Friday, July 17, 2009

Life Jackets and Pictographic Research

When the U.S. Coast Guard and Boat US contacted my company, Allegiance Research, to determine if boaters are more likely to wear inflatable life jackets as compared to the bulkier traditional life jackets, I knew that pictures or pictographs would have to be used to identify the different types of life jackets on the market.

For example there are off-shore, near-shore, flotation aids, special use, and the newer inflatable jackets. These different types would have to be “pictured” in the survey so respondents would know exactly which types they were evaluating. The pictographs were incorporated into a standard mail survey. This cleared up a lot of potential confusion and much useful information was developed

In follow-up interviews we used pictographs that showed people wearing the various life jackets and then respondents started telling stories. These stories provided a wealth of information beyond the mail survey and uncovered candid and detailed information. For example, how a person feels when confronted with a potentially-dangerous situation and will they be able to pull the cord for an inflatable jacket.

There are pros and cons for inflatable and traditional life jackets. Inflatables are more attractive and do not get in the way, but they are more expensive and you have to be able to inflate it to use it (which you cannot do if knocked unconscious). Traditionals are less attractive and bulky, but they are cheaper and you do not have to inflate it to use it. The challenge was to get into the minds of the users and let them talk without asking leading questions.

For more details, email AllegianceResearch@gmail.com

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