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What’ a Good Adventure Story without the Photos?

Sure, a survey is easier to create, administer and analyze. It makes my job easy. But photos….they show things a survey can’t like context and details we don’t even think to mention. They meet consumers where they are.



Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Big Ideas Series, a column highlighting the innovative thinking and thought leadership at IIeX events around the world. Kelsy Saulsbury will be speaking at IIeX North America (June 13-15 in Atlanta). If you liked this article, you’ll LOVE IIeX NA. Click here to learn more.

By Kelsy Saulsbury, Manager, Consumer Insights & Analytics, The Schwan Food Company

As a child I loved to explore inside the large black trunk that held my father’s things from Vietnam. His army uniform with “Saulsbury” on the chest. Black velvet scrolls with fierce orange tigers painted on them. And photos. Photos of my dad as a young man in his army uniform. Photos of my dad with his Vietnamese friends a world away from my rural Minnesota childhood.

For years my father and I daydreamed together of when the two of us would go to Vietnam. To the place of those photos. To the place of his memories and of my imagination. Then what seemed like only a daydream became a reality as we traveled this past December throughout Vietnam. Reconnecting with friends he hadn’t seen in 46 years. Seeing places he remembered and places he’d never been. And we took more photos.

Photos to help us remember. To make sure we remember. Photos to share. Photos to show others and tell our stories. What’s a good travel adventure without the photos? Photos are powerful. They sear into our brains…our memories…our imagination. They bring to life our stories and add a truth beyond our words. As we strive for powerful stories in research, we need photos.

Sure a survey is easier to create, administer and analyze. It makes my job easy. But photos….they show things a survey can’t like context and details we don’t even think to mention. They meet consumers where they are. It’s a world of Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. Taking and sharing photos has become a normal part of life in a way that taking a survey never has. Photos make us listen and remember and imagine in ways that charts and bullet points don’t.

As you think about your next project consider it a travel adventure. A sacred adventure where your consumers let you into their lives. Gather their data and their stories how you always have, but find ways to also gather their photos along the way because you know at the end you’ll want to share an amazing adventure story…their story. One that people remember. One that sparks the imagination.

Ideas for capturing photos:

  • Add optional questions within surveys that ask for a photo upload.
    • Ask for a caption or explanation of the photo as well.
  • Run a small activity parallel to your main research asking for photos with captions.
  • Pull photos from social media with hashtags related to your area of study.
  • Ask for “in the moment” photos to capture consumer experiences.
    • From shopping to private moments at home.
    • From late night hours to special events – times when a researcher isn’t likely to be invited, but a smart phone camera is already there.

Let the adventure begin!

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4 responses to “What’ a Good Adventure Story without the Photos?

  1. Thanks, Kelsy, for sharing a poignant anecdote about your trip to Vietnam with your dad. It’s a good reminder of the power of readily-available data for market research. Your post echos what many qual researchers have been doing for years – asking respondents to provide photos. This is often a good (less costly) substitute for in-person ethnography. Without being there with the consumer/respondent, we can have them take photos (short videos, even) to bring us into their world to help us more fully understand the world they live in. Even in non-ethnographic qualitative studies, we sometimes give participants short exercises to take pictures of specific things. It’s a fun activity for them; it creates more engagement in the process. Thanks again for your important reminder.

  2. What a great idea! I’d love to see examples of this from other people who read this blog, posted in an upcoming blog post. It sounds like a wonderful world to explore, from the research side of things. After all, we are not just dealing with data in research, but people and their behaivor are who/what we are researching. 🙂

  3. Kelsy – Great story – great storytelling, and YES, Imagery has a lasting impact and engages the viewer in a real way. Perhaps not to the extent that some cultures believe that a photograph takes part of the soul, it is personal and enduring and as such integral in a relationship.

    With all of the internet tools and data, we’re all still people in the end. Your recommendation builds a little bit more to the bridge for where technology and people can intersect in a meaningful, human way.



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