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Is Qualitative Dead? No.

Qual and quant are like yin and yang. They enrich and complete each other. Deep ethnography, text analytics, implicit testing, facial coding and survey research should get together and start sharing and testing ideas.


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. Lana Novikova 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 Lana Novikova, Founder & CEO, Heartbeat Ai Technologies Inc. and Katja Bressette, Managing Director, Beacon Insight Group 

Katja and Lana were runner-up competitors for the 2016 Innovation Exchange Competition in Amsterdam. Katja is a seasoned qualitative researcher who has developed an innovative online hybrid approach. Lana is a hard-core quant researcher who wants to quantify the language of emotions and apply it to “big data.” What did Katja and Lana do? COLLABORATE.

Qual and quant are like yin and yang. They enrich and complete each other. Deep ethnography, text analytics, implicit testing, facial coding and survey research should get together and start sharing and testing ideas. That’s exactly what our talk “Marketers vs. Millennials” at IIeX Atlanta is about – testing a new collaborative approach of deep qualitative and emotion text analytics.

Do you wonder what Millennials feel about collaboration? Check out this emotion map based on 200 open-ended survey responders from US and Canada:

We have been seeing lots of great advances in quantitative research and analytics, especially when it comes to text analytics, neuromarketing, implicit association testing, data visualization, artificial intelligence and “big data”. In the world of data overload today, one only hopes that these advances will solve and not add to the overload.

We started this post with a story that illustrates the idea of collaboration. These stories are a domain of deep qualitative research. Without stories, the insights are flat and lifeless. Stories make quantitative insights multidimensional, memorable, and easier to integrate by our multidimensional brains. A story is how we create and evoke deep understanding and empathy.

We believe that qual is not dead. It is not about competition between qual and quant, or a race to the top – it is about collaboration to create a stronger story, more empathy, and thereby better communication, smarter products and stronger brands. Integration and collaboration is the name of the game.

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4 responses to “Is Qualitative Dead? No.

  1. It seems that every few years, there is a battle between the value of quantitative and qualitative research. That battle has now shifted with analytics in the picture and many companies believe that analytics, data mining and data modeling provide a better picture. In terms of what has happened, they absolutely do and they do it very quickly. In terms of what will happen they are fairly accurate (at least a accurate as survey research ever was) but and it is a big but, they don’t demonstrate influence or attitude.

    Consumers tend to fall on tried and true even if it isn’t exactly what they want because they need consistency. When it becomes clear that there are better options, they explore. While it would be great to credit marketing with that awareness, the factors that facilitate change are often a mishmash of reasons interspersed with the events of daily life, which makes it hard to measure not only ZMOTs but also journeys. If it were easy we would have had one solution long ago.

    I often wonder why we don’t learn from the past, certainly there are cyclic evolutions that tend to repeat; but that said, people are terrible at explaining why they do things but very good at justifying their decisions.

    That’s where the real value of qualitative comes forth. Consumers like to walk the dog -backward. It’s hard to recognize an emotion when you are acting on it. When you are one on one with customers, you catch the good days and the bad days. You hear about the things that color their world and within that, the way it colors their purchase intents. It sounds very Zen to talk about comfort zones but ultimately people make decisions when they feel comfortable. So, how do you move people into a comfort zone either in sales or marketing?

    You listen. You hear how they frame responses and observe their level of engagement. For someone who always buys Bounty paper towels, it doesn’t matter how they feel, they are engaged with the brand. Moving that customer requires a complex set of reasoning. That same customer may also buy generic dish soap. Almost any low cost solution will open a door. When you overlay their current emotional state, you see how much is left out of a metric decision. Metrics are great at defining features and benefits and they are great at trending.

    If you understand the level of brand or product engagement by observing brand interaction and further understand the emotional range of brand product or loyalists, then you can create marketing but more importantly, you can create and maintain engagement.

    Techniques like crowdsourcing and ethnography add a huge value to product resourcing. When you further engage with customers to understand how they react, you can create delight. It’s actually not all that complicated, it just requires that you leave demos and segments on the table and focus on profiles.

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