Dec 28, 2006

A game of Tag and branding

What was that again...Zeilg....never mind !

If you had to see someone with a name tag like that, its highly likely you'd give that name tag one long hard stare in trying to remember it, repeat it silently at least 5 times hoping you are pronouncing it correctly and perhaps even embrass yourself when you say it.

In case you are wondering why I am saying all this - I am taking off from C.B's post here. She posted an interesting thought about how the 'game of tags' in the virtual world could be put to use in the real world to enhance customer experience. She writes...

The whole concept of 'blog tag' reminds me that often the hardest part of developing a relationship with customers is that initial point of connection. So, imagine enabling that connection through a non-virtual version of 'blog tag'... Think of hotels where the concierge and others wear nametags showing both city of origin and name. Don't your eyes gravitate to that information? And, don't you start a conversation with that person relating to that info?

Whenever I am asked which mobile handset i use, I say 'Nokia'. Even while i say it, i can anticipate the next question. Which model? And i have to reluctantly say 'I don't know'. The conversation does not end there, but it suffices to say that no matter how hard i try, I cannot for the life of me remember alpha numeric codes. It is for the same reason that communication for hardware / electronics - that reel out such numbers - does not resonate with me.

Vin Cuit
Ever been to a restaurant, where instead of telling the person taking your order what you'd like, you've had to point a finger to the menu since you were too embarrassed to pronounce. Worse still ever had an experience where instead of deciding what you'd like to eat, you stare at the strange words on the menu with the alphabets rolling in front of your eyes. Names that are originally linked to a cuisine do have a ring of authenticity, though the customer could have the an unpleasant experience with the words rolling over his tongue.

Of Scandinavian lakes & Swedish Islands
Ever bought garden furniture or bathroom accessories that were named after lakes and islands. You probably have except that it hasn't clicked that funny looking jumble of words on your IKEA products actually meant something! People who buy IKEA do so for the design elements and affordability and a product name would not deter them from their purchase decision - but it does leave consumers wondering, gives them no context to the product name and in some cases even causes inconvenience.

Where do the 'dots' go
My last thought on the subject is on and i still don't know whether i have got the dots in the right place and frankly, it does not matter any more since if you did type just 'delicious' - it would take you to their site, but once upon a time it did not and one had to take the trouble to remember. Fortunately for them, they recognized this and made the corrections early on!

The point is

Poor Zeilgyiv did not have a choice with his name,
Marketers do!
(In what and how their brands / products are named)

Where i first read about the trouble with the delicious name - the delicious tax
A two part article decoding the mystery behind the IKEA product names - Part 1, 2
What to watch out for while considering brand / product names - here and here

brand names,product names,IKEA,,

Dec 19, 2006

The Qualitative Research Blog : On why this blog has a new name

Not that any one would notice, but this blog used to be called 'What I do for a Living' ....and now it is not! As much as I would have liked to chose something that sounds more interesting and esoteric I have adapted a very boring, prosaic phrase. Why?

1. What I do for a living is very generic - I could be making peanut-butter-jelly sandwiches for a living! Do a google search on that phrase and you will see results describing 'what the living do' to 'someone who sings happy birthday to his car every 1000 miles'. So I have a hope in hell with a name like that, a serious surfer on research would find my blog.

2. I have been looking for qual research blogs and haven't had much luck finding them. In the process i happened to figure out a little google secret. Google blog search picks up blogs and displays those amongst the top urls 'only if your blog title / name has words that coincide with the search phrase' - So I put in a title as simple as 'The qualitative research blog' - and did a search using the phrase 'qualitative research' - and it worked!

If you are going to spend a great deal of time and energy writing about a subject, it makes all the more sense to tweak your blog elements, to be seen and heard by the right audience!

qualitative research,qualitative research blog,qualitative market research,market research,

The Marketing Z-list : A little nudge to the left

If you are one of those bloggers who is happy typing away at the keyboard each day without ever looking at your site stats then there are just two possibilities a) you are amongst the top 5 % - who have far too many visitors on for them to even keep track of OR b) you belong to the 0.001 % of the blogging population who just blog for the love of it and you are way above the mundaneness of things like visitor stats or blog ranks. For the rest of us - we sit on the belly of the normal curve and try to stealthily inch our way to the left.

The revenge of the Z-lister is one such attempt. Technorati / Google - where people generally stop to look for blogs - use the number of incoming links to a page as an indicator of authority. So if you are a nube, there'll be few bloggers who'd know of you, even fewer linking to you, your chances of appearing on these search engines become slimer and you'd probably be pushed away into obscurity.

The other thing many of us inadvertently do is, when we start blogging, we read those popular, authoritative blogs and link them to our blog rolls - feeding them with more incoming links - and more authority - nothing wrong with that - expect that many of these blogs are already so visible - they probably dont need that extra publicity - where as some one else may deservedly earn a huge mileage from the extra links. And the law of diminishing marginal utility - returns!

So here's to increasing marginal returns with links where they still matter...

Chris Brown
Shotgun Marketing Blog
Customers Rock!
Being Peter Kim
Two Hat Marketing
The Branding Blog
The Emerging Brand
Drew’s Marketing Minute
Golden Practices
Tell Ten Friends
Flooring the Consumer
Kinetic Ideas
Sports Marketing 2.0
Black In Business
On Influence and Automation
Marketing Hipster
Viral Meister
Trend Watching
Social Media Marketing
Customer Experience Crossroads
The Curious Shopper
The Qualitative Research Blog (What I do for a living)
Customers Are Always

And My additions to the List

B2B Blog
Mind Space
Marketing Profs:Daily Fix
Blackfriars' Marketing

How you can take the list forward

Cut and paste the list of blogs into your new post, adding any additional blogs that you think need more air time. Add the same instructions in your post so the next blogger does the same.

Follow the Trail...
The meme started here and then went here, here and here (where you will find the html for 25 or so links that will save you some Ctrl C / Ctrl V effort) I found it on this blog

* Confessions of a Z list Blogger - a hilarious piece of writing on the subject! Must Read.

Marketing Z-List,Z List Blogs,Buzz Marketing,technorati,Z List,Z-List,

Dec 14, 2006

Packaging elements Part 2 - What consumers infer

While reading about Innocent Smoothie for my last post on packaging i stumbled upon a number of blog posts where people had written about walking into supermarkets and finding their innocent smoothie bottles lined up on the shelves in their pretty winter caps. The kind souls at 'innocent' will give away 50p to Age Concern for every bottle sold. Well, it truly is a warm gesture but I will restrict my post to the packaging idea.

The guys at Innocent smoothie - a bunch of warm and happy people

- This is like stating the obvious but, bottles lined on the a shelf with cute colourful little hats on them definitely break the clutter and stand out without really being in-your-face-loud.

