FEATURE1 January 2011

Ups and downs – Kirsty Yeomans

Kirsty Yeomans, FreshMinds Research’s qualitative manager, plans her own research revolution.

The best advice I’ve had is…
to listen carefully. Hearing and listening are two different things and if you’re not a brilliant listener, then you’re not cut out to be a quallie. The skill is in hearing what people say (or, in some cases, what they don’t say) and hearing what they mean as well.

…and the worst advice I’ve had is
to spend my first pay cheque on a really fancy suit. This handy advice doled out by my university careers service was probably right for everyone who went on to become a banker or a lawyer, but as a qualitative researcher it’s probably better to invest in a good pair of jeans. My job is all about making people feel comfortable enough to share things with me and being suited and booted creates an unhelpful barrier with many respondents.

A campaign that grabbed me recently is…
I love the Tetley tea advert where they’ve resurrected the characters from way back. Airing an ad like this in the lead-up to Christmas is the perfect strategy – everyone starts to feel nostalgic as the nights draw in and the festive season approaches, so a campaign that taps into that by drawing on Tetley’s long heritage is highly opportune.

…and a campaign that needed more research is
the Nationwide advert with the Little Britain characters. The reference is about two years out of date and I don’t know anyone who finds it funny any more. Surely that’s exactly the kind of error that consumers would pick up in pre-ad testing?

One thing this industry could use more of is…
street cred. There are plenty of people lamenting the fact that market research isn’t seen as being “cool” but very few people are actually doing anything to change the image of the profession. I’ve met some truly amazing people in the industry, and none of them are the staid, boring, droning individuals in a fleece that everyone pictures. If the industry can shake off this image then maybe we’d get the talent coming through that everyone is always calling for.

…and one thing this industry could use less of is
denial. Perception is reality when it comes to products and services but I still run groups where people get annoyed at consumers for saying things about their brand that are ‘incorrect’. Everyone in this industry needs to accept that if a consumer believes something about a product or service then to all intents and purposes it may as well be true – it’s our job as researchers to communicate this to clients effectively and help them deal with the consequences.

One thing I hope to do is…
start a revolution. Let’s free ourselves from the routine sterility of research. If we are talking videogames let’s do it in an arcade or in a teenager’s bedroom, dirty socks and all. If we are talking Pimms let’s do it on a picnic blanket in the park. Keeping respondents at arm’s length needs to be a thing of the past and the more we can immerse ourselves in consumers’ reality, the better we will understand what really makes them tick.

…and one thing I wish I hadn’t done is
volunteered to cross the Atlantic more times than I care to remember in three weeks to conduct 12 focus groups in three countries. Having the same moderator conduct all the focus groups definitely increased the value of the insight that we were able to give the client, but I think that the whole experience probably took a few years off my life.

If I hadn’t become a researcher…
my dream career would have to have been football-related, and I always quite fancied being the Premiership’s first female manager. Either that or I would have settled for Capello’s job.

…and on the other hand if I hadn’t become a researcher
I wouldn’t have quite so many entertaining stories of dealing with the public with which to amuse my friends when I go to dinner parties. I’ve had someone turn up with their dog, had to remove someone from the group for being high and even had to evacuate an entire group in Hong Kong thanks to a typhoon warning, which luckily turned out to be a false alarm.