Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Projective Research Techniques

Projective techniques overcome some of the limitations of direct questioning. Here is why:

  • People are not always conscious of their underlying motivations.
  • People tell you what they think you want to hear.
  • People are sometimes embarrassed to admit their real motivations, thinking that divulging them would reflect negatively on them.
  • Most people think of themselves as being completely rational in their decision making, so they discount or dismiss non-rational reasons for their behaviors.
  • Some people fear how marketers might use the information “if they were to learn the truth about me,” and so they withhold that information to avoid being manipulated.

Projective techniques can help you better understand brand personality. For instance, consider this question: “If the brand was an animal/car/person/sports team/occupation, what animal/car/person/sports team/occupation would it be—and why?” A particularly powerful version of this question is “If this brand were a party, what kind of party would it be and why?” One can then probe on venue, music, food, drinks, people attending, what they are wearing and vehicles they drove to the party providing deep insight into brand personality.

There are other projective research techniques that help you get below the surface. They include:

  • Sentence completion
  • Consumer letters
  • Word association
  • Brand time capsule
  • Collages
  • Stereotypes
  • Brand obituary/epitaph
  • Thought balloons
  • Brand press release/headline
  • Psychodrawing/modeling
  • Brand sorting (on a wide variety of dimensions)
  • Role-playing and reenactment

I also have used the technique of providing participants with numerous pictures of a wide variety of people in a wide variety of settings. I then ask which of those people would buy, receive as a gift, and use the brand, and which wouldn’t. I then ask people to explain their answers.

Another technique explores perceived differences between brands. Ask people to sort products (competitors’ products and your products intermixed) into two piles—the “brand in question” and “not the brand in question.” (One version of this method disguises the brand mark; the other one doesn’t.) Once all of the products have been sorted, probe why people thought the product either was or wasn’t the brand in question. (If this exercise is done in focus groups, ask participants to write their answers down first so that they are not biased by each other’s answers. Collect all of the answer sheets and compare the written responses to the group discussion.)

(c) 2014 by Brad VanAuken, excerpted from Brand Aid, second edition

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