The Trailblazer Blog

New World Order: Grabbing Consumer Behaviour by the Scruff of the Neck

Blaze Research - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sara Garcia Principal

As a graduate trainee in Soho Square I was taught that behaviour drove beliefs, not the other way around.  That was 35 years ago. Despite my psychology training, I initially found it hard to accept, but every project, not to mention a trail of academic research, confirms it.  Beliefs are there to stabilise our behaviour, not to drive it.  They are one of a number of devices that stop us having to reassess our actions every time we act.  They promote a sense of confidence and certainty - very useful when you need to move on from one action to another without having to waste energy questioning your behaviour all the time.

Also in my early days I worked under Wendy Gordon, virtuoso of the qualitative craft who has led this field for 50 years and is still leading today.  In 1994 she wrote a paper called ‘Taking Brand Repertoires Seriously’, referring to ‘the me that I am when   …’.   This teaches us that we are many different types of person, with different needs that change according to our circumstance/ situation.  When our needs change, our attitudes and even our beliefs can change too.  Looking for consistency in a person is just not helpful. You need to be in the moment to understand what the needs and behaviours really are – and what are driving them.

So today I have far less confidence in opinion, attitude and belief as stable predictors of behaviour than I ever have.  I’m not even that interested in decision-making – as most of our behaviour is not prompted by conscious decisions.  Instead, I’m interested in what drives human behaviour and what influences human experience.

What it boils down to is refreshingly simple.  For the sake of efficiency, our brains are geared to do what’s easy and what feels good. That’s about it.

In order to identify what makes something easy and feel good there are just 3 investigative lenses we need use – they overlap in their functionality but require discrete analysis too:

1) BEHAVIOUR 
Up to 80% of our consumer choice is habitual.  If there is habit involved in brand choice/avoidance, then understanding what forms and reinforces it and how to strengthen or disrupt it should be part of every research and comms brief.  Where are the research objectives which request an understanding of habit? I’ve probably seen no more than two ever.

Habit can be examined at point of usage, at point of sale and in customer journeys.  It can then be delved into one-on-one with retrospectives. 

Other behaviour is situational.  BE helps us understand the rules that drive behaviour here.  Micro-observation is key to identifying keenly felt but fleeting unmet needs for which consumers create work-arounds but which can prove to be innovation/interventions opportunities.

2) EMOTION AND SENSORY
Behaviour seems to be the star of the show this decade, emotion before that.  But emotion (and with it brand and brand experience) is hugely powerful. Let’s remember that in the human game of rock, paper, scissors, emotion can break or help support habit and can drive impulse purchasing. Emotion isn’t just a feeling, it’s a physiological state that drives us.  It isn’t thought, it’s hormones driving action.  But what do we know of those emotions, the stimulus that drives action? 

What emotional stimulus do we need in brand experience, communications and customer journeys to drive the response we need?  What stimulus will create this emotion?  Again, very rarely do briefs ask this question and yet it is a powerful driver of behaviour and a response we can create, especially if we identify the most powerful way to deliver it at the right point.

3) CULTURE AND CONTEXT
Who isn’t talking about the influence of culture these days? That’ll be nobody.  

To explain, the Culture First movement is founded on the theory that individual behaviour is driven by culture rather than culture being driven by individuals, and that to understand what drives behaviour we should look outward, not inward.  Mark Earls is a key proponent of this theory and his work in ‘Herd’ explains ‘How to change mass behaviour by Harnessing our True Nature’.

The understanding of what culture is, and therefore how it drives us, involves the use of several tools, including the analysis of media, product and services categories, semiotics and discourse analysis. What emerges is what is important to us as a society/group as a whole, or within category.  This is then used to create brands and experience that feel strongly relevant today.

Are we approached to investigate this?  Yes – however few acknowledge that this is a study of drivers rather than a colourful description of context.

In summation then, when we find ourselves tempted to explore attitudes, opinion or belief, we need to ask ourselves how this is really helping.  
Instead, using these three lenses, built from the wisdom of the industry, we can understand what drives behaviour and we can then build a superior experience whether it be brand, product or service and stand a better chance of delivering any behaviour change we seek.


