Qualitative Research
Trends in Market Research

Notes from the AQR-QRCA Conference

Sarah Jane Johnson

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the AQR-QRCA’s Worldwide Conference on Qualitative Research in one of Europe’s great cities —Budapest, with its fabulous bridges, river views and equally fabulous coffee houses and cakes.The conference organizers were kind enough to invite me present a paper: “Combining Semiotics and With Other Approaches for Richer results (check out the deck here), which was both flattering and daunting, given the calibre of other presenters, who were some of the great thinkers of qualitative research.While I hope you will take a few moments to view my own presentation and I invite you to send me any thoughts you might have, let me give you a taste of three of the other sessions at the conference that really impressed me.

  • One of these sessions was “Making it Inclusive: Engaging with Hard-to-Reach Audiences” [Link to session] which had presentations focused on the financially underserved, the disabled and the digitally disengaged. All three presentations challenged preconceptions and gave voices and faces to these unrepresented groups. The last presentation in this session, Jay Jenning’s [@IpsosMORI] paper on “Engaging the Digitally Disengaged” was also illuminating for increasing website usability for less sophisticated users.
  • Another that truly resonated was “One World, Many Cultures: Going Beyond Maps and Guidebooks”, because the speakers frankly and thoughtfully discussed the challenges around, and opportunities for, getting the best results out of global research projects. JinghuanLiu Tervalon of Dragon Rouge Shanghai spoke about “un-learning” mainstream market research wisdom to spot innovation opportunities in China. Jenni Welling and Dan Cooper of Incite Marketing Planning , and Nikki Lavoie of MindSpark Lab challenged researchers get true cultural insight from different markets, by going beyond “global studies” with one-size-fits all research approaches and instead seeking out culturally appropriate research methods and honouring the customary research practices and recommendations of their local research partners. Finally, Rajeswala Bonala and Misha Mathew of Vox Populi delivered an eye-opening (and beautifully illustrated) paper on the mindset of the Indian housewife, for whom a product’s social appeal is more important than its “functional quotient” — she will only adopt a new product if she feels it will meet the approval of her community’s watchful eyes.
  • One last shout out goes to Anna Gorazka and Michal Protasiuk of SABMiller Poland who shared a delightfully literal approach to research “gamification”: the creation of a board game for focus group designed to increase consumer engagement, and using various research “activities” as stages in the game.

Finally, it was wonderful to be in the company of so many smart, creative and engaging people! Looking forward to the next conference in two years…