Traditional market research has always been criticised on the grounds that, generally, people don't often do what they say they do. It's clear to anyone who has ever watched a group discussion that there are many motivators at play for each of the individuals taking part:
- social pressures, not wanting to appear socially undesirable
- intellectual pressures, not wanting to appear stupid or unknowledgeable
- pressure to be liked by the moderator, to say what they want to hear
- the fee and the spread of free wine and snacks
-and so on
Although group discussions seem to have gone out of fashion, especially here in Germany, I must confess to having found them useful on topics such as creative development or exploring brand image, especially when conducted sensitively with plenty of projective techniques. But they have never been that useful for uncovering the reasons, if "reasons" they are, why people buy one brand over another.
These days, a lot of "insight" is gleaned from listening into discussions on the internet, but, to be honest, this is just as full of the do:say contradiction as a typical group discussion, even if the people involved are doing this unpaid with no wine and snacks. In fact, I think there may be even more posturing and taking stances on the internet as you can hide behind anonymity.
I catch myself doing it. No, I never buy frozen processed meat products anyway. Yes, amazon is a big bullying company that puts little bookshops out of business. I have ordered from amazon yet again this week and last week I bought a 1kg pack of "beef" tortellini...
Getting underneath the do:say contradiction is a holy grail for marketers and another book, from behavioural psychology roots rather than the analytical psychology roots of qualitative market research attempts to throw some more light on the subject: Unconscious Branding
, by Douglas Van Praet. Mr Van Praet is an ad-man turned behavioural therapist turned ad-man again (I think) and has looked at the way that behavioural therapists work with their clients. This he's turned into a 7-step process to change people's behaviour, via communication, with regard to buying brands:
1. Interrupt the pattern
2. Create comfort
3. Lead the imagination
4. Shift the feeling
5. Satisfy the critical mind
6. Change the association
7. Take action
The success of the viral sensation "The Force" for VW is explained in terms of the interruption in the pattern of how we view Darth Vader by introducing a cute version.
I am very happy to believe that this process may well lead to success when working intensively with individual clients who consciously wish to make a behavioural change over a period of month. But applying it to mass communication for people who are probably quite happy with their current brand behaviour?
I'm not sure.