Say Hello To My Cheeseburger: Research International armed consumers with camera phones to record their decision-making processes about eating, snacking and drinking
By Marla Commons with Luc Rens, Research International, Chicago
Real World, Real Time, Real Results: Morphing Technologies to Capture and Predict Consumer Trends
"Within the world of research, commercially applied ethnography is connecting with consumers to understand their behaviors and needs within the context of the decision or usage of the product.
It is also about understanding consumer culture: the conditions which give rise to purchasing motivations, brand beliefs and consuming behavior - and the wider dynamics which drive changes in consumer motivation and behavior. It is an approach that has gained in popularity in recent years and which marketers are highly interested in adopting as a means of deeply connecting with target consumers to provide insight.
Yet it is clear that ther are limitations to doing ethnographically-based research for commercial applications. Specifically, having a person enter a consumer's environment (be it at home, shadowing while shopping, etc) can in and of itself affect consumer's natural responses and behaviors and can even impact a consumer's emotional reactions. Another limiting factor in using ethnographic methodologies is the fact that not all behaviors and categories are going to be feasible. For example, if an innovation expert is seeking to understand unmet needs when it comes to snacking in the home, it may not be realistic to enter target consumers' homes and wait for natural snacking behavior to take place. Imagine how many hours may be spent waiting to capture that moment.
To combat these types of barriers, we sought out a less invasive and more natural approach to capturing behavior and emotions in certain categories, such as snacking, visits to quick service restaurants, occasions for drinking alcoholic beverages and non-alcoholic beverages. We discovered that in this high-tech world, a good way to capture these often missed, but desired behaviors and emotions, was by using a technology that consumers are already familiar with and use on a daily basis - cellular phones. With the recent introduction of camera and video phones, using cell phones can become a powerful tool to uncover consumer insights in a innovative and non-invasive manner."
"The participants in this study became true storytellers via camera phones. The phones allowed them to express their decisions, experiences and feelings. Taking pictures, recording sound and video clips transformed into the different ways to tell a story.
They were able to immediately explain why they chose a certain product and give insight into what elements influenced their decision at point of purchase. This is something respondents can often not recall in more traditional qualitative research settings, such as focus groups.
The phone becomes the panelist's friend. It is like sharing stories with your best friend, instead of the ethnographer or moderator. Nothing stands between the target consumer and the marketer, marketers are able to listen to and watch their target consumers directly, something clients are increasingly ineterested in doing."
The full version of this article originally appeared in volume 12 of WPP's Atticus Journal.