The Power of Authentic Storytelling

Storytelling is important.

In today’s world, the breadth of channels for telling stories is broad, and we are exposed to many more stories than we have been in the past. Research has always been in the business of telling stories but may not have always put a strong emphasis on telling a good story in a compelling way. The issue with storytelling in research is that a well told story can lead to strong action and decisiveness, but if some of the details are inaccurate or the conclusion is biased, teams can be much worse off.

The implication here is that we need to focus on the authenticity of the inputs to the story as much as we do in ensuring that the story itself is told well. Here are some tips for discovering and sharing a powerful insights story.

  • Focus on context and behavior: Consumers don’t always have an accurate view of what we do or how we will react. Gaining learning from people authentically primed by their real environment is critical for getting genuine data.
  • Ensure there is breadth and depth: Breadth is helpful in understanding themes, norms, etc. while also being useful in determining what is a breakthrough nugget that connects dots versus a potent outlier or distraction. Depth is needed to get to a level where those nuggets can be uncovered.
  • Bring humanity and humility (without forgetting the smarts): Humanity and humility are important attributes for researchers to possess in order to authentically connect with consumers and truly listen to their thoughts and opinions while remaining open to surprises in what is seen or heard. Using our smarts, we translate this data into insights and then these insights into recommended action.
  • Tell the story well: It is important to ensure the story is told succinctly and in a compelling way so that the key insights and recommendations are understood, and the team is motivated to act on them. Don’t sell your good insights short.

What story are you needing to discover and tell? From empathy to innovation and packaging to shopper insights, we have a team with solutions that cultivate authentic inputs while also knowing how to tell that story well.

In-Context Research Requires Environment AND Mindset

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As a company whose roots lie with in-store intercepts, we have always had an appreciation for the purity and predictability of learning about shopping behavior and testing concepts/packaging in a real retail environment with shoppers who were in the store to shop.  

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Reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman reinforced the idea that we need to preserve as much of the thought process purity as possible because the brain and the subconscious have a powerful ability to impact what we see and how we respond to things.

Thinking about in-store research in particular, there is a powerful difference between consumers who walk through the doors of a store to shop and those who walk in the doors to take part in a research project.  For the actual shoppers, they are thinking of what they shopping for, time constraints, budget, etc.  For pre-recruits, they are thinking about who they are going to meet for the research, what questions they are going to get asked, how they will “perform”, etc.  Each are primed for very different things. 

For research to be truly in-context, the environment needs to be real AND the mindset needs to be real.

The mission and mindset within each category can be critical to understand when learning about objectives like shelf breakthrough and concept understanding.  Someone that is in autopilot within a category is highly unlikely to break routine to consider something new or different no matter how impactful the packaging is.  Additionally, consumers use a number of subconscious short-cuts when shopping categories to simplify their shopping experience. So, what’s the implication?

There is NO way for results to be predictive IF respondents are approaching the research with the “game” mindset.

  • Be cautious when testing within retail “labs” because they consistently only check the “environment” box.   The primary issue here is respondents who are familiar with the objective and process and approach the shopping exercise as a game of “find out what is new or different.”  Recruitment plays a huge role in preventing this: make sure respondents haven’t done a similar type of activity within the last year at least.  Or just do the research in-store.
  • Rely as much as possible on intercepts and in-store recruits if conducting research in-store. 
  • Don’t overuse stores.  We recommend waiting several months before using the same store again to prevent running into the same shoppers again who already “know the drill”.

We have appreciated the traction in-context research has gained in recent years.  However, we have seen how the focus is almost always on the environment, not the mindset.  Make sure your next in-context research project accounts for  both.

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