- I have come across marketers using collectibles before, but only ones which have been targeted at kids - pokemon, tazzos and such like. These supergran hats are collectibles for adults or should i refer to them as 'grown up kids'. While reading the bloggers who had written about this, I came across so many who mentioned - I looked but couldn't find many more such bottles on the shelves...with people responding in the comment box saying...I want that too

The brand through these hats has really infused some fun into people's lives. Look through this flickr group to see some of the fun people have had with these cuties. It makes the brand more endearing to the consumer. Google is one more such brand that inspires warmth amongst people who talk about it.

- It generates a buzz. It gives people something to talk about. Look what I saw today...Look what i got home...look what i did with my many people blogging about these supergrans

Zune - a great out-of-box experience going sour

Moving away from Innocent Smoothies, the second brand I had spoken about in my last post was the Zune. Apparently, Microsoft really did get the packaging right this time. The are loads of reviews out there about the fantastic out-of-box experience and aesthetics. I don't want to repeat what is already there.

What i did learn from all that I read about people's reactions to the Zune (in the context of packaging) was this

- The OOBE tells a lot to the consumer about what he should expect from the product. With Zune, people expected the stereotypical Microsoft packaging - cluttered with needless info. What they saw came as a surprise. It created 2 expectations

a) this is a diversion from the usual microsoft way of doing things - consumer starts to feel positive about the product
b) the design aesthetics are subtly similar to that of the iPod - clean, bold yet stylish - you have set the tone for the consumer to compare your offering against your competitor even before using the product.

There is nothing wrong with both the above expectations. Provided the product experience the user has matches the initial euphoria he has on seeing the pack. Unfortunately that did not happen with the Zune. Many recounted nightmarish installation experiences. The over simplified installation guide and lack of tech support at such a critical time only added to that negativity.

- Packaging sets the tone for what consumers expect and how they slot the product.

- Manage expectations. Product images on the pack raise consumer expectations on how products would turn out (especially in case of categories like food). If you are showing some exceedingly yummy food shots, your product better taste that yummy too. Honesty goes a long way. One good thing about the Zune pack was that the size and thickness of the Zune player was rightly depicted on the pack. Many applauded that honesty especially since 'size and weight' are considered critical to the category of portable music players

- Consumers pick up cues from the pack size / shape / colours / dimensions - on where to slot / position it and what other products it is pitched at. For instance, in India most of the detergent brands have packs that are blue in colour. When we researched a food product that has a similar blue - many consumers at the first glance dismissed the pack we showed them saying that it looked like a detergent pack and it could not contain food. Other cues they picked up were that if the pack showed a glass with milk - it meant that the pack contained milk that is to be consumed cold, while if the pack showed a shot of a mug with milk - that mean - the pack contain a powder to be mixed with warm milk - because one cannot hold a glass full of warm milk without a handle

Read more about innocent supergran hats here
If you are looking for initial reactions to the Zune, you will find some of them here and here

Packaging Research,Zune,innocent smoothies,supergran hats,

Dec 12, 2006

Packaging elements that work

Every since I brought home the innocent smoothie carton, I have been itching to do a post about packaging. It brought back some interesting memories from a packaging research I was part of. Trying to check whether consumers understood the key benefit of the product, I remember asking a woman in one of those interviews

What do you think the person who designed this pack is trying to tell you? What was their intention? And the lady replied…

They are trying to tell me never to read this pack. I tried not to laugh knowing I was being watched by clients and asked her with a very serious face….

Sorry I did not follow what you said…And she added…Now you only tell mewho has the time to read all this technical information these days…

She said what most people feel. Packs are boring, cluttered with too much information, almost designed ‘to never be read’. I don’t know yet the fate of that pack we were researching; it is still to be launched. Though I distinctly remember the prototype. The faces of that carton were being treated like prime real estate. Each square inch of that space was filled with symbols, logos, nutritional guidelines, the ingredient list and tiny pictures to symbolize the ingredients, and that was not enough there was the brand charter about 60 words of highbrow talk – and in two languages! And…there was a tiny quiz game - an arcane question, the answer to which had to be found on the pack. Honestly, we did not need to do research to find out the pack was too cluttered but even the slightest suggestion to do away with any of the pack elements would get the marketing team cringing. For them all of it was non-negotiable territory…all of it had to be there!

Isn’t it a twisted logic…first we create clutter and then we spend a lot of time and money trying to figure out…how to break the clutter.

Of the many packs I have seen in the last one year, two elements have stood out in my memory.

- The Sainsbury wheel of health.

o A simple way of depicting the nutritional guidelines. They use colour coding instead of having to look at numbers

o Moves the information from ‘back of the back’ – associated mostly with boring technical information nobody wants to read – to front of the pack where it catches the attention at the first glance.

o The colour coding uses colours that all of us already have associations with – the colours of the traffic signal – red on the the wheel means, stuff that should be eaten sparingly - since it has far greater amounts of nutrients than what is the recommended daily allowance (RDA). More green on the wheel means that the amounts are in line with the RDA– stuff that is good for you.

- The second being the copy on the innocent smoothies pack

o Simple, easy to read, warm and talking to you in the first person. Makes you want to read.

o Sounds authentic. In synch with their brand values. You believe what you read.

o The font they use on the pack looks friendly and so is their language. You have fun while reading it. Look at what this person found at the bottom of his pack. Mine had an innocuous rhyme :)

If you want a reminder about what not to do with your packaging – watch this youtube video about how Microsoft would design the iPod pack. Contra expectations they seem to have done well with the Zune packs. More about that and some more innocent smoothie talk, tomorrow.

Learning: Consumers are also humans. Talking to us like human beings might help :)

Packaging Research,Sainsburys,Sainsburys wheel of health,innocent smoothies,

Nov 24, 2006

We need real world search engines

Some months ago, I was at home flipping channels on my TV mindlessly, waiting to get to a channel of my choice...the wait seemed endless. Navigating through 108 channels is no mean task and more than anything else a waste of precious time. What made the situation worse was that each time i'd memorize the numbers of my fav channels or pre set them in a sequence, the cable operator would do something to scramble it all up (yeah he didn't like me very much).

Anyway, on one of those days instead of cursing the cable guy, i sat back and started thinking...about how finding things is always such a pain!!! Whether its the news channel that you want to get to or that brand of whole wheat bread which has exactly 8% HAVE TO go past a whole array of things you don't want to see. I fantasized about how life would be if i could just speak to my remote control and say...go to ! Or if i could just enter a super market and i'd have my 'lady in waiting' to get me JUST what i needed. (i know 'the lady in waiting' does not wait at a super market but its my fantasy and i am allowed to bring whoever i want).

