Research vs. Insights?

by Barbara Milgram | Posted in Research |

Aug

20

2012

Everywhere I look online, people are talking about insights.  It’s clearly a hot topic.

I’ve spoken about insights in the context of time…something all too rare nowadays.  The relationship between time and insights is crucial because while research can be done quickly, insights require time in order to actually put the pieces of the puzzle together. Here’s why: 

Insights are not immediately apparent.  They need to be poked at to reveal themselves, and that takes time.

Insights deliver a narrative that does more than summarize data, and that takes time.

Insights thrive with a consultative client partnership and that needs to be nurtured, which takes time.

Insights do more than meet objectives.  They provide perspective and recommend action, which of course, takes time.


Haste Makes Waste, Part 2

by Barbara Milgram | Posted in Focus Groups |

Jun

25

2012

Opinions Are Easy to Come By; Insight Takes Time

The stock market is up. No, wait, it’s down again. It’s back up again. If you look at the numbers, you find out about today.  You get a snapshot, but not the big picture, and not what is really needed to make an informed decision.

It’s the same with market research. There’s so much pressure to hurry up that genuine insights never get a chance to bubble up to the surface.  We wind up with a snapshot, not the big picture.  There’s so much undiscovered magic.

In qualitative research, I hear tons of words, but they don’t all mean something.  It takes time to sort through what is said and understand what  people really mean.  That’s how I  arrive at the insight that will truly move things forward.


Empathy is Essential for Focus Groups

by Barbara Milgram | Posted in Focus Groups |

Jun

18

2012

An article in fastcodesign.com started with a headline bashing focus groups, but contained an interesting perspective.  The author suggests that great marketing and branding comes from “synching up your brand with the zeitgeist, or people’s unrealized wants and needs, by tapping into good old-fashioned empathy.”  I like this viewpoint.  I also think, however, that good moderators have empathy oozing out of their skin.  In fact, this is why they are good moderators.  They truly understand the people they talk to – no matter who they are.  Good moderators do more than follow a guide, asking questions that do nothing more than evoke flat-footed answers.  Good moderators develop a strong bond with the people they talk to and harness their empathy to truly understand what people mean.  Good moderators are incredibly empathetic and can identify with all people in all walks of life.  It’s what makes qualitative research rewarding and useful.


Haste Makes Waste

by Barbara Milgram | Posted in Focus Groups, Research |

Jun

11

2012

There’s an interesting article on Quirks.com warning researchers not to rush through the qualitative screening process.  This has been a concern of mine recently.  Over the past few years, the lead-time for many projects has shrunk (along with budgets) while the pressure to deliver powerful insights has grown greatly.  It used to be standard to have two weeks for recruiting.  Lately, I’m routinely asked to recruit in less than one week.  Once I was only given three days.

Yes…this is doable, but not without trade-offs.  Finding articulate and creative respondents, simply takes time.  Sure, we can fill the groups.  But not always with the people we want.

Sometimes, just like life in general, it is better to breathe.  Slow down.  Be thoughtful.  After all, we’ll have time to do it over if the research is not helpful.  Why not invest just a little more time to get it right the first time around?


The Magic of In-Person Research

by Barbara Milgram | Posted in Focus Groups, Research |

Sep

16

2011

The Internet feels like it’s changing everything and social media is amazing.  There’s literally a conversation happening 24-7 about anything you can think of.  People share viewpoints in endless streams, and now even market research turns to the web for consumer insights.  Some even question why would anyone go to all the trouble and expense of having an in-person focus group.

Here’s what I think:  For the same reason you go to all the trouble and expense of visiting your family or traveling to a foreign city in person.  Even though it’s far away and costs a lot of money and you have to take off work and hire someone to walk the dog and water the plants, ultimately there’s still no substitute for being there.


Can Decision Fatigue Skew Focus Groups?

by Barbara Milgram | Posted in Focus Groups, Research |

Aug

29

2011

With great interest, I recently read “To Choose is to Lose” , an article in The New York Times magazine about decision fatigue.  Someone working in a social psychology lab uncovered the “decision fatigue” phenomenon by observing data showing that mental energy and the ability to evaluate options and make decisions is finite, and runs especially low toward the end of a day.

A postdoctoral fellow working at this same lab noticed this while registering for wedding gifts.  At the end of the day, when her mental energy was low, her tendency was to pick anything.  The burnt orange coffee pot?  Why not?  The Mickey Mouse dish set?  Fine, whatever!  Just no more thinking!  No more deciding!

I knew it!  This article confirmed what I’ve always sensed.  Having facilitated hundreds of evening focus groups, I now have a scientific name for what I sensed intuitively.  Consumers in evening focus groups suffer from “decision fatigue”.


Focus Group Play Dates

by Barbara Milgram | Posted in Focus Groups, Projective Techniques |

Aug

18

2011

In case you were wondering, no one wants his insurance agent to be a cow.

Recently I used toy animals as a projective technique to help uncover what consumers really want from insurance agents.  These are extremely detailed toy animals made of some polymer. They are the right size to fill your palm and watching consumers hold their “idealized” agent in the palm of their hand was incredibly illuminating. It is research and it is play: a technique recently written up by The New York Times for yielding surprisingly deep and fresh insights.

I have a plastic box that holds a couple dozen of these animals, which I dump on the table in front of my group.  Invariably, people’s faces light up.  The discussion about insurance, or any topic for that matter starts to look like fun.


Consumers are People, Not Lab Rats

by Barbara Milgram | Posted in Focus Groups |

Aug

02

2011

If I could do market research about jetpacks, people would beg to be in my focus groups.  Alas, many research topics are rarely that sexy so we must entice participants instead with pay.  But even money only buys people’s time, and what market research focus groups really need–deep introspection, stimulating conversation, and fresh insight–takes more than money.  It takes relationship.

As you know, every transaction is really about relationship: creating a connection of trust between suppliers and customers.  But when you’re talking about a new product or something ordinary and commonplace, consumers either don’t have that relationship or don’t even know they have one in the first place.  They need a compelling reason to consider one. That’s where I come in.


Getting Through to Jaded Consumers

by Barbara Milgram | Posted in Focus Groups |

Jul

25

2011

UntitledIn marketing, we frequently talk about jaded consumers:  How to breach the fortresses they build against anything that smells like marketing.

My market research focus groups are stocked with jaded consumers.  There’s the tired guy who just got off work who’s thinking about his dog, or maybe even his date that starts in an hour.  Someone else is wondering whether a hundred bucks is really a good reason to be stuck in a room full of strangers talking about something he doesn’t care about.  Inevitably, there’s the single mom wondering how her kids are doing.  Maybe there’s the lady who didn’t get much sleep the night before and can’t concentrate on much of anything.


The Secrets Projective Techniques Reveal

by Barbara Milgram | Posted in Projective Techniques |

Jun

10

2011

idiom_wolf_sheep_clothing_backgroundGenerally, a wolf in sheep’s clothing symbolizes a sneak. So I was surprised when a pregnant woman picked this image to exemplify her feelings.

“He’s wearing a costume,” she said. “And I’m kind of wearing one, too.”

Really? I wasn’t expecting that at all, but that’s what I love about Projective Techniques. They elicit a depth of insight that direct questions do not.

This helped us learn that in becoming mothers, women worried they would no longer recognize themselves, just like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  They worried they would be forever changed.

Armed with this learning, a major health care company had the insight to evolve its maternity program and appeal to women who did not feel sick, but felt personally transformed.

I’ve been doing this a long time, but I continue to be inspired by the discovery of fresh and surprising insights using Projective Techniques.