There is a movement to transform qualitative research to an online discipline in order to be relevant to our clients now and in the future. We hear that our jobs are dying, that online will submerge us (only today I was reading on a forum that 2014 will bring the end for the focus group). This transformation is wrong and some are responding to the apparent need for transformation in quite the wrong way. We should not be about bandwagons but about developing a wonderfully rich and varied number of approaches to connect with people.
We at Stream want to disrupt the growing discourse and, we believe, myopic view of online qualitative research by saying we have much more to offer than just transferring a few methods to a new platform.
At the heart of what we want to do is appeal to the industry to value qualitative and to show that great qual delivers great insight and this will be a continually valued (and increasingly rarefied) commodity.
Our belief is that human interaction makes qualitative a brilliant research discipline. We believe that to be relevant we need to look back as well as look forward. We must regain site of what bricolage in research means. Bricolage has been around for years but if you asked a new qual researcher today we would find a significant number who have not heard of it, let alone used the thinking that informs the principles. We have lost our way and our thinking and this has to change.
We need to rediscover our qualitative toolbox, delve deep into it to show how rich and amazing the qualitative world can be. Online and digital techniques are just one additional tool. We need to embrace this as much as we must embrace ethnographic endeavour, as much as we need to continually develop thought provoking projective techniques and we need to hone our craft and this means to become great practitioners of research.
We must be proud to be qualitative researchers, not always making excuses for ourselves or embarrassingly admitting to people we run focus groups. We make a huge difference to the understanding of how a brand, product and service works – and it’s time the world remembered that!
We shouldn’t look at qualitative as either on or offline. We should look at what is the best tool to uncover the very best insights.
We need to embrace the new with the established and equally continually innovate within the established to be truly revolutionary.
Now we are safely into the New Year and things are settling down I find myself making some (considered) pledges rather than (emotional) resolutions for the New Year.
1) To see everything from a fresh perspective. We at Stream want to be fresh in everything we do in 2014. We want to make sure we look at briefs and research projects from a number of perspectives and ensure that no ideas or methodological considerations go unconsidered.
2) We want to continue to blend traditional research methods and new ways of thinking in research. We continue to be passionate believers about innovating within established methods and seeing how the new can supplement what we already do.
3) To champion the consumer inside of the businesses we work for. Consumers are the lifeblood of brands, products and services and we will continue to (unashamedly) promote their importance from within.
4) To enjoy what we do! Someone asked me on a difficult day ‘but do you know many people who enjoy their job as much as you’ and the answer was a resounding no. We are so privileged to work in a dynamic, every changing and fast moving industry. If we continue to enjoy what we do then we will continue to deliver in what we do.
Whether it is our international business or working from our local bases in UK, Italy or Brazil we plan on staying true to these pledges and to continue to evolve as the year goes on.
We look forward to an interesting, insightful and innovative 2014.
Stream – The global research boutique
We have had much fun creating the new ‘us’
We have had many challenges along the way (and a drawer full of logos!)
We now have something that shows who we are, what we stand for and what we value
Here’s to the next 8 years!
I have been involved in many projects in the past which have involved a new logo, a new website, new product identity etc etc. I always found the process enjoyable but it was always with a degree of frustration at how long the process would take and how attached stakeholders were to what they already had.
I would often think why are you ignoring or finding a way to dismiss the consumer feedback on a logo (in particular) and why rationalise a reason not to go with that change? In many instances the end result is not much change at all.
Over the past 4 months we have been undergoing that same process at Stream. We have dismissed dozens of new logos and I have been particularly tricky in my view on what Stream is and what it means to me and hopefully our clients. I have found the process to be as difficult as anything I have ever undertaken. The reason is it’s my baby at the end of the day and, as tired as it is, our 7.5 year identity is part of me now! I started the company when I was 30 (on my birthday in fact) and it has felt as precious as almost anything to me since that day. So saying good bye to that identity and the birth of a new one has been tough. I have 1) dismissed a lot of views when I heard things I didn’t want to hear, 2) post rationalised at many stages and 3) found a number of ways of challenging perfectly logical points of view. I think I understand (re) branding far better now than I have ever done so in my career.
