The value of friendship pairs

Editor’s note: Zara Marouf is a senior research executive at The Nursery. This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared under the title “Why use friendship pairs in market research.”

You’ve heard of paired depths as a research method – a great in-between of interviews and small groups with many benefits to specific and time sensitive projects – but what are friendship pairs in market research?  

A friendship pair, as you can imagine, is an interview with a pair of friends. It doesn’t need to be a pair, but there is something about the shared and intimate, peer-to-peer connection with two people that is both fun and revealing. 

Chatting with your friend – whether it be gossip, a personal issue, a TV show you’re both watching or asking for career advice – is either going to be fun, easy, thoughtful or all of the above.  

A positive research environment leads to insights 

Friendship as a methodological approach is a wonderful way to stimulate conversation and a hugely impactful tool. Getting each friend to introduce the other (which normally involves some kind of joke about one another) by explaining who they are, what do they do, how long they’ve known each other and where they met helps the research become enjoyable for both participants and moderators.  

The chemistry between two friends discussing an idea for advertising or their own personal habits is positively contagious. For the more awkward or relatively personal topics, the value of friendship pairs is unmatched. 

A moderator’s role is to create a comfortable and non-judgmental environment to help people open up. Friendship pairs are an effective tool to help people feel safe to say what they think in a space with someone they know.

Friends can bounce off one another, give each other reminders of habits, speak to inside jokes or bring them down to earth if they are playing up an experience. They can help each other articulate points, especially if there is a lot of detail (which paired depths are great method to conduct research for) or if the adcept or advertising is very conceptual.   

It is also a brilliant way to explore topics which feel more individual, such as the topic of humor. Friendship pairs (and groups) have been a brilliant way to help young people, who may find the experience of research daunting, ease into and open up in a comfortable space.

As moderators, it’s fun to explore how different friendships interact and discuss advertising. You are almost let into the “real world” rendition of how people might respond to advertising, with the personal and specific language people use with their friends and loved ones.

Organizing research with friendship pairs 

On a logistical note, it is, in theory, easier to manage no-shows and rescheduling as one friend can just text the other and ask where they are. On the flip side, and following vain of logistics, a friendship pair is a sample of two. It will be dependent on the project type, but several sessions may be needed to cover all audiences and the intended sample.

Market research friendship pairs are a valuable tool in creating a space for people to discuss personal views or the finer detail of advertising to produce authentic insights.