I stopped fantasizing when i realised its not an altogether absurd idea. Argos has been doing this since 1973. For those not familiar, Argos, is a catalogue retailer - you walk into their store, you go through their catalogue, write down what you want on a slip of paper, pay, and wait to collect your goods. All this happens in under 30 mins ! And to think of it - i spend more time than that buying grocery!!! It cut shorts the 'time required to make a decision' because you are browsing through their fat catalogue not at their shop but in the comfort of your home...and if you see it you'll know how many SKUs they are dealing with.

Why don't we have catalogue grocery stores ? Makes sense to me - since after i have decided on what brands / product variants i want to buy - i don't need to see the product every time i'm buying it. I can always check for new versions in their catalogue - space that marketers could use for promoting new products.

This morning i read Susan's post about how we are all sinking under the information deluge and feeling guilty about not being able to keep pace - and what opportunities could arise for businesses as a result of this trend. Her post sparked a thought in my mind...if only we had search engines in the real a world marked by needless and excessive would make living so much easier.

The Argos model is an indication of how 'real world search engines' could function. Its not without reason their tag line says ' Dont shop for it.. Argos it' where have we heard that before? Google?

Argos,infoglut,infoguilt,real world search engines,

Nov 16, 2006

Remaking adverts - reviving familiar elements in communication

Happened to see this old YouTube video today that I am sure most people, who grew up at about the same time as me in India, would remember. Before the advent of satellite TV, there was only one channel to watch. Those were the times with little clutter and media spend decisions simply revolved around getting the prime time slot. Consequently the range of ads and infomercials that we saw during those times enjoyed and still continue to enjoy, tremendous mindshare amongst consumers.

The video reminded me of an ad research I was part of some time ago, where a new brand entering the market targeted at kids, was trying to take the animation route to break clutter. Animation per se as a route could break clutter purely because of its novelty but there was something going against the ads that were being tested. The brand launch was going to be a global one and ads had been developed by an agency outside the country. It goes without saying that the situations depicted and the characters were alien to the audience. Each frame by itself was not difficult to understand but to decode the message behind the ad, they would have had to make the mental connection between the scenes which people were not able to ladder up in their mind.

When I saw the youtube video today, which happened to be an animation, I wondered why no agency has used elements from that video to develop any tv commercial around it? And logically extending that point, why don’t we see remakes of old ads.

Ads from the past, not only evoke the feeling of nostalgia associated with a brand and make us feel all warm and cozy about it but they also contain associations around brands that become indelible with the passage of time. Elements like…Mummy bhook lagi hai…bus 2 minute (Jingle for Maggi) or the swirling Nirma girl stopping the passer by are all too familiar. And who can forget Lalitaji from the Surf Excel ad?

And if you thought it was just the nostalgia factor at work, Caroline Whitehill talks about how brand associations get hard-wired over time in her write-up about how neuroscience is transforming research

Why for certain familiar brands, people still talk about advertising campaigns from ten years ago…. Neuroscience has shown us that it takes a long time to create connections. But with repetition and over time, cells that fire together repeatedly become literally physically soldered together. Neuroscientists say 'cells that fire together are wired together'. This process takes at least two years and is known as hardwiring. 'Brand associations that are already consolidated in long-term memory cannot be broken off

We do see this happening albeit in a limited way - with the Close-up reviving their old ad jingle to kya aap naya close up kartein hain or Lyril continuing to show the lime freshness through the waterfall as their backdrop. But for every brand & agency team trying to retain elements in their commercials, there are a dozen if not more fresh communication ideas thrown at consumers everyday – which one would probably notice for the short while those are on air but fade away into oblivion in no time. What remains with us are the ones from a time by-gone. In many ways then old adverts are like music, the vintage classics are the ones that are timeless

advertising,brand communication,advertising research,

Nov 6, 2006

On Blogfest reflections and Qual Research

So the party's over and what a riot it has been! Over 40 posts put up by 9 Bloggers who took time out to write about bathrooms for just about a week. It has been exhausting as all of us admit, but it has also been interesting to read so many diverse perspectives in such a short span of time. And it has proved to be an excellent forum for ideation - thoughts developed as we went along the way and one thing led to another to build the momentum. Thanks to Susan and Stephanie who sparked this all off and all the rest who joined in.

As i recover from all the weeks activity, I wonder how effective this is as a medium to get quick and focussed consumer feedback. I had written sometime back about reasons that make blogs a serious market research tool. If we look at 'consumer-speak' as companies would find it on blogs, though information of this kind is spontaneous, unsolicited and less likely to be fraught with postured responses and that is what makes it valuable. the content may / may not be the blogger's most recent thoughts about a subject, the blogger may not have spoken about what exactly the marketer is looking for and more than anything such information is dispersed. Though it is possible to search and find people who have blogged about a subject the exercise may be too tedious and time consuming. Reasons like these and many more may discourage marketers from looking at blogs for consumer research.

The solution at hand: A blogfest.

Essentially recruit a panel of bloggers (and like traditional research, you need not keep market research professionals out of it in the fear that it may skew responses since researchers are consumers too and sometimes the more picky ones thanks to all the research they do). The more diverse the panel, the better. Rope in people from the field of communications, product design, advertising, research, marketing or just a bunch of creative college kids. They do not have to be all consumers of your product as long as they are aware of what is being spoken about and have a perspective to offer.

Agree on a time frame that suits most people.

Give them time to plan their posts, gather material. If it helps give them homework activity - having to visit the supermarket to familiarise themselves with your brands, category or go observe people at the local McDonalds or Starbucks. Whatever it is - make it fun!

Orient them to the topic. Give them some sort of a background, share with them the questions that your product team has been grappling with, your marketing objectives etc.

....And have them start blogging posting each day / several times a day and cross linking to each other to show development of thoughts. Encourage people to post pictures, quote real life experiences, upload audio-video clips...what ever they need to do to get their point across.

It would help to have a quick online meeting in the chat room some days before the fest, to exchange thoughts and just to avoid repetitive posts. You could also stop mid - week to review what's been happening and ideas / topics that need more fleshing out / have not been taken up by anyone.

If you see the excitement fizzling out, you could throw in activities around the theme to energize the crowd !

