Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA) - QRCA Views Magazine, Summer 2020

QUALITATIVE RESEARCH CONSULTANTS ASSOCIATION 27 what is wrong with searching only using the top mentions. One of the book’s most fascinating sections raised a serious red flag to me as it discussed the assumption that online words/phrases/visuals have universal meaning and how this fallacy could negatively impact data mining findings. McCulloch shares multiple examples of how there are still significant U.S. regional and ethnic group online differences in choices of words/phrases/ visuals usage and meaning that are much more serious than the pop/soda/cola word choice differences. In the online world, the same word or phrase could have very different meanings depending on where it originates. McCulloch also traces the path of how phrases/visuals that may originate in one community can bypass whole sections and demographics of the U.S. when they jump to a similar demographic community, e.g., Hispanic Los Angeles to Hispanic Miami. Then over time, they might migrate more into the mainstream. How to Use in Sessions Narrative economics will also have you rethinking baseline assumptions. When designing a research study, we are almost racing against the clock—where we have more material than we have time to cover in the session. Narrative economics emphasize that a major roadblock to getting insights is when you start from the wrong place. Many times you are tempted to skip ahead with the belief we already know that and don’t need to ask. However, backstories are narratives that provide context by allowing people we want to hear from frame the story. Sharing stories in session is very helpful, but most people, when put on the spot, have a very hard time sharing one. That is why providing them with a framework is so important. For example, in a study with heavy users of fabric softeners, who were doing more than ten loads of laundry a week, we didn’t start the discussion talking about fabric softeners, we started in the world that fabric softeners reside—doing laundry. As pre-work, even though the client had done many previous studies focusing just on that and felt that they already knew the answers, we asked people in the week prior to being part of the discussion to observe themselves doing laundry and then identify the three things they liked best and liked least about doing laundry. While our pre-work exercise did not really uncover anything new about the likes and dislikes about doing laundry in general, something left out of some heavy fabric softener users’ input stories was very insightful. Some never mentioned fabric softener. Our client had assumed that all would, because they were heavy fabric softener users. Finding out why they hadn’t provided some very helpful insights. If we had not used storytelling as input immediately after the introduction and instead had begun asking them about their views on fabric softener, we would have had a very different discussion and takeaway from the research. Storytelling upfront as an input story exercise can also act as a self-diagnostic ethnography tool to help the person participating in the research better under- stand his or her own behavior, while helping the market researcher better understand how to better communicate. For example, in a hernia mesh messaging study of general surgeons who did many different types of surgery, the client told us that in past research the surgeons had focused on the technical merits of the mesh, so they had created messaging around that. That messaging was not working. Just like the fabric softener study, we broadened the discussion. We had them create an input story about all the surgeries they did and thus got their perception of hernia surgery vis-á-vis other surgeries they do. In a quick exercise, we gave them a sheet of paper with a little red heart in the middle and asked them to write down all the surgeries they do—those they liked the best close to the heart and those they didn’t like further away. When done, we asked them to circle the three they liked the best and the three they liked the least. We then asked them to tell us what they had in common. This elicited comments such as, “OMG, so that is why I hate hernia surgery,” as well as, “Wow, I never really thought about why I liked some surgeries more than others.” Giving them a structure to create an input story stimulated self-awareness and led to deeper discussions and a new emotional positioning versus the previous functional positioning. Narrative Economics Wrap-up In ancient Greece, a newcomer to a meal needed to share a story that was meant to entertain, but more importantly, meant to help give the host insight into who this newcomer was, their beliefs, and perspectives. Using the narrative economics model, market researchers should begin to see the demographics they are interested in as newcomers to the table. • Do your homework o Read people’s stories/listen to podcasts. o Read different narratives of events that are relevant. o Data mine differently. • Recruit differently o Overlay tribal analytics and self- perception into the recruiting process. • Pre-work o Use storytelling as an input to provide insight and perspectives versus a data collection tool. • In-session o Integrate storytelling as input into methodology. • Listen differently o To nuances in the narratives and rationalization for behavior and choice.

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