Blaze Hungry Minds #1

Blaze Research - Thursday, February 23, 2017

Blaze Team

At Blaze, we’re curious people.  Not just quirky, but deeply interested in the world around us and why people do what they do.  This curiosity stretches further than our day-to-day work.  When we’re not exploring for clients, we spend our time exploring for the sake of it – discovering new theories and keeping on top of the latest learnings on people, culture, behaviour, emotions, innovation and research itself. It seemed selfish to keep all these findings to ourselves, so welcome to the first in our new digest of things we’ve been reading this week that have inspired us, interested us or made us think.

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Gabrielle Allfrey Culture & Trends Researcher

A-Z Cultural Glossary 2017

A-Z?  That’s a whole alphabet!  What letter would you recommend we skip to and why?

You don’t have to go far I would skip to "B" - Brand Built World. It is the idea that brands are playing a larger and larger role in contributing to societies’ infrastructure. Examples include Facebook providing internet via a drone and New Balance cleaning running paths in Boston winters. These are services in the public space that have been traditionally reserved for governments. However, with rapidly evolving demands of the digital age, I think it will be really interesting to see how brands step in to fill gaps in society.  

What was the trend that challenged you the most or made you think differently?

Quota Tourism. We aren’t talking about North Korea here; this is the idea that countries will start to limit the number of tourists allowed in particular areas to protect the natural environment. This feels like a courageous step, forgoing the potential profits that tourism brings to ensure the longevity of the environment. It ensures that not only the biodiversity and integrity of a space is maintained but also that people can visit for longer. We have a tendency to focus on immediate income and not think about the sustainability of that income. Things like quota tourism, waste building, and sustainable supply chain are reassuring steps in a more sustainable direction. 

Predictions: 17 digital marketing trends for 2017

Was there anything surprising or unexpected in the list?  Something you hadn’t seen before or something you had seen used in a different way?

I think the rise of chat bots is really interesting. I encountered 2 on my internet travels just today and it feels like they have emerged from nowhere. I think market research will play an important role in ensuring that chat bots are used in the right places with the right TOV to suit the customer.

So if these are 2017 tech trends -  do you think you’re a Luddite or a tech innovator or something in between?

I am a restless person so I always like to try out new technologies, although I do wait a little while until something is relatively established to avoid growing pains. I think technology typically serves to make your life as a researcher easier and give to faster more accurate results, so I think it is important to be on the front foot with the latest trends.

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Victoria Gamble MD

What have you been reading?

Lots of stuff! I set myself a challenge of 20-minutes work reading a day – it’s amazing what you can get through.  I’m also charged with keeping the Blaze LinkedIn and Twitter feeds populated with content, so that means I read pretty widely


Why So Curious?: Curiosity killed the cat. Or did it? Research suggests it keeps us—and other animals—sharp.

Loved this article on Mindful.org about the benefits of curiosity.  We researchers are curious beings, and this article showed me that my curiosity (or persistent sticky-beaking) can improve my learning as well as keep me younger!

Favourite quote from the article?

“And about that dead cat: Research suggests curiosity can keep us young. A 1996 study of 2,153 70-ish men and women found that the more curious they were, in general as well as when presented with questions, the more likely they were to be alive in five years. It was the first study to identify curiosity as a predictor of longevity.”

Mindframes: Wendy Gordon

Tell me about this book...

I loved everything about this book – to the point where I was consistently texting Sara with quotes and photos of sections as I was reading.  An excellent follow up to the essential read ‘Good Thinking’, in this book Gordon has perfectly summarised 6 key principles that should shape research and why.  A must read for any researcher.

What was your favourite bit of the book?

It’s all good.  But one stand out was the discussion of attitudes 'n' behaviour and researchers’ tendency to run these into one word as if they are the same thing. 

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So that's it from us.  What are you reading? Who are you following? Share your suggestions in the comments!


