“What you don’t know, you don’t know” is all too familiar to the human condition, but the bane of existence to every market researcher. As a professional market researcher myself, I always knew there were consumer insights missing from my surveys, but I just didn’t have the time or budget to be more comprehensive. I, like the rest of my profession, convinced myself it was acceptable with “something is better than nothing” given there were no better alternatives.
When feasible, I used qualitative research to inform the design of quantitative survey questions and always included open-ended questions. We all know how useless open-ended text boxes have become – “same as above” or “oiqhjjoqhjgfpoij” or “can’t think of anything” when they are actually filled in. Human-led interviewing was brilliant at probing and clarifying responses, but low incidence and high cost per complete has nearly killed the methodology. And who really wants to receive a phone call to do a survey at dinner?
Don’t get me wrong, traditional research has served me well for more than 20 years, but I never felt completely confident the entire picture was represented. Survey length restrictions, professional panelists, asking questions that are important to you and not the consumer, response rates, incidence, etc. were constant challenges, which even ethnography research failed to resolve. It wasn’t until being introduced to social intelligence, I could finally identify the “what you don’t know, you don’t know” type of insights accurately and cost-effectively.
With social intelligence, you pick up what matters to consumers rather than confirming what you already know. To better illustrate the problem, a spirits manufacturer’s internal metrics suggested their current ad spends appeared to be generating lift in sales. Its brand messaging positioned the product as a high-end quality spirit targeted toward the affluent and sophisticated audience. (You can already tell this is going to end badly, can’t you?)
As it turns out, the manufacturer learned through social intelligence consumers associated their brand with drug cartels or the “Narco” culture. People were buying the particular spirits brand to be part of the “wannabe” drug cartel culture and NOT because of the advertising message and positioning.
This story is a great example of how we can identify things “we don’t know, we don’t know” and their implications. So, at the end of the day, you need to ask yourself: are you comfortable trading off sales for brand erosion? My guess is no, because we all want to be good stewards of the brand.
As a researcher, we can easily get complacent with traditional methodologies we’re comfortable with, but we need to be more of a maverick researcher open to embracing change. The new tools available in the social intelligence give researchers access to real-time tools allowing them to put structure around big data, identify new and emerging trends, drill-down into specific customer journey stages to answer the “whys” scores go up or down, in order to yield better context and actionable insights.
To see a better example of the kind of insights you can achieve, think about how trendy wearables are these days and then ask yourself if you know what consumers actually want from wearable devices, check-out this white paper.
How would knowing what you don’t know make an impact for your brand?