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Live feeds and confessionals: Video brings qualitative insights to life

Article ID:
March 2014
Ed Knopp

Article Abstract

The author discusses how technology, specifically video solutions, can help researchers tell a better story with their qualitative insights and secure client buy-in. This article uses vehicle drives and ethnography as an example.

Editor's note: Ed Knopp is vice president, automotive research, at Morpace Inc., a  Farmington Hills, Mich., research company. He can be reached at This article appeared in the March 10, 2014, edition of Quirk's e-newsletter.    


So how do you generate better corporate buy-in for the results you get from qualitative research? As client-side researchers know, better collaboration and involvement with your internal clients is key. To create internal advocates, your client's initial input to the research design will never be enough and their participation in the fieldwork and seeing respondents talking with passion and emotion is a crucial tool. That kind of involvement makes the final presentation meaningful to them, as they eagerly draw upon their own recollections of the fieldwork they attended and nod in collective approval of the story you tell and the recommendations you make.

However, budgets and commitments don't always allow clients to travel. So the MR industry responded with the streaming of focus groups from the venue. But what if you do not have the luxury of a focus facility from which to stream?  

This is an issue we face with certain types of research, such as vehicle drives and ethnographies. In this kind of face-to-face research, in-person client participation is limited and arguably not desirable, as it can potentially create an unnatural situation and therefore respondent bias. Clients rarely watch the hours of recorded footage after the event so the need for client involvement still remained.  

Live, HD broadcasts 


Enter live, HD interview broadcasts. Using vehicle drives as an example, researchers can mount a small camera on the dash and present the feed live via the Internet and mobile technology to a PC, tablet or smartphone. A second camera can be pointed at the road or the instrument panel and broadcast as a picture-in-picture for additional context.  

The technology is equally applicable for ethnography research; broadcasting in-home interviews is much more desirable than having several clients walking around the house and making the respondent feel uncomfortable! (Video is still recorded for analysis after the event and for insertion into the final report.)

Clients develop incremental insights through observation and can interact with the moderator via text to guide the research as it progresses. As incremental insights emerge and new hypotheses are developed and tested, live video solutions have helped reinvigorate the relevance and interest in these types of "unobservable" research methodologies and allow clients to once again be a fly on the wall and an advocate for the research.

One of our own clients commented on the impact of video solutions for vehicle drives and ethnographies: 

"My experience is that a verbatim from a respondent is more memorable than a summary insight in a report. Clients carry those customer verbatims with them for a long time," says Kelly Krulikowski, global communications research manager at Ford Motor Company."

A powerful medium   


Video is a powerful medium and especially important for bringing presentations to life by putting a real face to a set of data; it is less easy for internal clients to ignore real customers than it is to ignore the presenter! However, traditional focus group video edits don't always capture the real emotion about a particular product. Group feedback often comes across as factual and rationalized and it is sometimes difficult to gauge true respondent sentiment. Footage is often on wide-angle with the respondent talking to the moderator, so the clips often lack the impact needed to inspire internal clients.   


So how can we take video to another level and get that impact?  Morpace found inspiration from the reality show Big Brother, where contestants can come to a private diary room and share their innermost thoughts. It was interesting how their behavior changed and emotions poured out when unobserved by their housemates. Similarly in a church confessional, confessions are made in private with anonymity to encourage honest dialogue. The principle is simple: We, as humans, behave according to social norms and we are conscious about how we portray ourselves and what people think of us. As such, we do not tend to share our true feelings and emotions with strangers and rarely do unless we know someone very well.  

As market researchers we needed to address this issue to remove these social barriers and allow people to provide feedback in an environment where no one is watching or judging. We recommend using a video booth or confessional, where respondents leave a short, 30-to-60-second video selfie, giving their top-of-mind unfiltered feedback. It is self-administered with no interviewer intervention so it removes the barriers that can lead respondents to sanitize their responses. Respondents can control the booth via a touchscreen to start and stop videos and questions or tasks can be shown on the screen or respondents can be briefed before going in.

This is particularly valuable for product testing, where instant reactions to new packaging can be observed. Products can be placed on a table, covered, and respondents start the video, uncover the product and talking in a stream of consciousness.  

Our society has primed respondents for this type of research, where FaceTiming, social media and YouTube are standard-issue. Respondents feel comfortable leaving video messages and it has resulted in a refreshing way to collect insights.

We are struck by the honesty and the unique personalities of people as they communicate their opinions and experiences in these videos. Respondents seem to enjoy the experience and this shines through in the fun - but pertinent - feedback they give us. It is also evident that the language they use is more powerful and full of emotion and they articulate their feelings more openly.

"This type of solution seems simple but it provided a new and unique method for gathering language, tonality and facial expressions. The video output was engaging and really brought to light feedback we otherwise would not have received. It's a nice add-on to clinics or other research solutions," says Susan Powell, vice president, market research, at Gojo Industries Inc. 


Bring research to life


After all, our job as researchers is to tell a story and bring our research to life to make an impact and leave a long-lasting impression on the client that will drive a call to action for the consumer.

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