Bite Size BE: Social Proof

Blaze Research - Wednesday, February 08, 2017


‘But Everyone Else Is Doing It’: An Introduction to Social Proof

Tom Witcombe Research Executive 

This is the first in our new series of Bite Size BE.  Each month we will be exploring a different behavioural bias or heuristic, providing practical examples of how these work in our day-to-day lives.  For more information on how we apply our behaviour lens in the work we do, contact info@blazeresearch.com

‘If all of your friends jumped off a bridge would you too?’ From the dawn of time, this snappy retort has been a sure-fire argument ender in households all over the globe. Unfortunately for Mums everywhere, the research is in, and it says that Yes, we probably would.

Consider this situation: you’re in a new city looking for a place to eat. In front of you, there are two restaurants; Restaurant A is packed to the rafters with barely a spare seat in sight, while Restaurant B is completely deserted. Without knowing anything else about either of the restaurants, which would you choose? If you are like most people, you probably knocked over a crowd of people running to the only free table at Restaurant A before it was snapped up by somebody else, and hence fell victim to the heuristic of Social Proof.


A or B? Where would you go?

Social Proof takes place when we find ourselves assuming the behaviour of others we see in the same situation as us. Human beings are tribal animals; we rely heavily on the actions of those around us to help us make decisions; we’re more likely to go to the busier restaurant, buy the product that’s selling out and dress the way that our friends do. In this way, even in situations where we have limited information to draw from, we can make a choice that we feel satisfied with.

While Social Proof can be a handy tool for decision making, it can lead to some pretty questionable actions as well. Social Proof can change the way we stand in elevators.... 


...or convince us to get even the simplest of questions wrong,

...and as much as we like to think ‘I wouldn’t fall for that’, chances are, we all would. After seeing all our mates do it, you can see how throwing yourself off that bridge suddenly becomes a pretty alluring option.

Brands have known about the power of Social Proof for decades, which is why so many dedicate huge budgets towards securing celebrity endorsements, amassing Facebook likes and publishing customer testimonials, but in the age of social media where people broadcast almost every aspect of their lives, Social Proof has arguably never been more important. How might your brand leverage Social Proof to build your customer base in 2017? 

Images and Sketchnoting: Jarrod Calabria Research Executive


Merry Christmas From Blaze 2016

Blaze Research - Thursday, January 12, 2017

Groundbreaking Research Offer from Blaze Research on Vimeo.

How Wise is the Wisdom in Your Room?

Blaze Research - Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sara Garcia Principal 

There’s something I’ve been noticing over the past year or so and I fear it’s symptomatic of a move which puts consumer understanding outside the decision-making process.   

From time to time we are asked to ‘validate’ ideas.   We’ve always known clients would much rather hear that their ideas are perfectly suited to the consumer environment exactly as they are.  We recognise that poor research can kill a strong core idea by the delivery of a thousand tiny blows and how wasteful that is of time, energy and money (not to mention trust and motivation).  But asking research specifically to come back with a validating set of results is missing a trick, to say the least. Could it be that stakeholders still don’t know what we really do?  Or that the ‘go to’ set of associations for research/insight is still opinion-based research, despite involving stakeholders in ethnography, cultural analysis, observing projective tasks and taking part in debriefs which are not based on ‘what they said.’  Perhaps there is work to be done here by the industry. 

So how have we got here?  What leads a company to ask purely for a consumer rubber stamp?  It’s easy to think it’s just due to a lack of understanding of what research can do. What’s more likely is a phenomenon called ‘Groupthink’.  As a planner, who didn’t want research anywhere near his strategy once said, ‘we don’t need research, we have the wisdom in the room’.    

Groupthink has been blamed for many tragedies, from The Titanic to the Space Shuttle disaster.  And no doubt it’s responsible for a fair number of marketing/communications tragedies too.  There are many papers and articles on Groupthink. 

You can find 8 symptoms of Groupthink here.  And ways to avoid it here  

It’s easy to see how, under the pressure of deadlines, with a strong group leader and with a confident unified team, our stakeholders can get to the view that they have it nailed, and nothing they hear from outside would be of much use at this point. 