And at the end of it - I'm sure you'd have a ton of rich information you'd have gathered that you can work with - and a bunch of exhausted yet happy bloggers!

research method,qualitative research,blogs and market research,blogfest,

Nov 2, 2006

Bathroom Blogfest: When signs dont work...its time to ask WHY

Consider this…

You want to use the loo. You set foot (there is only space for that) in this rather small place and try to find toilet seat covers…the dispenser is empty. Some kid who got into the restroom before you tried to reach his hand at it and pulled out far too many…now they’re all strewn around the tiny floor space that you are standing on. In any case, even if you’d have found them, isn’t it a pain trying to tear that perforated portion in the centre, while there is that nagging feeling somewhere at the back of your head about how the toilet seat cover has that slimy, slippery texture. (In the absence of the cover) You reach for the toilet roll…wipe the seat with it and get on with your job. While you are at it you try to numb yourself to the bits of moist tissue around the sink & something that smells like a mix of synthetic citrus air freshener, an equally smell hand wash and of course the loo! Now you’re done! There is that squeaky sound as you stand up and your footwear touches the floor surface on which water (and various other things) have dried. But never mind that. You think, I must wash my hands with hot water and soap and get the hell out of this place. Thank god you don’t have to touch the tap after washing hands. It has a sensor. You carefully pull out tissue with the tip of your fingers not to touch anything around it, lest you catch any germs. Wipe and reach for the bin to dispose it… and stop! The bin has this push-down lid. If you need to push it down you need to touch it. This means your hands don’t feel clean any more. Even if you hold the push down lid with your tissue-in-hand and try to dump the tissue in, on release your fingers would still touch the lid…and that’s not a very
comforting though. You think…why don’t I just flush the tissue? You see the sign that advises against it – because it would clog the drain. You still go ahead. Grab another tissue and touch the flush with it – and quickly toss in the last tissue in as the suction works at pulling it. And then what happens is anybody’s guess…eventually the drain will get clogged and if there wasn’t already enough of a mess in there…create an even more of an un-unusable loo. And you don’t want to be stuck in such a situation mid air.

Poor quality wash rooms are never like that to begin with. They also start out squeaky clean. Over time things deteriorate since a) users don’t maintain the facilities and b) more importantly since there is something in there that is coming in the way of users keeping it clean.

- It could be trash bins with a push down lid or

- Toilet roll dispensers with loose covers – which could have led to the entire roll on the floor when someone decided to give it a tug

- Seat covers which have an centre difficult to tear (I still don’t know why they can’t have covers that just outline the rim)

- Or like Susan points out - Hand towels at the other end of the loo – that would have people walk in the washrooms with dripping hands.

The point is these are things that don’t require big investments…but it requires some paying attention.

If you see paper towels on the floor the next time – just stand back and think WHY before putting up a notices likes these

Customers are advised not to throw used paper towels in the bin as a courtesy to others users.

Picture courtesy

Push Down Lid - Flickr, No disposal signage - Gettyimages

customer experience, bathroom blogfest, ladiesrooms,

Nov 1, 2006

Bathroom Blogfest : Would you put your money in your bathroom?

While more fortunate consumers in some parts of the world talk about issues like softness of toilet paper or adding personal touches to public wash room India we deal with base level issues like 'whether the loo is clean' (that is the first question i remember asking anyone who'd visit a public loo - too reluctant to try it out myself) or 'whether there is a loo at all' ?

Untill i started to travel and live out of my country, the notion that some one could invest in clean wash rooms for the use of citizens was alien to me. We grew up learning how to exercise bladder control and made our way to a public wash room / toilet only in dire circumstances . Even as recent as a couple of years back, horrified at the state of the ladiesroom at my workplace and despite many explicit requests to the admin staff I relented by carrying my own toilet paper ! And I distinctly remember how thrilled i was when switching jobs i discovered that the ladies room at my new place of work was well equipped and bright.

Of course the situation is changing slowly - with the advent of Malls, Multiplexes and MNCs, Indians are finally waking up to cleaner wash rooms though establishments offering such facilities are still few and far between.

This throws up several questions in my mind...As we go ahead

- Do businesses need to invest in great looking or even clean washrooms?
- Would a consumer's opinion about a washroom facility, impact his / her opinion of the business it is part of? Or are we so accustomed to bad loos of yesteryears that we'd consider the poor state of wash rooms a given!
- Would the presence and state of a wash room dictate my choice as a consumer i.e. would i chose one restaurant over another based on their loo?

I would be fooling myself if i'd think that the state of a wash room would influence we haven't reached that stage yet. But that does not negate the other two statements. I don't think i'd decide against going to a mall / restaurant or not join a place of work if it had an unclean toilets, though i know a finicky friend who does check out the loo whenever she goes for a job interview.

But i most definitely would remember an organization / business establishment where i encountered a clean one. And given that there is such a dearth of the such types why would it not stand out in anyone's memory ?

It also cannot be denied that a, well equipped washroom signals to stakeholders that you CARE about them & their most basic requirement.

The question therefore is would businesses want to invest in such facilities and if so, for what in return? When considering such decisions, people need to bear in mind that such investments involve not only a one time effort but a recurring effort not only in terms of money but also in terms of time and energy

Everything cannot be attributed to monetary returns and providing such a facility (at least given current realities in india) creates a strongly positive experience for the consumer. Susan talks about how such facilities register as a part of the total experience and can act as a differentiator to your business. Clean loos in India is not just a 'hygiene factor'. They are viewed as a comfort, if not a luxury by most. People always talk about loo encounters good, bad or ugly. They may not go shouting from the roof tops but the news does get around through whispers.

So if you haven't cared enough to look into the wash room facilities you provide...remember

Clean restrooms = Happy Customers &
Dirt = Disorder

PS - while 10 years back my search for a good loo ended at the Taj, today it is the golden arches of the ubiquitous McDonalds I look matter where i am in the world...and I am never disappointed. Now what does that tell you about customer care & consistency in standards!

More on bathroooms and customer experience

Susan talks about how even bathrooms count in creating an integrated customer experience using the 4 p's framework

Sara has a few confessions to make & comes up with some real innovative ideas on how to encourage people to 'wash hands'

Stephanie illustrates well designed bathrooms she has comes across here. Don't miss the kid friendly hand wash area

For businesses who dont think washrooms are worth their time and money, read Linda's post that starts with Paco Underhills nerve racking question...Would you want your wife to pee in this place?

Christine has some halloween bathroom horror stories to share

Maria recounts how she is so comfortable with starbucks washroom, that she does not mind working in there.

customer experience, bathroom blogfest, ladiesrooms

Oct 30, 2006

Bathroom blogfest week - Restrooms v/s toilets...not just a matter of semantics

My most memorable experiences in the loo date back to my days in college when I spent long hours outside of home or college with friends.Our rambling almost always came to an abrupt end with one of us wanting to visit the loo. At that time no matter where we were, we would head straight to the gateway of india...near which is the luxurious Taj Mahal hotel. While entering we chattered loudly about visiting their pastry shop or visiting some imaginary uncle / aunt who was their guest - out of fear - so that the durbaan (concierge) did not take note of us as just a bunch of giggly girls who ambled into the foyer for no reason.

Once inside the restroom however, the fear gave way to fantasy ...for it was difficult not to lose oneself in that brightly lit room, treating oneself to the cold fresh face towels re-stocked regularly beside elegant faucets. There were dispensers that doled out generous portions of rich creamy fragrant liquid soap. One could admire oneself in the many full length mirrors placed at angles that would allow one to make girly comparisons ranging from whose hair looked the best when tossed behind to whose backside looked the worst ! I do vaguely remember that those rooms had fresh flowers that completed the circle of luxury for me.

