Putting the human at the heart of quantitative research
Let's face it, we're not robots! On the daily, we make decisions based on how we feel about ourselves and the world around us. As researchers, we need to get inside the human mind, figure out what makes people happy, and give them more of it.
In recent years, we’ve made good strides in creating more human survey experiences and introducing time-response tools to tap into less conscious parts of the mind. But the world of market research has mostly relegated deep human understanding to qualitative research, and quantitative research is for tackling the numbers behind it.
If you take a step back and really think about what humans want from companies - it’s rather quite simple and intuitive:
· Are you improving my life in some way?
· Are you giving me a reason to care about you?
Quantitative research can play a big role in helping answer these real-life human issues so that brands can do a better job of creating products, services and marketing strategies that connect with people.
Focus on the human impact
Typically, when we’re trying to understand how our products and services perform in a quantitative survey, we use fairly standardized sets of questions like product appeal, purchase intent, willingness to pay, because we have been for ages. These are inherently narcissistic and self-absorbed lines of questioning for a business, centred around how humans can improve their business. We’re essentially asking, “Do you like me?” “Will you buy me?” “How much are you going to give me?” “Tell me, tell me, do you really want me?”
My friend recently bought me a lemon squeezer for my birthday, claiming: “this thing changed my life!” How life-changing could a lemon squeezer be? But I’ve been told not to look a gift horse in the mouth. Now months later, I find myself evangelizing about the same lemon squeezer to anyone who will listen. Why? Because it gets EVERY SINGLE DROP of lemon juice out of that damn lemon, and it’s fun to use while I whip up the recipe I stumbled upon while scrolling Instagram for longer than I probably should have.
This lemon squeezer is a great example of how humans think about products they’re willing to champion. Here’s what we should really be trying to understand as we draft a survey:
· Does it help people do something new or better?
· Does it give people joy?
· Does it allow people to live their values?
I think surveys can do much more to understand these dynamics. Uncovering how products and services are impacting people’s lives can be a huge unlock in building brands that truly connect with people.
Make people REALLY feel something
Stanford Graduate School of Business Professor of Marketing, Baba Shiv, suggests that 90%+ of our decisions are being shaped by our emotional brand system!
Mapping emotions outside of the brain is challenging given it’s such a complex and ever-changing system. That said, we do have some good frameworks from the world of psychology.
One critical piece of the puzzle is the strength of an emotion. Does something that makes you feel “kinda angry” the same as “super angry?” Does it take up the same amount of mental space? Does it illicit the same sorts of actions? Probably not.
In quantitative research especially, we frequently present people with an array of possible emotions they might feel and take people’s word for it – and assume it actually manifested into something meaningful. But we somehow miss the part about understanding the intensity of said emotion.
A recent ad for Cadbury Dairy Milk called “Speakerphone” is a great example of the simplicity of emotional strength. The conversation takes place between a son and father, reflecting a real-life situation where a parent is in a new vulnerable situation. As I watch the story unfold, I can’t help but feel strong emotions of pride and happiness. While I grew up in the US and don’t have a visceral connection to the Cadbury brand, I immediately understand the brand’s vibe. This ad continues to pop up in my head each time I see a Dairy Milk at the supermarket – I even picked one up for the first time two weeks ago to give it a try!
In order to create brands and products people really connect with, surveys can do a much better job of understanding whether we’re creating strong and meaningful emotions in our communications. Otherwise, we may be fooling ourselves into thinking we’re having a greater emotional effect on people than we are.
What does this mean for us?
While developing your business objectives and designing corresponding surveys, you should be asking the following questions:
1. How are we ensuring our offerings positively impact people?
a. What is the purpose of our brand and products?
b. Are we appropriately communicating that purpose?
c. Do people give us credit and realise these benefits in their lives?
2. What emotions do we want to create?
a. Are these coming through strongly?
b. Do these emotions help people ‘get’ our brand vibe?
c. Do the emotions motivate people to take any positive actions?
In a vast crowd where brands are trying to stand out, this human understanding can be a game-changer. It's the difference between being just another brand and being the one that people really connect with.