There’s a fine line between ‘wisdom in the room’ and ‘Groupthink’.  But there’s a world of difference between not being able to make a decision without consumer ratification and hence losing that sense of vision, and using research to understand consumer needs, behaviour and response in order to make that vision successful. 

At Blaze, we are not interested in consumer opinion.  We don’t ask nor do we care what respondents think is good or bad advertising. We agree that consumers can’t take the place of designers, nor strategists, nor marketers. We know they could not predict their need for motor cars, mobile phones or the internet.  And that’s why we don’t ask them to. Instead, we watch and we listen. We set tasks and analyse response. We observe behaviour and how it is manipulated. We listen to language and use techniques that uncover deep-seated needs. We understand culture and semiotics which drive us as a herd.  Through understanding these we identify the presence and nature of  commercial opportunities, strategies for communications, and in-store tactics that will work. Consumers can’t tell us what they need, but they can show us if we know how to look and listen. 

We are not the voice of the consumer.  We are consumer analysts.  We are not here to validate your Groupthink.  We are here to help develop ideas which work brilliantly in the real world.


Banking on bad behaviour: will the recent bad press amongst Australian banks have an impact on consumers?

Blaze Research - Thursday, April 21, 2016

Alex Vishney Managing Partner

Banking customers are notoriously ‘inert’ – it takes a lot for one to leave their bank or join a new one. However, the past 12 months or so has seen a few stories emerge about some questionable behaviour amongst the Big Four Australian banks – they’ve all come under the spotlight. What impact will this negative PR have on consumers’ brand choices? Very little. Here are a few reasons why:

Consumers are ‘cognitive misers’:
Consumers simply have limited mind space to worry about what banks (or any other company) are doing. We have often found in tracking research for clients that when a ‘PR disaster’ occurs, it barely registers amongst the public. This characteristic is one of the reasons that consumer behaviour is so habitual in nature, and we can rely on it to ensure that all but the biggest blunders would go unpunished.

Stereotyping and confirmation bias:
Based on our research, in the minds of consumers, the similarities between banks are far greater than their differences (i.e. they are all in the same industry, doing the same sorts of things, full of the same sorts of people, saying the same sorts of stuff). Hence, ‘banks’ (as a group) is a stronger concept than any one brand of bank. This means that, although negative PR in one bank is likely to affect its brand perceptions slightly more than others, in reality, the entire sector suffers – consumers are likely to process the negative PR as a confirmation of their existing attitudes to banks in general, more so than a given bank. This provides bank brands a type of safety in numbers – if all banks are tarred with the same brush, then consumers are less likely to see an advantage in any one bank (and therefore, less likely to move). This effect is especially strong when all banks regularly come under the spotlight for some form of bad behaviour (as has been the case).

Market norms, not social norms
Psychologists talk about the difference between ‘social norms’ and ‘market norms’. Social norms tend to dictate our thought patterns in social relationships, while ‘market norms’ influence our thoughts and behaviour in financial relationships. The difference between the two is captured in a study described by Dan Ariely, in which lawyers were offered $30 an hour to work for poor elderly people and refused, but when asked if they would do it for free, they agreed. The offer of $30 immediately triggered market norms, which would dictate that $30 per hour is way too little to justify a lawyer’s time. However, removing the monetary offer triggers social norms – i.e. the inherent desire to help others. The point of this is that banks, more than any other business, trigger strong market norms – the relationship that consumers have with banks is entirely financial (in fact, not only do banks charge money, like other businesses, but their actual product is also money). This means that ‘moral’ scandals have little impact on a customer’s behaviour in relation to their bank, provided the scandal doesn’t affect them or their own money. While customers may claim to be upset by their bank’s behaviour, they rarely follow this up with action (as we found out in some recent research on the impact of customer service in the finance sector).

