensue. Although the respondents would maybe try to ensure that what they’re expressing aren’t personal opinions, but certainly the opinions are based on their personal experiences. This way more honest answers and a deeper insight may be revealed compared to asking them whether they like a certain model of car. The result of such qualitative research will definitely be more beneficial than just a top-of-mind number that only contributes to false pride.