Honestly speaking, for those few minutes (read 20) i spent there - I felt like royalty. Luxurious bathrooms or even tastefully designed bathrooms, atleast in India, have been regarded a luxury a privileged few have access to. I don't know the reason - whether it is cultural or habitual or just the state of development in the country - but bathrooms & toilets have for long been neglected terrains. Public facilities are best left untouched (in more ways than one) here for the unsavoury memories they conjure up but even in people's homes and in some cases even rich homes, the toilets i have seen have been a let-down. It could be because of the strong notions of 'purity' that people held on to - not just in the physical sense but also in a cultural sense (cleaning of toilets were considered menial tasks confined to people from the lowest castes). It was also for this reason that historically toilets and bathrooms found their place away from the main house - in a courtyard.
Coming back to the loo at the Taj Mahal hotel, apart from the grandeur that obviously comes with 5 star standards, what was memorable for me was - that it was a place where i did not pinch my nose and rush out. It was a 'room' a place where i did not mind spending time. In fact it was a place where i felt good spending time. It's not without reason that those facilities were and still are referred to as - 'Restrooms'. More than a matter of semantics, words like restroom / powder room / ladies rooms connote an experience.

It's not always possible to rush to a Taj and let's face reality that there are only a handful 5 star facilities but it's possible to recreate the same feeling

#Strip the bathroom of that clinically clean / industrial look.
# Introduce Pretty lamp shades instead of jarring white tube lights

# Place Mirrors set in beautiful frames
# Keep Fresh flowers...and if that is an avoidable chore...potted plants are good too
# Embellish with Pot pourri / paintings / beads and baubles - anything to give it a little personal touch

What I liked about this tile border, apart from the cheery sunflower design, is the detailing at the centre of the flowers...those stand out from the rest of the border giving it a 3- D feel.

This bathroom has soft yellow lights, ornate lampshades and even a little ceiling fan - truly adding to the comfort and making it look very personal

customer experience, bathroom blogfest, ladiesrooms

Oct 22, 2006

Air carriers, Down-grade benefits, & customer delight…

Last week Jet Airways downgraded my frequent flier membership tier from Platinum to Gold. The large pack that was handed over to me by the courier delivery boy (containing my Frequent Flier Goodies) took me back reminiscing about the good old days when traveling 3 days a week had become a norm and I could reel out airline schedules if woken up in my sleep … but what was I doing with this pack if my tier has fallen a step?
I expected it to contain a handbook with the usual information and was about to chuck it in the bin when I flipped through the papers and was delighted to see ‘3 complimentary business class upgrade vouchers’. These vouchers are usually given to frequent fliers as part of their tier upgrades.

So was this a mistake or was it sent intentionally? Well honestly I do not know. Though I knew that…

As a customer I was delighted
As a customer I was still ‘Valued’ (even though I did not fly with this carrier as often as I used to) – I had not been written off

At a time when there is a glut of cheap, low fare, no frill carriers in the market – here is one that will stand out in my mind for offering ‘a positive experience’ around flying. The airline industry not only in India but also across the world is seen as offering consumers rock bottom prices in a bid to woo them. Of course the rock bottom prices come with little or no service offering. While this tactic works well with the self-financed traveler – it leaves out the chunk of business traveler who is not price sensitive and values comfort or even luxury over economy. Price cuts are tactical, easily replicated by competition and progressively erode the bottom line and brand value. Wooing consumers instead by creating small subtle differentiators around their travel experience and making them feel special goes a much longer way.

Another air carrier that has successfully created such subtle yet important differentiators in their service offering is Kingfisher Airline.

With KF their consumers are referred to not as passengers but as guests. This is not just a matter of semantics. It reflects an attitude - evident in the way the KF staff treats its customers. Step out of your cab at the terminal and you’ll find a KF staff member appear to help you with your luggage into a trolley and right through to the point when you have checked those bags in. What I value the most about KF is their consistency - that it is the only organization I have encountered so far that does not penalize the consumer for lack of clarity on the how their policies are interpreted. On this one occasion I was trying to get my ticket postponed. The response I got from the call centre was that I could get it done at the airport, while at the airport I was told that since my ticket was a free ticket it could not be postponed at all. When I told them the call centre staff had mentioned otherwise – the lady at the airport enquired with her supervisor and came back with the response – ‘we do not normally do it but since the call centre staff has promised you this – we’ll keep up their word’. And if this is not all if you have any service issues feedback mails sent by you are read by the chairman himself.

And now for some mentions – ‘not so positive’…

While thinking about what annoys me the most about air travel I arrive at two areas that are top on my list

a) Long winding instructions (and especially if you are in a multilingual country) repeated in 2 – 3 different languages. Why can’t they keep their language simple, informal and instructions short. For instance – instead of saying ‘please continue to remain seated till the aircraft comes to a complete halt’…why not say – please keep seated till the aircraft halts… I am sure the sentence can be edited even more
b) And secondly - why don’t they have gender specific restrooms on board? If its not enough that there is such a paucity of space in the restrooms – the thought about & experience of using the unisex restrooms makes me want to never get on an aircraft again. I am sure the information on the number of male / female passengers is captured while people are boarding and it’s possible to allocate 1 or more of the restrooms exclusively for women depending on the traffic.

Taking about restrooms – we have a blog event coming up towards the end of the month called the Bathroom Blogfest, where women bloggers would be posting about their experiences around the ladiesroom and how these can be designed to make the experience better. You can find more details about it here and here.

customer experience, Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines, ladiesrooms

Sep 22, 2006

Right here! Right Now! - The use of ‘present tense’ in narratives

Narratives are powerful as a data collection tool in qual research. Story telling is interesting as much as it is intuitive. We all are used to hearing and narrating stories.

The process of story telling in research brings forth - the tiny juicy details around a consumer’s experience that can make any researcher’s day! These nuances are what make one consumer’s shopping trip or washing moment different from another. In a researcher’s quest for attaining a near perfect understanding of the consumer’s experience - it goes without saying then that more the details recalled while narrating an incident – the more vivid is the description and proportionately higher is the understanding and appreciation of such an event.

Story telling most often happens in retrospect and narration most often involves use of the past tense. But what were to happen if we were to take the less beaten track and start narrating stories in the present tense.

While writing about my experiences some days back I found myself oscillating between tenses. On the one hand – rules of grammar learnt in high school forced me to use the past tense, on the other hand I found writing in the present tense helped an easier recall of the tiny details that served to bring the story to life.

When we narrate in the present we relive the moment while narrating in the past is analogous to recall. When we recall something – we are distant (to a certain extent) from the emotions that are associated with an event – it is like watching a sepia toned image in an old photo album. Reliving is experiencing the event with its emotional paraphernalia.