So does all this mean that banks (and any other companies) are free to act however they want without consequence? Not really. We find that consumers have a natural threshold, beyond which they will act (and we observe this in many contexts, whether they are buying in a supermarket or choosing to leave their bank). There are two ways for a company to break that threshold – either by doing something so utterly terrible that customers are driven to reappraise (think Vodafone network going down for days at a time, affecting tens of thousands of customers). The other way is what we call the ‘perfect storm’ phenomenon – when several reappraisal triggers all happen at once. These might include some poor PR with your existing bank, and a negative customer experience, and a friend mentioning how good their bank is, and of course a timely appearance of a competitor’s ad just at the right moment (e.g. while you’re complaining on Facebook), all of which drives you to reconsider your current brand. Although individual instances of bad PR tend to have little impact on consumers, they will increase the probability of the perfect storm occurring and their customers being driven to reappraise.

We’re Looking for Grads and Interns!

Blaze Research - Friday, March 18, 2016

Tom Witcombe Research Executive

We had a great time this week speaking with students at the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales Careers Expos. It was great to personally meet the next generation of Australia’s workforce, and we are confident that the future is in good hands!

Unfortunately though, we can’t speak with everybody personally, so if you didn’t get a chance to speak with us at either of those events, and are looking to begin an exciting career in research and consultancy, this post is for you!

Over the coming months, we will be looking for one intern (starting June 2016) and one graduate (starting January 2017) to join our team at Blaze. If you’re a rigorous thinker, a self-starter and have a proven interest in understanding what makes people tick, then we want to hear from you!

As a graduate or intern at Blaze, your role would involve:

- Working directly with senior members of staff day-to-day

- Actively involving yourself in live projects from day one

- Developing in-the-field research skills

- Analyzing data and research findings to develop business recommendations for clients

- Developing client and supplier relationships

- One-on-one mentoring and professional development

- External training to develop your professional business skills (e.g. persuading and influencing)

Applications are open to all full-time Australian residents. We will consider students from all disciplines.  To apply for a graduate position or internship at Blaze, please email careers@blazeresearch.com with the following documents:

- CV

- Cover Letter

- Up to Date Academic Transcript

Answer to written task (max. 200 words):“Based on your own experience, what would you claim is the number one motivator of members of Australia’s Baby Boomer generation, and why?”

Applications close 29th April 2016 and are open now.

We look forward to hearing from all of you!

The Blaze Team 

Is it time for More Emotional Synergy in Ad Placement?

Blaze Research - Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Sara Garcia Principal

Last night I was catching up with The Bridge on SBS on Demand. If you don’t know it, it’s dark, intense and frankly, a bit miserable. The key character’s father had just died and, being a character apparently on the autism spectrum, her response was complex. Meanwhile, the bodies are piling up, hostages are gaffer-taped in dripping cellars and nobody ever smiles.  All this and subtitles too ensures your attention is firmly fixed.

So at this point, I’m glancing down at the kitchen benchtop where I’m chopping an onion.  Out of nowhere comes a blast of sound, I look up and the screen is covered in pink, purple and orange confetti – it’s party time for Cadbury’s.  The volume has tripled, the mood is ecstatic and about as opposite from the tense introversion of The Bridge as it is possible to get.

Now, I like chocolate as much as the next person, but to catapult me out of the dark understated environment of Nordic Noir to manic mayhem at full blast was more than I could take. 

Did I feel the joy?  You bet I didn’t. Did the brand suddenly feel not joyful but crass?  Oh yes.  Did I, for a few moments, feel as much hatred for Cadbury’s as a teen girl might for her younger toy-gun-toting brother bursting into a girls’ night in? You bet.

So, while I’m generally a fan of Joyville as an idea, where the ad is placed caused enough negativity to completely over-ride the intended response. 

I‘m left instead with a sense of artificiality, insensitivity, annoyance – not what they had in mind.  And something which the characters of The Bridge would never tolerate

 

View our Privacy Policy

Blaze Research - Monday, November 02, 2015

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Blaze International Holdings Pty Limited will destroy or de-identify your personal information as soon as practicable once it is longer needed for the purpose for our research purposes. However, we may in certain circumstances be required by law to retain your personal information after our research has been completed. In this case your personal information will continue to be protected in accordance with this Policy. If we destroy personal information we will do so by taking reasonable steps and using up-to-date techniques and processes.