The result is I have pretty much got my own way but I have tried to be very open, and I have got better at it as the process nears an end. In fact we were ready to press the button on a new logo last week and then our designers came up with one last variation that they thought I should see based on our briefing. It immediately made everyone say ‘that is what we have been aiming for’. So logo done (and will premier it at a debrief in Mexico this time next week). The website still has a little work to do but we think we have cracked that too.
My point is this. As researchers perhaps we should be a little more forgiving, understanding and even thoughtful in how we deal with our clients when researching ideas, logos or whatever it may be. These are their babies and we have to be cognisant of that fact at every stage.
Look out soon for the new identity.
As we move towards a digitally obsessed age there is pressure for humble market researchers to go with the flow and do all things digital (by the way not all consumers live in the same world as the marketing and research professionals that represent their views and we should be cautious of that) but this is not always the answer.
Let’s take the focus group – why would you just make a focus group an online group? That is missing the point entirely. Face to face interaction works and works well – just changing this dynamic to an online forum does very little above change for change’s sake. No, let’s embrace digital in the right way, let’s supplement and enhance our repertoire of methodologies.
That’s what we have done here at Stream. We have Research-Book which seeks not to replace the focus group but to add another layer of depth to the methodologies we offer. It works as an ethnographic tool, it works as a scrapbook to help illuminate people’s worlds and it works as a means of getting fast and insightful feedback on concepts, ads and new ideas. It does allow for an online forum or bulletin board to replace a group when required (usually with geographically dispersed groups and those who live a lot of their consumer lives online) but the intention of Research-Book is to add to the insights we collect, not to re-invent the wheel.
So this is a call to everyone, let’s not replace, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Let’s think how we can evolve and improve things. At the heart of research is human interaction and engagement. For me that means great projective techniques that unlocks the insights that make a difference to the brands who employ us to help them understand their consumer.
Let’s use digital and online methods but in the right way.
One of the biggest challenges young researchers face in their first few years of being a consumer researcher is how to effectively and skilfully communicate the findings they uncover.
Often there is a sense of thrill and excitement about all these great things you want to tell your client – they make absolute sense in your own mind, you map out the key headlines, you imagine how you would present this but when it comes to putting this down on paper it can become less clear, a sprawling mess of ideas that just does not cut through or communicate all the good work you have done so far.
There is one key technique that we always teach young (and old) researchers here at Stream – visualising and storyboarding findings.
The reason to storyboard is much like a Director would on a film – to visualise your path to a successful and communicative narrative.
We believe there are 3 key rules to follow when storyboarding:
1) Imagine you turned these findings into a film; what would your narrative be, what are the key images and messages be that you want to leave behind – sketch out what visual look you are going for in order to deliver the findings. Look is vital to hold an audiences attention.
2) How would you structure it in a way that provides a solid beginning (setting out the problem), middle (the story that explains the key issues at hand) and the end (which gives a message, a clear finding, a way forward). Many filmmakers start by storyboarding the end and then build up the rest to show how this ending is its logical conclusion.
3) What are the other key scenes (findings) that are interesting (but might not add to the story) but may be a welcome extra – think the appendix, think added value insights, think a Directors cut which can be looked at if more is needed
There is nothing particularly new here but we believe in the principle of visualisation in everything we do. If you visualise (project management, moderation and debriefing) then you are more prepared and ultimately clearer in delivering what the research project demands: true insight told in an impactful and memorable way.
Exciting news that we have been working on for the past 6 months or so – here’s the summary of what we are setting out to achieve
After 7 years co-ordinating research studies around the globe, Stream is proud to announce the opening of Stream Brazil, our first directly owned local agency.
This is the result of a number of factors. Firstly, the strong and continued growth of the Brazilian economy means global clients are increasingly asking us to carry out projects and fieldwork in Brazil. Secondly, Raf one of the two founding members of Stream, is now spending more and more time in Brazil rather than in Europe. And finally, we have secured the vital support of Joao Simi, a local partner of Stream since we started, who gave us the energy and encouragement to take the plunge.