(Taking a bit of a detour – the present tense is actively used in psychotherapy in dealing with repressed emotions / memories – to aid subconscious feelings and emotions in coming to the fore and to experience the event in full blast as it were – while when the therapist wants his client to disengage emotionally - the client is often asked to metaphorically see the event in a picture album / tv screen)

This does not mean that just encouraging consumers to use the present tense in narrations would do the trick. Since we are used to narrating in the past tense – it may warrant some prodding / setting an example to / the consumer. Encouraging the consumer to use as many of his sense organs (olfactory / visual / auditory / kinesthetic) as possible would definitely aid the process.

It is not without reason that the use of present tense to narrate an incident of the past is called the ‘vivid present’. Writers have experimented with the use of the ‘vivid present / historical present’ in literature. Why not experiment with it in qual research I’d say?

Sep 1, 2006

Describing pain…On how can research be designed to help consumer’s articulate emotions?

A tear in my knee cartilage has meant that I frequented a physical therapist – where I was often asked to give a report on the nature and extent of pain I felt.

I started to describe it but something just did not feel right…

I did not have the right words – resulting in a 2 minute long winding sentence - that gave the therapist only a vague idea of what I felt inside

The therapist tried to understand more by asking me questions….which did not do either of us any good

Was it a stretch or a pain? I could not discern

Was it bearable / unbearable? Even if it is bearable – what does that tell you – my threshold for bearing pain could be far higher than that of another individual

How would you rate it from 0 to 10 where zero is no pain and 10 is the maximum?
How do I know what maximum pain feels like? It certainly is not zero, but unless I don’t know the maximum where do I pitch it on the scale?

The whole experience reinforced two things I have known and learnt but haven’t paid enough attention to – perhaps the first hand experience was necessary to appreciate the nuances

a) Emotions are subconscious. Emotions surpass language. Language offers a surrogate way of understanding emotions but words cannot totally and accurately describe what one feels. Try articulating - what you feel when you feel happy / what it means to be in love...and you'll find yourself grappling for words

b) Emotions are felt and sensed as an amalgamation of visuals, images, sensations – its difficult to isolate these sensory perceptions and describe them individually. Also some of these sensations are so subtle and so much beyond our conscious understanding and expression that even if you know how you feel – translating it to words for even a reasonably articulate person is quite an uphill task

All this makes me now a little more sympathetic and sensitive towards research respondents who say ‘I just cannot describe how I feel on seeing this ad’ or worse still remain silent or say I don’t feel anything at all. Those are not just respondents behaving lazy or indifferent. Those are very real flaws in the way we question consumers and design research.

Visualizing emotions may help – asking consumers to close their eyes and
Describe what they see, hear, smell
Where in their body they see it
The colors / images they see or the sounds they hear etc

An exercise in visualizing emotions could not only make it easier for consumers to articulate those – (rather than trying to answer a blanket question like what do you feel?) but also it could offer cues that could be used in designing communication.

(Where is the emotion felt in the body / how it is seen inside etc – for instance adverts for pain relieving tablets often show pain in originating from the affected part in concentric circles and warm colors)

Doing this exercise while the consumer is mentally relaxed with his eyes shut – would mean a greater probability that his focus / attention is inward driven

If getting a rating on the emotion is crucial to the research design then design a scale that is more consumers friendly. This is one good example I found (read last para) where the scale uses everyday experiences from the consumer’s life as benchmarks – rather than abstract descriptors.

This brings me to a related issue – how appropriate is it to compare / aggregate responses pertaining to emotions – since emotions are a very subjective an individual experience, perhaps also influenced by the cultural set up one is part of.

For example – one child understands of pain or happiness - could depend on his experiences / what he is made to understand about pain by his peers or influencers, the physical, emotional, social environment he grew up in.

I guess this would deserve some more reading and another post.

Jul 19, 2006

Brand exposure – How much is too much?

A cluttered marketing environment forces marketers to come up with innovative solutions to makes their brands seen. I’m beginning to wonder whether in the world of brands does the concept of ‘over exposure’ and the ensuing ‘consumer annoyance’ and the theory of diminishing returns hold true – or is it a matter of plain simple arithmetic

Greater Exposure = Greater no of touch points for the consumer = higher brand recall = Greater likelihood of brand in the consumer’s consideration set = Greater possibility of purchase

If I look at it as a consumer I would perhaps like to be reminded about
A) A brand at the point of purchase or
B) During the process of consideration (evaluating alternatives).

Some one please tell me…

Why would I want to be told of new content on TV while I am cooking breakfast?

Or think of what sun tan lotion would suit my skin while I am in a loo

Or the next time I need insurance - would I ever think of taking insurance from this company just because they hang a board outside my apartment politely telling visitors to not park in the driveway. I would not!

Don’t get me wrong. I do believe in the power of salience and its residual effect on my purchase but in an effort to make your brand visible don’t barrage my world with disconnected, meaningless exposure. There is a greater likelihood that efforts like this this and this which push the brand in my face and on my egg will result in residual discontentment.

The arithmetic is simple – though the from where I see it the equation looks a little different

To me…

More disconnected exposure = More clutter = Higher Irritation for the consumer = Greater numbness to ‘in your face’ advertising = More money and time spent on finding newer avenues for brand visibility = MUCH More clutter…

Untill today - I did not know such a word existed!

brand exposure, brand salience,

Jul 9, 2006

So what does a qualitative researcher really bring to the table?

It is not uncommon to oversimplify qualitative research as an approach and the contribution of the researcher to the process. Two or three key factors contribute to this widely held belief.

  1. The flow of knowledge around commercial qualitative research has for a long time been oral tradition. Researchers learn by observing and practicing what they observe on the job.
  2. The industry has very relatively fewer entry barriers. Researchers could have a background in any of the social sciences or management disciplines at the least. At the worst it could be field investigators graduating as interviewers and moving on to handling entire research projects.
  3. As a discipline it is open, flexible in its approach and draws from many related fields and most importantly is evolving continuously. An eclectic approach like that makes it a complex task to commit to paper the tenets and the boundaries that define this discipline.

With the result that many a times – what is often a complex and well-thought out task gets reduced to this widely held belief

‘After all what is scientific about talking to a bunch of women over coffee and cookies and how difficult can it be’

True. It is in principle not a difficult task to chat over a cup of coffee but what one would get as a result of such a conversation is questionable. So if it is not just chatting over coffee and cookies – what does a (good) qual researcher really do?

A good qual researcher over time, acquires an intense understanding of two worlds – one being that of the consumer and the other that of the client. Her immersion in these two worlds results in her becoming fluent in the language and culture of both these domains.

And the skill is not just in having an external awareness of this expectation. It is being aware of it and internalizing it till it becomes second nature. It is holding both these positions simultaneously and constantly moving between them

This constant shift of perspectives keeps happening within the mind of the researcher ALL the time.

