Getting Emotional About Market Research

You may be familiar with the rather sedate behaviour of your average research group - politely sharing the talk-time and thinking carefully before speaking - and that can be a problem.

Analytical thinking comes naturally to many people now. It's the result of higher levels of education, more reading and people hearing analyses and critiques in the media.

But as we know, when shopping, and making buying decisions we often operate at a more emotional level. The rational stuff only goes part of the way. To get really useful outputs, we need to release the emotions around a product or category.

By contrast, here's an exchange from a recent market research group we moderated. We were getting the desired results - conflict, impassioned talk and dropped defences!

"I'll never need it," the woman insisted, in response to a fellow respondent's attempts to persuade her of the benefits of a particular brand of stain remover.

"Whatever I have that's hard to clean; clothes, anything, I use Bold 3... (for non UK-based readers, this is a brand of detergent for washing clothes)" she continued passionately. "Sometimes when I've got a lasagne dish where the food is really baked on hard, I'll soak it in Bold 3 and it will clean it up a treat!

So how do you get people to express more of that emotion?

One way to do this is by including conflict panels and passion panels in a research programme. For the former we are bringing together people with very different attitudes to a brand - or loyalists to two competing brands.

In the course of the (often heated) discussion we usually get to a new level of understanding about what these people think about the two different brands. This can help with both positioning work and identifying innovation opportunities.

Passion panels are similar - here the people recruited are "beyond advocacy." They LOVE their brand. By talking with these people, we can get to understand the key emotional purchase and usage drivers for particular products.

Such panels are specifically designed and expertly moderated, to release high level of emotion - but of course safely - for all those involved.

One of the most frequent comments we hear after such a panel is over, and people are putting on their coats is "actually, I didn't really know that that was why I bought product X. I'm clearer now!"

And that's just it. If we ask consumers, they will often tell us the things they think we want to know.

Rather, we need to facilitate the process of them working out what they really feel about the product.