Customer Understanding
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Customer Understanding

March 4, 2013

Okay, so we admit it – it’s a broad bucket. Isn’t this what all consumer insights are really about?

At Kelton, qualitative research is a core capability. We’re experts at taking the interview process straight to the consumer – in malls, on streets, and in their homes – to truly capture what makes them tick. Our ethnographers, interviewers, and moderators learned the art of inquiry as political and war reporters, through ethnographic inquiry into sensitive topics like healthcare and finances, and by moderating focus groups for politicians and corporate CEOs.

Archetype Studies and Analysis

The word “archetype” was coined by Carl Jung, who theorized that humans have a collective unconscious: “deposits of the constantly repeated experiences of humanity…. a kind of readiness to reproduce over and over again the same or similar mythical ideas….”  We believe that this shared memory of experiences has resulted in a resonance of the concepts of self and aspirational self that transcend time, place and culture.

At Kelton, we recognize that consumers form relationships with brands via their association and connection with a particular brand’s character, and what it may represent in their own lives. That’s why we counsel all of our clients to aspire to clarity and consistency through their brand’s character, in the hope that it will manifest itself across all consumer interactions.

A Kelton archetype study and analysis is an effective route for achieving a lasting brand-consumer bond, built on personality traits of a particular archetype.  This type of study can be used to help you:

  • Reveal underlying motivators to behavior by uncovering archetypes and their relationship to a particular brand and the consumers it appeals to
  • Render coherent and applicable the stories consumers tell around their brand relationship journeys
  • Develop brand architectures with a cohesive core wireframe, including brand role, mission, character, attributes, etc.
  • Conceive vibrant communications around all brand touch points that will resonate with consumers

Tracking Studies: Strategic Instruments

Kelton’s tracking methodology goes beyond the traditional approach of asking standard question metrics such as favorability, familiarity, and purchase intent.  Instead, we develop trackers from mere diagnostic tools to full fledged strategic instruments.  The end result is a living, breathing research tool that transforms wave-over-wave progress updates into statistically quantifiable solutions to ensure that you are getting the most impact for your advertising dollar.

Sample topic areas routinely covered include:

  • Ways to Improve Retailer Relations.  These “retailer relations” analyses allow the brand team to use independent, credible, third-party data to negotiate stronger positions with key retailers.
  • Understanding Media Consumption Patterns. Your brand tracker allows you the ideal opportunity to understand exactly what your current and potential consumers are watching on TV, reading online or at the newsstand, listening to on the radio, etc.  By conducting a deep-dive into the media consumption habits of your current and likely future consumers, we can target your ad buys and media spends more effectively. We thus ensure we account for changing preferences and always achieve the most “bang for your advertising buck.”
  • Creating Partnership Profiles. The brand tracker is also well suited to understanding which partnership opportunities best fit with your brand’s key equities and match the consumption patterns of your consumer base.
  • Exploring New Product/Brand/License Opportunities. Many of our clients find this to be the most useful part of their tracking research. We recommend exploring consumer attitudes and reactions to any potential new products, services, or licenses that are under consideration. This way, you have decision-grade data telling you how interested consumers are and how likely they would be to consume this new area of your brand.  We’ll also understand how well a new product ladders back to and fits with the core equities of the brand they’re intended to grow.
  • Capturing Litigation Background Research.  Unfortunately, no brand is immune from lawsuits, however frivolous they may be.  Even cereal companies have been sued for allegedly marketing non-nutritious products to children.  For this reason, Kelton recommends including a small section of questions on occasional tracking waves to measure your consumers’ concerns – if any – about your brand and advertising.  This provides you with credible data – should it ever be needed – that proves your marketing targets view you as an ethical company with reputable products and fair advertising strategies; it is never too early (or too late) to compile historical evidence of responsible corporate behavior.

Consumer Immersions 

At Kelton, we appreciate that there is often no substitute for deep consumer immersion.  Whether manifest in a long-term tracking study or a shorter term “embed” in a particular lifestyle, we understand that this offering permits a great deal of flexibility, as well as the opportunity to mix and match for a relevant and desired experience.

Kelton’s long-term tracking studies feature a panel of respondents, among which trends and lifestyle choices may be closely tracked over time. The result is a unique immersion, providing a “slice of their lives” picture unattainable through other research methods.

Kelton’s shorter-term immersion studies may consist of trips to other countries to allow cross-cultural immersion, interaction with a particular brand experience from the consumer perspective, or a deep embedded excursion into a particular lifestyle. Again, unique methodologies that provide rare, unadulterated insight into human behavior.

Kelton’s consumer immersions can be used to help you:

  • Observe your consumers through their own “lens”
  • Accelerate the learning curve by exposing internal teams to relevant but foreign experiences
  • Understand, appreciate, and capitalize on cross-cultural differences among all of your target audiences
  • See, up close, how trends manifest themselves in “real life”

Online Qualitative Research

Online qualitative research is increasingly used as an alternative to in-person qualitative research. Kelton offers secure, password-protected online expert interviews, panel creation, online concept testing, consumer blogs, consumer groups, one-on-one interviews, etc.