From the time she is designing research – thinking about how best the clients need for information would be met keeping in mind the kind of the consumer segment being targeted.

To the info gathering stage – where mostly in a matter of 2 hours – she needs to get a bunch of strangers in a room not only comfortable with her but also with each other –enough to create an open and safe environment for them to air their views and respect the differences and yet not so comfortable that they digress to talking about whatever they feel like.

She has her mind (If I may put it like that) split into many fragments. A part of it is constantly evaluating how much headway she has made vis-à-vis what she has set out to achieve. Through another she has her eye on who amongst her group of eight have / haven’t had enough air time. Who dominates and needs to be managed, who needs to be encouraged, how to break the cycle of group consensus when she sees evidence of that or how to deal with spontaneous emotional outbursts on part of a respondent without losing time and yet not making the respondent feel alienated. She has her ear finely tuned in to catch subtle statements made by respondents that lie just outside the scope of research but could throw light on a significant part of the information puzzle if explored in detail. She makes a judgment call about which of these threads to explore and at the cost of what, which ones to ignore and what she could lose as a result. Then there could be chits being sent in from the client viewing room prodding her explore something. Many a times it could be a topic that has been discussed and closed. How does one re-visit it without losing time? Sometimes it involves making a snap decision to let it pass. And most of all while she is constantly evaluating her alternatives – she needs to make sure that she keeps her bunch of respondents perked up through the two hours so that they don’t lose interest in the discussion and start thinking about their kids back home or what’s to be made for dinner.

I recall some sessions I witnessed where the researcher had completely lost herself in the interview with a woman from a fairly low socio economic background. Within minutes, the researcher had put her at ease, latched on to her lingo, incorporated her slang, adapted her line of questioning to reflect her situation, mirrored her posture and her way of sitting and to an outsider it seemed like it was one woman talking to her confidant – not a respondent to a researcher. Within minutes of the interview getting over – I saw the same researcher talking to her Dutch client. Her language reflected an understanding of his business. She had translated the information she had gathered from the respondent to what the implications it had for their marketing team, neatly summing her crisp inferences to findings that were not only interesting to hear but also relevant and actionable.

Doesn’t all this call for more skill than a simple chat over coffee?

qualitative research, qualitative researcher, on being a qualitative researcher

May 26, 2006

If a ‘Logo’ is considered sacrosanct in the Marketing Bible…does that make Google blasphemous?

Something this evening reminded me of a discussion I was part of - in which my client’s marketing team intensely discussed the packaging of a new brand. Of all the things I heard that day, one thought etched out of the cacophony and remained in my memory since then.

What sparked off the discussion was how the brand name would (or rather should) feature on different product variants which had varying pack sizes. The hour long discussion came to a close when someone, presumably whose word counted a great deal, said that the taller packaging would have to be discarded. There was silence in the room…as much had already been invested in developing the prototype and testing a new shape would mean that they would have to go back to the drawing board – the resultant loss of time could prove lethal for a new brand. However….these words echoed in the silent board room

The manner in which the ‘Brand Name’ is displayed HAS TO remain uniform no matter what. It is our message to our consumer. We cannot be seen sending out such diffused signals.

I never questioned that thought…until today when I sat up suddenly and thought about what Google seems to have done with its branding. We have all become used to seeing cute inclusions every once in a way. What creates more excitement around these doodles is the fact that they do not appear at predictable intervals. So one fine groggy morning when you open your browser you see something different that cheers you up.

I am not sure what the motive was behind creating these holiday logos or whether they was any serious motive at all or whether it was all done in the spirit of being ‘fun’ ‘cool’ ‘refreshing’… ‘anti establishment’…but what I find most fascinating is how they have so simply done away with something that’s was considered so fundamental to branding.

So what sort of signals do changing logos send to the consumer? Well, the way Google has gone about bringing about these changes so seamlessly only goes to show that changing logos do not necessarily translate to different messages as long as the organization is consistent in communicating their over all philosophy or values. At least as a consumer, I did not notice a perceptible difference in the last 6 – 7 years or maybe I was just slow in my reaction to this issue. The message I get when I think about it consciously is that – here is an organization that challenges pre-defined ways of doing things and also more importantly an organization that is not ‘in-ward’ looking.

It’s a greater marketing sin in my mind, to keep these basic elements intact but have a portfolio of brands / products that are taking off in different directions.

Will the ‘logo’ by and large still be considered immutable or will we see more organizations experimenting with their branding elements in the days to come? It would be interesting to watch.

You can see their archive of holiday logos here. The site even has some even created by Google Fans though I never liked any of the latter.


May 23, 2006

Was Einstein a Qual Researcher too ?

Found this quote by Albert Einstein...which was like music to my ears!

I have had this discussion ad nauseum with fellow researchers from the other side of the fence (read quant) and sometimes very senior researchers in the rank...try to emphatically argue how its futile to judge the effectiveness of one discipline by a yardstick designed for another. No matter what, there will always be people ranting about the 'subjectivity' of qual research and questioning its validity and reliability, disregarding the fact that that the beauty of qual research is not in 'proving scientifically' that people behave in a certain way bringing to the fore some of the complexities of this behaviour. What would we achieve by just understanding that 8 out of every 10 people who shop at a super market purchase on impulse without understanding

- what goes through the mind of the person who grabs a bar of chocolate at the till or
- why they picked up 20 $ worth of stuff that was not on their shopping list and did not even realise it untill they reached home.

Many a times I fight tooth and nail when confronted with this issue but on some occassions when i dont see any sensibility at the other end...I just say a silent prayer 'Forgive them lord for they know not what they say'


May 19, 2006

9 reasons that make blogs a serious market research tool

1.That consumers do express opinions about their experiences surrounding products on blogs

2.That other consumers read these opinions and to a certain extent trust these messages more than they would trust marketing messages since these come from an independent source and not the marketer

3.That opinions on blogs are unsolicited, spontaneous expressions by the user and there is a greater likelihood of finding the truth here - about what users think about your brand – than you would find in a focus group

4.That the immediacy of this medium is unbeatable. Blogs tend to be updated frequently…once in a few days, sometimes even several times in a day and there is a greater likelihood of finding immediate responses here than you would if you’d commission a research project

5.That once an opinion is expressed on a blog, it spreads very very quickly

6.People are more honest about their beliefs and opinions on this platform since the medium lends itself to protecting the identity of the blogger many a times. There is a greater likelihood of finding brutal criticism against your brand / product that you would not find within the contrived research setting

7.That information found on a blog about your product / brand - is not information in a vacuum. You can freely read the bloggers opinions / beliefs about other issues expressed on his / her blog to draw conclusions about what the person values in the larger context – without causing him the inconvenience of incessant interrogation.

8.That even if you will not read this information…may be your competitor will

9.That it’s there…up for grabs…easily and freely accessible and searchable!

Some food for thought….

