Mixing methodologies for more powerful insights

“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”  Nowhere does this saying have more meaning than in the generation of powerful insights for brands.

Researchers are challenged, now more than ever, to be creative and resourceful in how we develop insights that contribute to real growth for brands and businesses. The days of being a practitioner of a single method of inquiry (either qualitative or quantitative) or just one methodology (concept testing, ethnography) are long over. Researchers must be both creative in solving client problems and versant in as wide as possible a set of research tools and techniques in order to deliver data-driven results to clients.

For an experienced researcher, there are two fundamental components of insights generation: 1) crafting a solutions-oriented approach tailored to—and driven by—the client’s objectives, and 2) leveraging every possible tool and technique to fulfill those objectives.

The natural—and valuable—foundation of this approach is the combining of multiple methodologies to create more powerful solutions.

This means marrying insights gained at opposite ends of the resource spectrum, because that’s how you deliver the most holistic results, and the greatest value:

Primary + Secondary Research
Why reinvent the wheel? Researchers are already generating intellectual property of all kinds. The strategic use of existing research studies is a great way to gain a better understanding while identifying the gaps in knowledge that will require new, primary research to fill.

Qualitative + Quantitative Data
The voice of the customer has immense value, and working it into research methodologies grounds the insights in the perspectives of actual people. There is no substitute for hearing their experiences in their own words, and qualitative research of all kinds is your best source for this first-hand, human data.

Just as valuable are the broader learnings to be gained from quantitative research. The projectable and precise numeric data gathered from quantitative studies generates big-picture insights from significantly larger groups of customers. We can begin to understand trends and differences between customer segments behaviorally, attitudinally, demographically, etc., through intelligently conducted quantitative research.

A mixed qual-and-quant approach provides the best of both worlds, delivering both granular and trend-level insights into customer behavior.

Digital + Analog Insights
As digital behavior becomes synonymous with customer behavior, it is easier and easier to supplement primary research with data from digital sources. The ubiquitous use of search and social channels further deepens and broadens analysts’ understanding of customer behaviors.

However, despite all of the varied ways to blend, gather, and analyze information, the key challenge for practitioners is distilling all this information in a manner that will best lead to insights.

The answer is to employ a mix of left and right brain thinking—using human intelligence to interpret or supplement different types of data and information.

The solutions generated from varied methodologies should logically be grounded in the client’s objectives: Are those objectives exploratory—is the client trying to learn something new about their audience? Or are they evaluative—is the client attempting to identify an alternative approach that resonates most with their customers? They could be both evaluative and diagnostic, seeking to not only identify the strongest alternative, but to get input on how to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses. Understanding the objectives in these terms will help guide the process of crafting the best solution.

Equally important to client understanding is the art of knowing the unique value of all the varied methodologies at your disposal. Knowing which methods are most effective allows you to target the information needed to unlock the human, brand, and marketplace insights that help a client flourish.

Combining methodologies has proven a sure-fire way to generate insights that are comprehensive, fact-based, and ultimately actionable. This unique approach—supported by a broad set of skills, experience, and creativity—generates the most powerful potential for growth.

Senior Principal, Analytics