Saturday, November 14, 2009

Over-The-Shoulder and Buying-Trigger Pictographs About Airlines

For those of you who read my previous two blog entries you know that I will be doing some research on the airline industry. To start, I will be developing some “Over-the-Shoulder” and “Buying Trigger” pictographs to answer the question, what goes through someone’s mind when they have to or choose to book a flight?

In an early blog entry on why use pictographs, I noted that they allow people to understand a purchasing or usage situation without getting bogged down with details. In fact, the person tends to put himself or herself into the situation being depicted.

Recall that we are trying to understand what is going on when one thinks about booking a flight. This means that the respondents should see themselves in the situation. For example, they may show a person looking at a Web site or reviewing an ad. Consequently, over-the-shoulder shots will be used. Respondents tend to start saying “I feel, I think, or I believe” when viewing over-the-shoulder shots.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Uncovering Attitudes Related to the Airlines

Well, the time as come to determine the goal of this pictographic research. As I mentioned, I want to know the underlying attitudes about the flying experience and the reasons people make the choices they do. These will include the decision to fly, their pet peeves, and the reasons that they choose one airline over another. I will start by constructing a series of pictographs that show the flying experience. At first, emphasis will be placed on reasons related to flying, perceived alternatives, and attitudes toward various airlines. Send comments via e-mail

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I’m On My Way to the Airport, Oh Goodie

If there is an industry that has more long-standing and chronic problems than the airline industry, I don’t know which it is. The auto industry you say - no, they have been in the dump for only a few years. The airlines have been perceived as a necessary evil for far longer than that. They are a great candidate for open-ended, emotion-capturing research like my methodology.

Therefore, I am going to pictographically interview those poor captive souls who are about to board airplanes. After all, they have been told to arrive early to have the oft-times privilege of waiting on the tarmac while they become intimately acquainted with their knees.

Do I sound bitter? Fear not, I will allow the pictures to do the talking. In the coming blogs I will discuss how I will develop this project and I will report some findings. I welcome suggestions via e-mail

Saturday, September 5, 2009

I Suggest the Convertible Station Wagon

Wikipedia describes “gut feeling” thusly: “A gut feeling, or gut reaction, is a visceral emotional reaction to something, and often one of uneasiness. Gut feelings are generally regarded as not modulated by conscious thought.”

If you’re in marketing or sales, what do you really want to know about your customers? You probably want their gut reactions to your product or service. Oftentimes gut reactions drive what is being said online. Savvy marketers track their products, services, and brands via the Internet. This is one of the reasons that social networking sites such as Twitter are of such interest. You can’t control what they say, but you can be aware of what is being said about your product or brand and you can react to it.

But what if you want to learn about gut reactions in a more controlled manner? I have found that the best way to research gut reactions is to use pictographs to duplicate the buying or usage scenario. Respondents tell you their reactions with their own gut feelings. As they look at the pictographs they tell a story without leading questions from the researcher. They often get emotional and may be impulsive. You may hear “Hey, I’ve got to have that!” Conversely, you may hear “Yuk, no way!” As a marketer, wouldn’t that be nice to know?

I remember a car salesman telling me, “We get them in with the convertible and then sell them the station wagon.” I admit that this is a bit cynical but it does demonstrate that emotion plays a large part in motivating the purchasing process. I wonder why no one has thought of the convertible-station wagon? E-mail

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is it Gut Reaction Research or Context-Driven Qualitative Research?

I remember a scene from the movie “Cool Hand Luke” where the warden, after beating the insolent Paul Newman character, says “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Marketers have a similar problem—a failure to communicate-- and this appears true if you’re selling research as well. Context-driven qualitative research is descriptive, but not inspirational. I am thinking of changing the name to Gut Reaction Research.

People understand when I say that my pictographic-driven research seems to be the only methodology that captures “gut reactions or gut feelings.” What I get from pictographs is gut reactions and this appears to be the most important information that a marketer can receive.
Marketers, what do you really want to know? You want gut reactions to your product or service, everything else is pablum.

Examples of our findings that reveal gut feelings include: “It’s a great place to get mugged” (about attractive, private entrances); “I don’t want to graded” (about a new school providing adult ed); and “Car salesmen are jerks” (about people who feel pressured in that environment).

When someone asks about why my approach is unique, I am going to say because it is gut reaction research. And I may no longer call it Context-Driven Qualitative Research. Comments? For more information, e-mail

Monday, August 17, 2009

When Consumers Are First Thinking About Buying

In researching such things as automobile purchasing, computer shopping, and mall shopping I have found an interesting phenomenon that I call “purchasing triggers.” It involves those factors related to what a consumer is thinking when they are first considering purchasing something. In the case of an auto purchase the trigger might be a car breakdown, a neighbor buying a new car, or a bonus at work. I use pictographs to show these types of situations.

It is at the “buying trigger” stage that the consumer is most candid in telling the interviewer what it would take to get them to make a purchase. The rest of the pictographs provide the context for a specific product or service. For more info email

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Over the Shoulder Shots Draw Them In

As readers of this blog know, I use pictographs to duplicate the purchasing scenario for profiled consumers related to a specific product or service. This allows the respondents to explain their purchasing experience step by step. A bonus of this type of research is that it captures both emotions and resonant statements.

As is well known, emotions play a big part in purchasing behavior, and resonant statements are important as well. Who can forget the phrase from Wendy’s advertisements “Where’s the beef” or ’Avis’s “We’re number two but we try harder.” These two examples came from the minds of marketing geniuses but oftentimes context-related consumer comments can help the process along.

There are three types of pictographs that are used - those that set the scene (situational), those that show some interaction with the product or service (interactive), and those that provide an opportunity to comment about the previous two types of pictographs (reflective).

Here, I will discuss a specific type of interactive pictograph called the “Over-the-shoulder shot.” This is an example:

This shows an individual looking at an automobile sticker in a showroom. This type of pictograph quickly puts the respondent into the picture. They often preface their comments with “I.” An over-the-shoulder shot allows the researcher to place the product in the consumer’s hands. After this pictograph, it is possible to magnify various aspects of the product and the respondent will assume that he or she is still subjectively involved.

For more information, e-mail