Show me the truth
01.14 2014

Forget the regular surveys: they do not reveal the truth – 1

Let’s observe! And build a new world of client surveys.

Qualitative studies based on statements are unsuitable for understanding the lives of consumers. They are based on what they say they do but not on what they actually do. Why? Simply because they are carried out of the contexts of real life, and out of context, no one is aware of his behaviors.

But to innovate, it is crucial to rely on the truth of today usages before designing new worlds. If declarative studies are unreliable, where will we find the raw material for innovation?

Only the observation can activate the awareness-raising on the daily life.

If you ask me to describe you the way I prepare the family breakfast with my children, there is a good chance that I’m telling you nonsense. Not because I would want to cheat you, but because I am not aware of all these micro gestures, these habits, these reflexes that I show only when I am standing in my kitchen, with my kids heckling around me.

But if you shot me in my kitchen and then you showed me that video, I would instantly become aware of my real actions and I could, if needed, explain them to you. This is what anthropologists call the phenomenon of awareness-raising. This process is essential to lead to a proper understanding of the human, social and environmental reality, and then to a critical eye.

Do not listen to what I say, but observe what I do.

Observing people in their real life context provides the only perfectly reliable field for surveys. This method reveals information that, perhaps, we are not aware of, and that can only be revealed in-situ:
• Subliminal resistances
• rituals and beliefs
• diversion of usages
• emerging usages
• etc.

One example: who would consciously state "When I finish my box of powdered medicine, I pour the leftovers of the soon obsolete box in the new one"? But as incredible as it may seem for the pharmaceutical industry, this gesture is common. The unconscious reflex of savings goes against the health recommendations. But to understand that, you need to observe the patients in a situation instead of questioning them out of context on what they are aware to do.

A serious survey approach must respect the observation professionals, their tools and methods.

From my point of view it is based on 4 pillars:
• Professionals in human sciences: anthropologists and ethnologists of the contemporary worlds who can immerse themselves and collect a contextualized knowledge thanks to an inductive methodology;
• Technical means to facilitate the non-intrusive immersion in the lives of people;
• A scientific protocol;
• Restitution tools that suit operational use (fast sharing and pooling of resources).

Properly exploited, this ethnographic approach produces remarkable -and often unexpected- results. It requires starting the research by an agnostic posture. We must accept, for example, to question traditional segmentations.

Inprocess Lab™ recently conducted a study for a large cosmetics group which objective was to understand the make-up practices in China and Korea. Without unveiling its results, we found out that the true segmentation of the beauty rituals is not between the women over and under 30 years. The real breakthrough lies in the speed. Some women practice a high-speed make-up, perfectly in harmony with their daily rhythm, while others make themselves up slowly, like some painters use watercolor and others oil. Our client’s teams had the acumen to challenge their usual segmentation before designing new products, better tailored to their two real targets.

One of our clients recently told me in confidence that an unexpected virtue of the ethnographic surveys is that they can convince an executive committee in a few moments.

The power of a 30-seconds video showing an iconic user who is shopping in a busy supermarket is all the talk and all the figures in the world. In the business world, where the R.O.I. culture is growing, ethnographic films help get the explicit and implicit almost within reach for immediate decision-making.

Large innovative companies have integrated ethnologists and established professional methods of observation.

Stéphane Richard and his teams at France Télécom have seized the power and value of the ethnographic surveys. This is also the case with Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, La Poste, the Seb Group or Decathlon for example. These methods are also becoming famous in agencies like Nurun.
But elsewhere, colossal budgets are still devoted to developing new products solely on the basis of traditional qualitative studies. And 60% of these innovations do not survive beyond 2 years. It is urgent to address today's knowledge of the customer and the user in a more scientific way!

For successful innovation relies on the subtle understanding of today’s emerging usages.

The raw material of innovation, its rough diamond, is the evolution of usages, lifestyles and relationships. The innovation professionals analyze their brilliance, their refraction, their color before imagining new cuts and creating fabulous jewels. If the rough diamond is not pure, the innovation process will be sterile.

I am committed to supporting the companies’ movement towards a more reliable understanding of usages. I fight to establish a body of practices adapted to the new challenges of the companies, the users, the citizens and the society itself. Because it is the guarantee for creating reliable business offers that will ensure the robustness and sustainability of our companies. And because it represents an economic asset that can turn into a model.
I will come back to this very soon!

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published on 01/14/2014 at 6:28 pm
#awareness-raising #ethnography #knowledge #marketing #observation #qualitative survey #survey #usage
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