Don’t Hesitate … Triangulate

So, you ask someone … “what do you like, ice cream or cookies?” and you get your answer, right?  But wait, not so fast!  Consider this:  they may say “ice cream” but that might be because it’s a beautiful sunny day and the ice cream truck has just passed.   Yet, quite honestly, they much prefer a chocolate sandwich cookie (dipped in milk, of course) after their evening meal.  That being the case, you can’t always take people at their word, can you?  Not that
they intentionally try to mislead but often immediate circumstances have more to do with their answer than the question itself.
Here’s proof I think that this is the case:  In a worldwide study posing
the question on brand respect, it was stated that Wal*Mart was top of the
heap–the most respected worldwide brand, this, according to a report by Brand Finance, a UK-based brand valuation consultant.   Of course I’m not faulting the research whatsoever since Wal*Mart is certainly one of the top used brands, but that is not the point.  The question was, “which is the most RESPECTED brand?” Further, I pose this question … does brand recognition, or use, translate into brand respect?  Frankly, I can’t answer that without asking more questions, can you?  My gut is telling me that it does not but I’d hate to stake my reputation, and a potentially huge campaign (with significant monetary output), on my gut.  We need to dig deeper. 

In this instance, the need is to go beyond the numbers. Sure, it’s great to
get a quick gut-check on brands offering one view or response to the question,
but now let’s go beyond the numbers.  Why did the respondents choose what
they did?  What, specifically, do they respect in a brand?  Is there anything about the brand they feel could be changed in order to increase its level of respect, not just its use?  The broad-brush approach is certainly a valid approach but it’s just that — broad, so let’s take it to the next level
and listen to the consumers. 

Knowing the what and whys of a situation takes you from the 30,000 foot view
of the intimate and provides you insight far deeper and much more robust than
simple numbers on a page could ever do.  Next time you’re met with a number
don’t hesitate to ask ‘why’ and if there is no answer don’t hesitate to
triangulate.  Triangu-what?   Here, let me explain …
‘Triangulation is a powerful technique that facilitates validation of data
through cross verification from more than two sources. In particular, it
refers to the application and combination of several research methodologies
in the study of the same phenomenon’. [Wikipedia]  Ahh!  You see, there are many ways to achieve this by bringing in a researcher who is well-versed in more than any one methodology, open to approaches which often need a little
wiggle room, and consequently will afford you the opportunity to not only obtain the numbers but uncover the whys.

BULLETIN!!!!! Sociologist Turns Market Researcher…and why that’s important to you

It’s wild out there!  Enticements for consumers are everywhere in the form of promos, TV ads, radio sound bites, billboards, magazine slicks, newspaper announcements, etc.  Trouble is there is so much out there that today’s consumers are not listening.  They are tired of the clamor.  They are tired of too many pages of advertising in every newspaper and magazine they pick up.   They are looking for substance – they are looking for what THEY need, not for what you want them to need.  They’re waiting for you to catch their interest so they can discover that you provide the very item and/or service they need.  So, how do you do that?

Well, you start with a researcher who knows about people and how to discover their needs and satisfy them.  The folks who try to sell you services based on their slick advertising/marketing experience but who haven’t an idea how to glean the clues to their customer needs from the very people they hope to serve simply sell you short.  You need a people person to learn about people – those individuals who translate into your customers once you fill their needs.

Would you hire a butcher to cut the fabric for your most important business suit?  The butcher wields a mean knife and can cut with the best of them.  Oh, that’s right, he cuts meat, but hey, cutting is cutting, right?  Your researcher or, worse yet, your staff person, might be the butcher you’ve hired instead of the well-trained human observer who has the tools in his/her workbag to discover what your potential clients want.  Sure, your butcher might even run a focus group, but does he/she know enough about human nature to ask the right questions? 

Let me explain:  I share this from Wikipedia:  “Quantitative designs approach social phenomena through quantifiable evidence, and often rely on statistical analysis of many cases (or across intentionally designed treatments in an experiment) to create valid and reliable general claims Qualitative designs emphasize understanding of social phenomena through direct observation, communication with participants, or analysis of texts, and may stress contextual and subjective accuracy over generality.”  Sociologists tend to divide in their chosen approach here, but a researcher who uses both techniques, starting by understanding your potential clients’ personal needs can offer your company so much more than just slick ads.