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However, you should keep in mind that the transmission of information over the Internet is not completely secure or error-free. In particular, e-mail sent to or from this website may not be secure, and you should therefore take special care in deciding what information you send to us via e-mail.

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This policy is effective from 12 March 2014. We may change this policy from time to time. Although we intend to observe this Privacy Policy at all times, it is not legally binding on Blaze International Holdings Pty Limited in any way. From time to time we may regard it as necessary or desirable to act outside the policy.  Blaze International Holdings Pty Limited may do so, subject only to any other applicable contractual rights you have and any statutory rights you have under the Privacy Act or other applicable legislation.

 

The Noughties….!

Blaze Research - Monday, October 26, 2015

Victoria Gamble Research Director

Victoria Gamble started as a researcher in 2001.  As part of their 60th year, the AMSRS’ Research News has asked various researchers to summarise their experiences through the decades – below is the article that Victoria has contributed summarising her first 10 years.  The Noughties….! 

When Victoria Gamble started her research career in Brisbane in 2001, she was joining an industry that was changing quickly.

"Workplaces everywhere were changing, as shiny new Dell computers now took pride of place on every desk, and email had started impairing social skills. People had stopped picking up phones or getting up to talk to people sitting in the same office. ITunes launched in 2001 and offices quickly became full of people surreptitiously listening to music and sharing burnt CDs. Headphones helped us all concentrate as cubicles came down in favour of more open plan, collaborative working environments.

Surveys were CATI, but there was excitement about the possibilities that online was offering. It wasn’t until the middle of the decade that online started to become the methodology of choice. Online surveys offered a wealth of possibilities that CATI did not – visuals, prompt lists, as well as an attractive lower cost per interview. But this new visual medium required us to re-think the way we wrote our questionnaires, for a respondent who was now reading, rather than being asked.

Over in Quallie-land, focus groups continued to be our bread and butter. These were generally still 1.5 hours, and we were paying people $40 for their time. Through the 2000s there was a shift away from groups to including a wider range of methods, with ‘ethnography-inspired’ methods in particular gaining popularity as the decade progressed.

I remember being given my first online qualitative project in about 2004, for no other reason than ‘I was young, so I understood technology’. This was very much still in its infancy, with forum style platforms being the norm.

Again, this quickly developed and changed through the rest of the decade. The buzzword of the late 2000s was ‘Web 2.0’. Facebook launched in 2004 but only really gained momentum in about 2007. This prompted a great deal of innovation in both qual and quant technologies as we looked to include more elements from the social web into our own interactions with participants.

The first report I worked on in 2001 was a 70 page word report, which I then printed and bound to deliver to the client.

(Should anyone need binding done, it’s something I’m excellent at, but a skill I rarely get to use these days… the offer is there).

Word reports (long, long Word reports) were still the norm, but this was changing quickly as PowerPoint became popular. The nature of our reports themselves continued to change as we, as an industry, became more aware of the limitations of what our respondents told us. We moved from pure ‘reportage’ of the findings to a more consultative style and approach.

The 2000s were also a decade of expansion and change in the industry. There were a few notable startups in the late 90s and early part of the decade that redefined what a research company looked like, how it talked about itself and what the offer should be.

As the decade progressed, and technology lowered the cost of entry, growth continued, leading to the larger and fragmented industry we see today. Towards the end of the decade, phone rooms started to close or move offshore, as the demand for CATI decreased.

The GFC created a tighter and leaner industry, as companies looked for the most efficient way of doing things. Research budgets got smaller, but the challenges were bigger and this forced us to become more creative in the way we approached our client’s issues.

The 2000s were a decade of change, both for research and for broader working life. It’s amazing to think that at the beginning of my career only 42 percent of households had the internet – Google wasn’t even a verb until about 2002 – and by the end of the decade around 1/3 of the population were on Facebook.

This decade of change has bred a generation of researchers who are adaptable and innovative, quick to harness new technologies and seeking better ways of doing things. Ready to take on what the 10s throw at us!"

This article originally appeared in AMSRS’ Research News, Volume 32, Number 8, September 2015