Qualitative Research
Trends in Market Research

Notes from the 2014 Qual360 Conference

Jeff Hecker

I’ve just returned from the Merlien Institute’s Qual360 conference – the first one ever held in North America. As the name suggests, it’s a conference focused exclusively on qualitative research, which, despite advancing technology, is as relevant as ever.


There was lots of information, inspiration, and interesting conversation! A smattering of highlights – in no particular order:

  • A great presentation on Facial Micro-Expression Analysis by Dan Hill of Sensory Logic (@SensoryLogic). You may have read about this methodology in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, but if you haven’t, these videos are a great place to start. It seems that the truth really does appear in people’s faces – if you know what to look for. Absolutely fascinating; Dan’s talk was the type that nearly makes you want to drop what you’re doing and dive into something completely new.
  • An intriguing analysis of word choice differences between men and women in social media, given by Annie Pettit (@LoveStats) of Peanut Labs. It turns out that if you analyze millions of social media posts and segment by gender, you find that men tend to use harsher language than women. This might not be surprising, but Annie’s conclusion sure was: that to decode brand-relevant insights we need to look for the moments when men and women are communicating differently than their norms (which is unusual) rather than just differently from each other (which is customary)
  • Susan Abbott (@SusanAbbott) of Abbott Research suggested that when describing online-qual methodologies, we talk about “real-time” vs. “extended” approaches, rather than synchronous vs. asynchronous. I am always for the replacement of obtuse, difficult to digest words with plain English!
  • Delightfully nuanced discussion of the differences between “Canadians” and “Americans” – and the implications for advertising. It feels like the old “English Canada is one market and Quebec is another” notion has truly been replaced with a much deeper (and more complex) understanding of Canada’s many regions and cultural spectrums. Kudos to Neil Rennert of Gfk (@gfk_en) and Catherine Yuile of Ipsos (@cyuile).