Editor's note: Susan Fader is qualitative researcher, strategist and moderator at FaderFocus, a New York research firm.
A car stuck in the mud – wheels spinning, going nowhere – is how many of us have felt at some point when confronted with a business challenge. We are stuck because we don’t know how to reframe the situation to get us moving forward. In many market research challenges, where a round of research has not uncovered the needed insights, we revert to the often-quoted definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. While the techniques or research provider may change in the subsequent rounds, in most cases the same baseline assumptions are kept.
But what if these baseline assumptions are wrong? You may stay stuck in the mud, spinning your wheels. If you’re looking to generate new perspectives, try some counterintuitive thinking.
Counterintuitive thinking and behavioral economics share some common roots. Behavioral economics work has shown that people make irrational decisions and/or behave the opposite of what you might think. Counterintuitive thinking is about injecting some of that irrationality, something that might not appear logical, into your research design. Counterintuitive thinking can reframe the strategic challenge and enable you to think differently so you have an approach that leads to more meaningful results.
Before discussing specific marketing research counterintuitive thinking approaches, let me share examples of how counterintuitive thinking can impact marketing and positioning decisions.
Is five out of five stars the best rating? While for some things like your vacation hotel you may want a rating of 5/5 stars, for many consumer products the sweet spot is actually a 4.2-4.5 stars. A study by Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center that used 22 product categories encompassing over 100,000 SKUs acros...