The online approach has a number of advantages over more traditional, in-person research. These include reduced time in the field, as well as the negation of travel costs, multi-client remote participation, and longitudinal tracking of consumer input. Another distinct advantage of online research is that it allows for enhanced respondent reflection on the themes of an issue, as well as providing respondents with a sense of involvement in the research over time.

Kelton’s online qualitative research can be used to help you:

  • Speak with experts around the world and in diverse geographical locations within a country, gaining immediate access to their opinions and insight
  • Tap into the recent tendency, especially among certain consumer groups, to “self-document”
  • Access a wealth of online data – including videos, journals, photos, etc. – with which you can swiftly bring both the consumer and the data to life
  • Promote spontaneous discussions, first among respondents, but also between respondents, the client, and the moderator

Consumer Choice Modeling

Consumers face an ever-growing number of choices when making purchase decisions. Which brand?  What size? Which features? What price? Given the myriad options your average consumer is confronted with, it’s no easy process to model these relative factors across a multitude of brands. Trying to discern a quantifiable pattern of purchasing behavior can quickly resemble the deconstruction of the most complicated of socio-economic puzzles. But Kelton’s considerable research and development efforts in this area have given us the confidence and skills to design an effective, engaging survey instrument that mimics real-world shopping behavior.

At Kelton, we utilize a number of Choice Modeling techniques that are dependent upon a client’s specific needs and functional objectives. Discrete Choice Modeling, Conjoint, Maximum Difference Scaling, and Chip Allocation provide our clients with effective tools to understand their products’ maximum ROI across different and distinct product feature configurations, like package size and mobile device interface offerings.

Kelton’s Choice Modeling process ensures a research model that replicates the real-world shopping experience in all its minute detail. By providing respondents with a range of brands, product features, price points, and even an “I don’t like any of these offerings” choice, we are able to recreate the decisions landscape with which consumers are most often confronted.

Our real world based Choice Modeling tools provide you with:

  • Feature versus Price Trade-Off Decisions. Maintaining a happy balance between overall profit margin and share of market is the universal aspiration of any successful brand. But this delicate calculation is further complicated by the addition of several layers of market factors: an inexhaustible variety of feature options; the periodic fluctuation of raw material costs; and the unpredictability of the economy as a whole. To account for these variables, Kelton provides its clients not only with clear, concise, and data-supported recommendations for immediate implementation, but also with a user-friendly market simulation tool. This allows our clients to examine virtually limitless combinations of market variables, like brand mix, price sensitivity, and a whole range of different product features.  With the Kelton market simulation tool in hand, clients have the power to test the competitive market prior to making complex product and brand decisions.
  • Product Take-Rate Analysis. In addition to helping our clients optimize their product and brand offerings, we complement our Feature/ Price Trade-Off Analysis with a Product Take-Rate Analysis. This is designed to provide our clients with even further cost-structure analysis (when are customers likely to purchase their different products…and at what price?) before they go to market, or during the core offerings refinement process.

Participant Recruiting: Finding the Right Consumers

Whether you’re conducting focus groups, ethnographies, in-depth interviews, shop-alongs, or intercepts, the value of your qualitative insights is only as good as your participants. Most research firms churn through databases that yield “professional” respondents who have been coached by screeners – they’re often not your true consumer, and their responses can be stale and uninspiring. Frustrated by the “same old way of doing things,” Kelton created an innovative process to recruit its own participants, which led to dramatically improved research results.

Our recruiting methodologies are specifically tailored to each project and each consumer group, ensuring you get feedback and insights from the right consumers every time. The key is knowing exactly where to look – whether it’s walking Wall Street to find stock brokers or casing the most popular video game message boards looking for hardcore gamers.  Here are just a few of our techniques:

  • In-person. Instead of asking potential research respondents about their consumption habits by phone and trusting their answers, we seek them out while they are in action – if you’re looking for someone who shops at a specific store or one who drinks a particular brand of soda, we’ll catch them in the act and engage them on the spot.
  • Online.  There are few better means of discerning a person’s behaviors than by examining their online activities.  Blogs and online profiles provide extensive data on potential participants, including their opinions and the intensity of their feelings – making virtual recruiting an extremely efficient and effective method for reaching qualified, first time research participants.   We use a variety of mass population social networking sites such as Facebook, as well as the growing number of niche shopping and lifestyle social networking sites such as Kaboodle and LinkedIn, to locate consumers whose online profiles match that of your ideal research respondent.  Then we contact them using targeted emailing, message boards and virtual groups.
  • Grassroots. To find lower income or less tech-savvy consumers, or those in smaller geographic markets, we employ grassroots recruiting methods.  We working with local organizations, community leaders and attend local events to identify and connect with your target.

