Thanks for this article James. The main point of our paper was that research is, and will always be an iterative process, and within this, focus groups, depth interviews, home visits, accompanied shops all have a vital role to play.
As an example, Neil Blackburne of SCA spoke very eloquently about the failure to consider the retail environment when researching their new Velvet Man Size tissues. As a result, they created a pack with little differentiation or standout from their standard size product. Semiotics helped them with their re-design. However, we at Relish would argue that this initial pack issue could have been addressed in focus groups had the right approach been used. For example, if you asked people to draw mansize/large size tissues before showing them the proposed pack, we know they would not have used pinks, pastels and flowers. Similarly, if you asked the client to strip in mock ups of their packs to a shelf fixture and show this in groups, they would have seen and heard the problems with the pack before going to launch.
Conversely, if you start such a process immediately showing groups the new packs, we all know and have experienced issues such as group bias, the need to please, and this, overlaid with the very nature of the a focus group environment can lead to inaccurate insights and recommendations. We find our focus groups frequently unearth reasons for failure before going to print, production or advertising.
This leads to the other vital element of the mix, raised at the conference on Thursday – namely the role of the client in the process. One paper showed that a woeful 10% of clients took immediate action in response to the research they have commissioned. It can take a brave client to go ‘back to the drawing board’ and acknowledge the work is not good enough, especially if their packaging, product or advertising agency is insisting otherwise and they have launch deadlines looming. Britvic and L’Oreal’s case studies demonstrated best practice in this area.
I don’t think many people in our industry would like to see the end of all direct consumer engagement. Our paper’s purpose was to highlight the need to embrace and integrate new and emerging technologies into the research process. Helen Bennie described the discipline of ‘Shopper Insight ’ as a relatively ‘new kid on the block’, in which case we’re determined to welcome this into our gang.