Being creative in marketing research: the rise of modern technologies
By Dr Ben Voyer, Associate Professor at ESCP Business School
Has the good old questionnaire had its days? Research is increasingly relying on new technologies to improve our understanding of the marketplace.
In quantitative research, one of the most interesting fields of research of the last twenty years is undoubtedly the Implicit Attitude Test (IAT). The implicit attitude test addresses one of the main weaknesses of traditional self-reported attitudes (e.g. ‘how do you feel about Brand X?’): the fact that these attitudes can be ‘tainted’ by social desirability (i.e. the propensity that we all have to a certain extent to conform to normative opinions). Say for instance that you want to study the implicit attitudes (i.e. hidden preferences) that affect two car brands: Mercedes and Opel. What the implicit attitude test allows you to do is to see how fast consumers can categorise words or images that relate to Mercedes (vs Opel) with a list of good (vs bad) words or images. In other words, the implicit attitude test relies on response time to uncover the hidden biases that affect consumer preferences. If an association makes sense to a consumer (e.g. Mercedes & good) it will take him / her less time to categorise words or images referring to Mercedes (e.g. Class C, Mercedes logo…) in the same category as positive words (good, pleasant, joy…), compared with negative ones (e.g. bad, unpleasant, sad…). The technique can be used to compare two categories / brands (e.g. Mercedes vs Opel) or simply to measure implicit attitudes towards one product (see the ‘personlised IAT’), and is easily administered on a computer or over the Internet.
In qualitative research, two recent creative research methods have drawn my attention. The first one is Netnography, as theorised by Rob Kozinets. What netnography offers is a way to explore forums, blogs and other online material as an E-ethnographer. This technique is especially powerful to study online communities. The second one is the rise of portable video camera (sometimes referred to as Subcams, or SEBE – subjective evidence-based ethnography). These micro cameras offer high quality recording (with minimal invasiveness ) of the life of a consumer, and allows exploring shopping experiences from the consumer’s perspective. One of the interesting aspects of the methods is that it also allows a ‘confrontation interview’ with participants, where consumers can re-experience their shopping experience, looking at their own films.
Creative research methods are not limited to the ones mentioned here, and the use of neuroimaging techniques in marketing research regularly hits the news – for good or bad reasons. New technologies allow us to gain a different perspective on consumers and markets – but what is important to remember is that they still rely on the experience of the researcher in order to be able to make sense of most of the data. These methods are also best combines together: triangulation – looking at the same phenomena from different angles – is the key for robust research.