Opinions on blogs are a gold mine of information since this medium has not been exploited enough yet and therefore it gives access to unedited, spontaneous thoughts (almost like a blogger’s stream of consciousness). As marketers start looking at blogs more seriously and bloggers become aware of this, would there be a tendency to post postured and socially correct responses even on this medium. Would the feeling of ‘being watched’ come in the way of a spontaneous expression of though!

And what about the intellectual property on such an opinion? Could marketers ‘freely’ and ‘without permission’ use information available on blogs to their commercial advantage?

research method, qualitative research, blogs and market research,

Apr 26, 2006

Reached an Impasse?

I came across this post on methodological woes that got me writing this one…

The problem described there is not uncommon. Quite often one finds oneself in a situation asking a bunch of respondents with sheer passion and enthusiasm to recall an incident / offer an opinion and – all you hear is – I really don’t know. There is nothing I remember that I can tell you. – And it’s heartbreaking to hear that as much as it is frustrating.

Sometimes, it could just be a result of Lazy Thinking on part of the respondent. But there is a bigger possibility that the details / events that one wants to hear about – are not particular significant in the respondent’s life. There is only so much anyone can remember and people do not want to waste precious memory on some political event in 1999. So what does one do?

The method used in the case with the woe is ‘focus groups’. I have nothing against focus groups but - my understanding is that doing depth-interviews can offer not only a more intimate environment for the person to talk about how the event could have impacted them, but would also allow a researcher - greater freedom to build rapport, probe and explore – since she is not affected by angry and bored looking respondents watching her, which could happen in a group. Also, when one person in a group says they don’t remember anything significant - it could rub off on the others who may fall prey to 'group think' since no one really does want to make the effort of jogging their memory.

The timeline / track back approach does help - I have found it working better - when going backwards from the most recent year - since a free trip of nostalgia may just take them back to the memories that are significant in their life - and those may not be necessarily the ones you want to hear about. A rather structured approach - going back year on year and encouraging them to recall details - is what I have followed - though the style of the interview has been Narrative - telling the respondent - 'tell me a story about your life' as opposed to - 'what happened next / then what happened etc' - which may seem like a memory exercise and tire them out.

Some other aids you could try in such situations are –
• Taking the help of photos they may have from that year or a visual / imaginary - opening up of a photo album exercise - to aid recall. If you are doing the visualization, have a script ready and one that will encourage the respondent to use as many ‘senses’ as you can
• Interviewing a family unit - as opposed to the individual - that will allow you the advantage of people building on each others memories as happens in groups - yet their past would not be very different so as to pull people in different directions.
• And lastly if you / anyone in your team are qualified - to put the respondent in trance - it greatly aids recall especially mundane / insignificant details which we all tend to forget. Though using hypnosis in research is fairly niche, it does have its merits.

research method, qualitative research,qualitative research and impasse,

Apr 14, 2006

Prologue….or Monologue!

Not once…but most times I have interviewed consumers for Market Research…I have had to mindlessly explain to a bunch of bored looking housewives why I am sitting there with a camera pointing to them.

(Only recently I discovered that it was mandated by the Market Search Society of India to set a preamble to the discussion).

There are few occasions however, as I have gone through the motions of my boring speech…something in me has jumped out (well...almost) pestering to grab my attention and despite my incessant efforts at trying to banish this rebellious thought…has persisted enough to almost form a paralleled mental process.

Here is some anecdotal evidence in support of what I am saying…Enjoy!

Hi…My name is Reshma and before we start the discussion let me give
you a brief introduction

(Oh crap! Here we go again…)

The company I work for, we don't make or sell anything… we just meet people like you and take your opinion on the products that you use and your opinion is very
crucial to the companies who make these products. Once such company
has sent me here today

(and today being the key word…since last morning I found out that I if I don’t come here TODAY something earth shattering would happen)

and this company is into making

(well…what should I say about them…they make LIFE SAVING DRUGS and they have put it into research TODAY…since they have ONLY until tomorrow find out about the results and so they have sent me here to talk to all of YOU about)

… JAM !!!

To this some one from the groups asks - trying to make conversation and sound intelligent…Madam Jam…wohi khane wala (JAM...the one we eat)?

I put on my warmest smile since it is just the start of the discussion and don’t want to piss them off…Haanji wohi …aap ne kaise guess kar liya? (oh yes! how did you gues s that)

(You are sooooo intelligent…Yes it is JAM…that hideous looking pink blob...)


Then there are times when I’ve been at the same place so often that I’ve seen the same faces in the audience for researches that I have done on tea…jam…biscuits…you name it …and they use it!

‘Repeat Respondents’ as they are known in the industry or ‘professional respondents’ like they fancy calling themselves can fit into 2 categories….actually 3.

The soft spoken ‘mama types’ the ones who nod their head as you give your opening speech for the (n+1)th time…even though they have heard it only two days ago…they have such a concerned look on their face…almost to say…haan beta mujhe pata hai tum par kya guzar rahi hai ! (I know what you are going through, love) They are by and large 'nice'. They behave themselves at the discussion, even try to answer intelligently...make my job easy...I don't have anything against them.

The other category is the ‘marketing savvy….I know all the jargon’ babe. These can be real pests and talking to them can be a real test of anyones patience

Your opinions are very important to us…there is no right or wrong when it comes to an opinion…so feel free to express what you say

Haanji yeh sab hume pata hai…ab group discussion shuru karein
(Ya..ya we can you start the discussion)

Haan jaroor…abhi 5 minute mein shuru kartein hai…par uske pehle mujhe aap logo ko kuch dikhana hai (Ofcourse we'll start in a bit but i need to show you something before that)

Haan dikhaye…jo CONCEPT BOARD…dikhana hai ( us the concept board you have)

Come...sit here...take my what I feel like telling them...and I'll happily take yours!

The third slot is reserved for the real duhs! They’ll be the ones who as soon as you enter the room would say….

Aare Madam Aap…aaj itne dino baad dikhayee diye…
Madam You…Seeing you after a long time…

(While trying my best to not recognize her…and trying to drop big hints her way by nodding my head to say yes and no all at once I say) Achha…Main…Nahin…Shayad Koi Aur Hoga (Me - You may have seen someone else). But Duh is what Duh does…so Duh does not get the hint...since she is looking into the camera and waving & though it were a live telecast

Aare…Kaise nahin yaad hai aapko…abhi 2 hi to hafte hue hain…kailash cllony mein to hua tha group…wohi kissan wala!
(How come you dont remember. We must just two weeks back at the Kissan group)

(SSShhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…dumb woman…your live telecast is my client sitting in the backroom!)


Though I’ve fretted and fumed when these incidents have happened…in hindsight many a time they’ve saved the day and given me some interesting stories to narrate when I am back from the travel.

Categories: Humor_

, qualitative research, qualitative research and humor