Qualitative Consumer Insights
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Qualitative Consumer Insights

March 15, 2013

This is the stuff that really gets us out of bed in the morning – there are few tasks our staff enjoys more than helping clients identify, develop, and flesh out consumer ideas and turn them into new concepts, brand strategies, and innovations. It’s also an unparalleled way to help clients see the true value in working with us.

This is the stuff that really gets us out of bed in the morning – there are few tasks our staff enjoys more than helping clients identify, develop, and flesh out consumer ideas and turn them into new concepts, brand strategies, and innovations.  It’s also an unparalleled way to help clients see the true value in working with us.

“Actionable” is perhaps the most overused word in research – everyone says it. But when you’re doing qualitative work, you can’t fake it. Did the work identify new white spaces in which companies can innovate? Did it identify workarounds that hint at new ideas? Did it identify strengths in your brand to capitalize on, and weaknesses to strengthen? This work separates the doers from the talkers very quickly.

The same goes for concept development. Research should continually roll a concept closer to a finished product, evolving the concept within the framework of what the client, and the business environment, permits. We ensure your concepts fit within your broader framework.

Semiotic Analysis

Semiotics, the study of signs and meaning, is relevant to projects where clients seek to interpret and make sense of constructed objects. Semiotics helps us understand how information is communicated and by what specific signs and signals, because meaning is embedded into all cultural interaction and reflected in all touch points.

At Kelton, semiotic analysis is conducted in conjunction with the rest of the project and the insights fed in throughout. Signs are decoded almost instinctively by users and are vital for streamlining functionality.

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

  • Help users create mental models of usership so they know what to do with a product or experience. In other words, create signals that ‘script’ the user into certain modes of behavior known as ‘affordances’ (turning a top rather than squeezing, for example), and eliminate incorrect ways of operation – known as ‘constraints’
  • Provide a valuable framing perspective, giving you a more nuanced understanding of individual human reactions within cultural constraints
  • Gain deep cross-cultural insights with a multi-faceted perspective
  • Investigate interactions between people and products and use the insights resulting from that investigation to help enhance positioning, messaging, write a better creative brief, and provide design drivers for development of future offerings


Trend Identification & Analysis


The Kelton team always keeps its collective eyes open to new trends, tastes, and preferences that may appear. We rely on a rigorous and methodical approach to trend identification and analysis, using a combination of secondary research, primary observation and documentation, expert interviews, trends workshops and analysis. This allows us to offer hypotheses for further research or recommendations focusing on the trends your company should investigate and embrace.

Kelton uses a futures approach to secondary trend identification, which includes an overall scan of the future marketplace/relevant space using STEEP+C, followed by a drilling down from macro trend to micro trend to hypotheses. These are typically specific to global outlook, regional/industry/category and consumer/brand/product/service respectively. Trends are usually a very important up-front piece of a larger research study.

Kelton’s trend identification and analysis can be used to help you:

  • Frame the direction and enquiry of a research study; i.e. suggest areas of interest and questioning that might otherwise be excluded/test hypotheses
  • Engage with the future and raise awareness of indicators percolating now that may lead to a change in consumer behavior in the future
  • Inform identification of white spaces, future product development and strategic portfolio planning
  • Enable you to inform corporate scenario development and strategic decision-making


Innovation Workshop


At Kelton, we understand that successful new brand experiences are born from innovation – which in turn is derived from an in-depth understanding of consumer motivation and behavior. Our collaborative innovation workshops drive new platform and strategy ideas by synthesizing regional or global social trends, emerging technologies, nascent ideological movements, or shifting economic landscapes. These sessions also allow us to also incorporate input from key decision makers in your organization.

A professionally facilitated daylong innovation workshop is an incubator for creative ideas – an intense stimulator of collective thought through a variety of idea generation methods. Ideas are selected that merit further exploration, next steps are discussed and a report – complete with images of the workshop output – is generated and distributed among participants.

Kelton’s innovation workshops can be used to help you:

  • Promote ownership and internal buy-in around ideas and their development across a team or organization
  • Bring together people who might not normally collaborate but whose joint work will stimulate new cross-disciplinary thinking
  • Generate a large number of ideas then identify a manageable set of promising ones that deserve immediate focus
  • Pump fresh ideas into your innovation pipeline

Concept Development

Concept development usually resides within a larger innovation effort, where insights from prior research (both qualitative and quantitative) are used in workshops, brainstorming exercises, idea generation and creative problem solving.  These insights lead to concrete recommendations that, ideally, link end user unmet need and behavior to specific future product and service platforms.