Based in Rio de Janeiro, with an office in Sao Paulo, Stream Brazil will provide, just as its parent company, the same kind of streams of insights that illuminate the world of consumer for you.
Joao also has a strong quantitative background which will allow us to offer clients a qual / quant service which Stream has been providing recently across global projects.
We would be delighted to hear from you and find together solutions to your research issues in Brazil:email@example.com
With the near demise of HMV and possibility that Blockbuster will eventually fall (and countless others ready to tumble) there is a clear need for high street shops to do something. There is a need to overcome this negative spiral of cut costs, offer little and hope people will come and not do all their shopping on Amazon.
I did 100% of my Xmas Shopping on Amazon (well a little bit on Etsy and Notonthehighstreet) in 2012. It was something I was kind of proud of in a macho type of way (real Men don’t like shopping, or so we are told) but the more I reflect on this fact the more saddened I feel. You see why don’t I go into shops? Price, yes but to be honest if I can just get the right thing then I’m not that price sensitive. It is down to one thing – experience. The experience in so many high street stores and shops is just terrible.
Let’s take HMV. This has been reduced to browsing through thousands of titles to buy 5 Blurays for £30 or 25 CDs for a pound or some equally silly deal. Or on the other end of the spectrum a copy of Borgen on DVD for about £2,000 (it’s good but not that good). I exaggerate but what is missing is any sense of, well, sense. Moreover where has the experience gone? Pile them high, huddle punters around endless aisles and hope you sell stuff at a loss. There are no experts to talk to, no corners to experience the product you want to buy, no sense of theatre in the shop at all.
For British retail to compete with Amazon and the online world there is a need to make the experience in shop a genuine experience, to create a sense of theatre and personalisation, to go beyond deals and towards memorable spaces. But they don’t do this. Retailers continue along the path to oblivion, doing the same old things with the same results.
This is where Kobayashi Maru comes in. For all you Star Trek fans you will already get this reference but for others (possibly with more of a life) let me explain. At Starfleet academy all the cadets have to take the Kobayashi Maru test before graduating. It is basically a no win situation, where if rules and protocols are always followed the test inevitably descends into disaster. That is until James T Kirk decides enough is enough – he literally changes the rules of the test in order to win. He thinks beyond protocol, he turns a no way situation into one he has control over. Technically he cheats to do this but so what! He passes.
Retail is there now. Cheat (copy a retail space that does it well), change the rules, disrupt the perception and engage with people (no pun intended). Kobayashi Maru.
I haven’t blogged for a while – business has been, well, busy and with a new baby due in a little over 4 weeks things have been a little crazy.
But I paused today and realised next week, 17th January, is Stream’s 7th anniversary. How did that happen? 7 years ago I left Synovate (which doesn’t even exist now) to ‘give it a go’. I was fed up with the constant meetings about budgets and targets and just wanted to continue travelling, doing exciting projects and above all moderating.
Now, 2013 and Stream has done over 300 projects – three to four a month – and we have completed these projects in 25 countries and counting. Last year I was personally in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Beijing, New York (several times), Shanghai (perhaps too many times), Lyon, Paris amongst others – what a privilege it is to travel the world and see so much.
I have to admit to being quite proud about this. Stream is just Raf and myself with occasional help from others. Our company size means we can really focus on projects (no budget meetings) and aside from all the sales guff I could quote this means we have been happier doing the projects and this means a lot. Being happy and loving what you do are essential to your overall life balance. At least I think so.
We now move forward with a plan to continue to do what we do well, with a little of the new mrx in the mix as well (I am staunchly pro traditional methods but I do see innovation both within and outside these methods as crucial). But, most importantly, we hope to enjoy the coming years as much as the previous 7.
Thank you to all our clients, partner agencies, friends and of course our families (my Wife has to put up with me travelling a lot) – we could not have done it without you.