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New Insight Without Insanity

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results – then perhaps the way that many brands approach research today is good enough reason to question their sanity. After all, doesn’t it seem crazy to adhere to a brand discovery process that’s restricted to traditional focus groups and old-fashioned methods of quantitative research – while hoping you might discover something new? Especially when past experience tells you the outcome is likely to fall short of yielding new, mind-blowing, or game-changing insight.

I’m not saying focus groups and quant research studies are no longer relevant. Because to the contrary I think there will always be a need for artfully moderated focus groups and skillfully designed quant surveys. But what I am saying is that in an era of market research breakthroughs in neuroscience, behavioral psychology and biometrics – why would a brand limit their potential to learn? To me, it just doesn’t make sense as to why so many brands are unable to break away from the straightjacket of “the way we’ve always done things” and are unwilling to try something new.

Maybe it’s as simple as institutional inertia. Perhaps it’s fear of the untested? Because admittedly, there are some newer methods of insight mining that do require a leap of faith – given their unproven premise and methodologies. But for sure, there’s also a lot of merit in trying something unconventional and in taking a “nothing-ventured nothing-gained” approach to research. After all, there’s always the chance that your brand might just uncover some type of mind-bending insight – and garner a better understanding of how humans think, feel and act.

And so, by way of example and in no particular order, here are a couple of highly progressive research methodologies that I’ve come across during the last few years:

Sentient Decision Science – a methodology that’s grounded on measuring consumer response times to automatic brand associations and also provides a way to model underlying drivers of brand behavior.

Emotion Mining – a way to mine the human subconscious, get to brand truths, and identify behavioral drivers by using a free association technique and asking the fundamental question of how consumers feel.

Protobrand Meta4 – uses an imagery-inspired projective technique, “metaphor elicitation” and interpretive analysis to provide richer qualitative and quantitative understanding of brand feelings.

BuzzBack – applies the use of an online tool to leverage the power of projective psychology by using e-collages and thought bubbles to provide a faster read on brand imagery and perceptions.

Innerscope – the application of biometrics and eye-tracking technology to measure subconscious reaction to brand, messaging and media stimulus and to ultimately map emotional engagement.

To all of the above options, I say very interesting and worth exploring. Although I hear you ask, if any of these methods (or other forms of new world research like this) are really worth a try, given how much is always at stake when making insight mining decisions? Well, I guess that’s ultimately up to you and other responsible brand stakeholders to decide. But for me, it’s hard not to say that I think many of these approaches have real potential – especially for brands that compete in undifferentiated or highly commoditized categories.

And so in conclusion, what’s really the definition of insanity when it comes to brand research? Well, maybe it’s just downright insane to not at least try a new approach to insight mining and to see what’s possible.

As always, I welcome any thoughts, added commentary, or different perspectives.

Happy New Year.

  1. Diana Moya
    January 15, 2011 at 12:19 am

    Great Article. In fact, as an account planner I’ve been looking for ways to get deeper insights from consumers. I like the Zmet Technique because it applies different techniques to get into the subconscious of the consumer, such as metaphors, narratives etc.
    I found really interesting the methodologies that you mention here. Do you know any other methodology or technique that could be applied by an account planner and not necessarily run by research softwares.


    • January 15, 2011 at 12:47 am

      Glad you liked the article. The Protobrand Meta4 methodology is very similar to Zmet. It’s possible to recreate the Meta4 methodology on a smaller scale using your own self-selected images. You could also replicate some of the Buzzback techniques using your projective techniques as part of a more progressive focus group format or simple online survey – and I believe that you can buy the license to self-adminster emotion mining. There’s also another methodology from a research organization called Drum Circle that’s worth looking into. Good luck!

  2. January 20, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    Good blog! I reallydo love how it is easy on my eyes as well as the details are well composed. I am wondering how I could be notified whenever a new post was been made. I have subscribed to your rss feed which really should work! Have a good day!

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