Getting emotional

The market research industry is often, and rightly so, accused of being about numbers. For marketers the right numbers can mean a decent budget for the next campaign or project. But the market research industry is turning its hand quite nicely to the more emotional side.

Jo Roberts
Jo Roberts

Some things you just can’t measure in numbers and those with an innovative streak are developing tools to delve into emotional response, which is a mightily difficult thing to do.

Asking a direct question about how someone feels does not often lead to a satisfying answer. One marketer who was speaking at a gathering about market research issues expressed his annoyance that people he was observing couldn’t articulate why they ate breakfast in a certain way. And they also couldn’t tell him the process with which they decide what to buy and eat at breakfast time. I’m sure that most would struggle to answer those questions because it’s not the sort of thing that any normal person spends a lot of time, or any time, rationalising.

But research gurus are trying to get around this problem. Many agencies I spoke to for the market research innovation update have developed really interesting ways of wheedling out a consumer’s real feelings. Some are using abstract paintings, or getting people to experiment with products in groups to observe how someone might use it in real life. Research agency Conquest is using avatars to get people to say how they feel. People can populate a room depending on how popular, or contagious they think something will be. I haven’t tried any of these techniques for myself yet, but they must be better than asking someone directly to articulate how they feel. You never know, these techniques might even help me to find out why I choose a particular cereal brand.