Editor's note: Kirsty Afshar Bennett is co-founder and president of The Parkel Navigation Group, a Ridgefield, Conn., research firm.
Excitement about the burgeoning array of new, technologically enabled methodologies for qualitative research is reaching fever pitch. A quick look at industry articles, conferences and qualitative awards spotlights the promise of a renewed direction, a “brave new world,” for those of us engaged in getting into consumers’ hearts and minds on behalf of the brands we serve.
These are thrilling times for sure. We now have the ability to get up-close and personal into the lives and thoughts of targets. We can use video and interactive components, social media engagement and analyses, etc., to paint vivid pictures of what their lives are like – providing insight into opportunities and challenges for brands to mine. That said, I believe a word of caution is required here. Why? Because the fundamentals of exploring the human psyche and the keys to influence it – regardless of whether that takes place in a traditional focus group or digitized ethnography/interactive smartphone app – remain the same.
That “same” is that the real success of any project depends upon the skills and expertise of the researcher/moderator to keenly understand the core fundamentals of qualitative research as well as how to navigate them to uncover what’s really going on (not just what the consumer presents/tells us is going on). Ultimately, our job is to frame the true problem and identify inspiring solutions and exciting opportunities.
I fear that too little attention is paid to really understanding these fundamentals and identifying methodologies to address them. And I also fear that as an industry we do a very poor job of educating our clients on them.
So, let’s not be so blinded by the shiny new things that we forget to value what’s most important. Because if we are blinded by “shiny a...