Kelton’s concept development can be used to help you:

  • Structure continued idea generation by providing foundational framework for initial ideas
  • Provide platforms around which designers, engineers, market researchers, etc. can co-create
  • Generate a large number of ideas with multi-disciplinary teams, which can be documented and used to populate your future development pipeline or used in strategic portfolio planning
  • Step, stretch and leap – allowing your organization to be creative and innovative through incremental, short-term and dramatic, farther-reaching contributions


New Product Testing

Kelton’s new product testing approach uses a qual-quant approach to determine whether your target audience is interested in a new idea, product, or marketing concept and how to sharpen, if possible, your defined target.

All presented information and stimuli is intentionally kept very broad and hi-level to ensure we obtain reactions to the product concept – not to the individual components or explanations of how the concept will be executed.

Upon completion of the quantitative section, Kelton will:

  • Provide an overall understanding of how assumed likely consumers understand and are compelled by the overall concept
  • Gauge overall interest, differentiation, and likely usage/purchase intent
  • Get a first look at the traction and engagement scores consumers give to names, logos, and other marketing concepts (where applicable)
  • Hone in more precisely on the target audience and place potential users into likely users, possible users, or unlikely users
  • Gather comprehensive demographic and psychographic information on likely users and potential users
  • Fine-tune the concept based on differing perceptions of various messages, features and benefits
  • Identify the core functional and emotional benefits that are most effective at getting consumers interested in and eventually using your product (what matters most and how to best drive your bottom line)
  • Present potential partners, brands, products, etc. that consumers would like to see associated with your brand (where applicable)

In-Depth Interviews: Consumer Insight

In-depth qualitative interviews are either one-on-one, dyad, triad or friendship groups. They’re an open-ended, discovery-oriented method, well suited for deep exploration of the respondent’s emotions and perspectives.

There are several key characteristics that differentiate an in-depth, qualitative research interview from a regular interview. They include: the use of open-ended questions, where respondents are asked to elaborate on a topic; a semi-structured format, which allows natural flow in a conversational manner; and the desire to seek deep understanding and comprehensive interpretation from the interview. Unlike applied ethnographic visits, these interviews are not centered around participant observation.

Kelton’s in-depth interviews can be used to help you:

  • Understand your consumers’ point of view, feelings and perspectives in a swift, flexible, and relatively cost-effective manner
  • Control the interview environment and/or interaction between respondents, yielding unique insight
  • Gain insights on topics which are difficult to address (i.e. personal grooming habits, erectile dysfunction, understanding teen friendship behavior, etc.) using other methodologies that lack intimacy/privacy between interviewer and respondent
  • Reach respondents outside of their natural environment, so they can focus on the topic at hand – this is particularly useful in trend research, scenario development and concept testing (medical and usability)

Consumer Focus Groups 

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.

Applied Ethnographies

Borrowing from anthropology, Kelton’s approach to applied ethnographic work is one of participatory observation in-situ. Our main objective is to uncover consumer unmet need and observe lifestyles, behaviors, attitudes and beliefs as they play out in everyday life. Applied ethnographic work is rooted in anthropological theory, but techniques have been adapted to the amount of time spent with respondents (typically shorter than other ethnographies) and to meet specific commercial client objectives.

In-situ observations differ from one-on-one interviews in that Kelton’s ethnographers aim to discover through observation – instead of conversation – the emotional and subconscious drivers that move end users to make the decisions and choices they do.

Kelton’s applied ethnographic visits can be used to help you:

  • Understand your consumer in both depth and breadth in a holistic manner within their own environment – see what people really do, not just what they say they do
  • Uncover the “work-arounds” or interim answers to unmet need which consumers have constructed themselves for lack of available solutions – this discovery process is particularly helpful in both branding and complete innovation programs
  • Generate user profiles/personas to help create a qualitative segmentation, include in a design brief, use in brand positioning work, apply to communications strategies, etc.
  • Use insight from applied ethnographic visits as the backbone for any study which requires in-depth knowledge of your consumer and immersion into their psyche, lifestyle, and environment



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