In-Depth Interviews: Understanding Your Customer

Real opinions and consumer behaviors can be difficult to capture in surveys and focus groups; by having extended conversations with people, we’re able to uncover their true feelings and actions.  And by combining the reporting skills of our staff with the expertise of our trained journalistic researchers, we can talk to even the most difficult to reach consumers. Kelton’s experienced interviewers hail from a variety of communications backgrounds – they’re not only anthropologists and researchers, but also former journalists, writers, producers, PR professionals, pop culture gurus, and buzz marketers. They’re people with the insight and experience to get the most out of participants and put the most into the deliverables.  These cultured, outgoing and intuitive thought leaders know how to interact naturally with respondents, putting them completely at ease.  The result is detailed, precise insights, as well as nuanced open-ended feedback.

  • Unexpected Insights.  Getting the answers to complex problems and uncovering new information requires interviewers experienced enough to know when to prompt respondents for more.  Scripted phone and online surveys don’t allow for this flexibility.  It’s through these in-depth one-on-one conversations that you’ll get fresh insights and savvy observations from smart consumers.
  • Hard-to-Reach Audiences. Medical specialists and busy professionals are notoriously difficult to engage in traditional forms of market research such as focus groups and surveys.  Kelton’s interviewers have the skills to connect with these hard to reach respondents immediately, setting the stage for lively interactions and the sharing of important information.
  • Flexible Locations.  Our interviewers can speak with consumers in stores, at their homes or in designated interview facilities in order to gather insights on products, retail environments, and consumers’ habits in their natural environments.
  • Informed, unbiased interviewers.  Kelton’s interviewers conduct extensive background research in conjunction with your team.  The knowledge gained during this process helps our interviewers and researchers form the right questions, while maintaining an objective, “outsider” perspective that elicits natural, unbiased responses from interview participants.
  • Illustrative Profiles.  Kelton utilizes a variety of creative techniques to gain a broader perspective of our research participants. Using laddering exercises, brand explorations, collages, discussion forums, personal blogs and others, we’re able to paint a complete, multi-dimensional picture of respondents.

Focus Groups: Maximizing the Qualitative Environment

Creative Consumer focus groups help us understand why consumers, voters, and donors make certain choices and exhibit certain behaviors.  Well orchestrated focus groups – led by innovative moderators speaking to motivated, interesting participants – can uncover profound insights that change the course of brands, help create new products and services, and provide the language to communicate your company’s essence to the consumer.

Productive focus groups require synergy between skilled writers, organizers, listeners, and communicators to be effective – without these pieces, focus groups can be chaotic, biased, and often lead to inaccurate conclusions.  We’ve take pride in our qualitative work, and have put together the research world’s most unique focus group team to lead your discussion sessions:

  • Truly Unique Moderators.  Skilled moderators have one talent in common; they are all exceptional listeners, able to formulate the next question intuitively based on their ability to grasp the true intent of the respondent.  Where are these skills acquired?  For some, in academic settings gaining anthropological PhDs; for others, in the world of journalism, conducting interviews in the hallways of Columbine and the desert sands of Iraq.  Our moderators have real world communications experience that’s unseen in research – it’s what drives dynamic discussions.
  • The StreetSmart Recruit.  Focus groups are only as effective as the participants engaged; when they are recruited from a database of professional respondents, the quality of discussion declines precipitously.  Kelton recruits fresh participants from social networking sites, from the streets of major American cities, and from restaurants, airports, car dealerships, and by going door to door.  It’s what has made our recruiting the most accurate in the business – and allows us to reach virtually any demographic.
  • Innovative Techniques.  Our moderators are equipped with a broad array of innovative techniques, which means the groups are set up to flourish from the outset.  But it also means we can shift on the fly – employing new methods to meet the changing dynamics of a discussion; we’re able to fit the technique to the issues at hand.
  • Creative Discussion Guides.  Focus groups should be interesting and enjoyable for participants – and that requires discussion guides that ask provocative, appealing questions.  Our team of project leaders excels at getting every group engaged and interested from the outset.
  • Compelling Writers.  All effective research requires a compelling deliverable that clearly articulates what has been learned, effectively lays out the appropriate next steps, and leaves the client holding real value in their hands.   Our team of writers – who have written for print, radio, business, academia, and have published books – creates engaging deliverables that your entire team will appreciate, regardless of whether they were active participants in the research.

Brand Health (Attitudes Usage)

Brand Health Studies examine your brand within the context of the industry – looking at relevant competitors and the equities each of you own – as well as how your brand is communicating with key audiences.

Kelton’s brand health methodology is designed to paint a comprehensive portrait of your current brand landscape to identify the competitive benefits and advantages that can be used to increase sales and grow your presence with consumers. This approach results in a detailed blueprint of your company/brand’s current standing and allows you to understand the most effective paths for growth.

To accomplish this, our approach:

  • Determines which consumer values and priorities matter as they relate to your brand
  • Identifies which attitudes can be translated into ownable brand equities and subsequently drive real-world consumer behaviors (purchasing and your bottom-line)
  • Hones consumer messages and marketing based on the functional and emotional benefits that matter most (those that differentiate and motivate)
  • Includes trackable questions so your A&U Study can also serve as a brand tracker.
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