You know why I love marketing? It doesn’t have anything to do with flashy events or heart-touching commercials or creative brainstorming sessions.
It’s because ultimately, it’s about people. What they think and want. How they behave.
I love the consumer psychology of it all. I always have.
That’s why market research was one of my favourite parts – especially the in-homes and the shop-alongs. Where you got to see people in their natural habitats and observe what they didn’t know, couldn’t know, to tell you on the other side of a 1 way mirror.
So in a sense, I consider myself to be an anthropologist of sorts.
So after 14+ years of being taught and trained in how best to learn from my subjects, I continue to be fascinated about the ways that information is and isn’t used to make decisions.
Just yesterday, I went to a clinic to get the Peanut her one year immunizations. And on the standard development questionnaire, buried between questions like “Can your child drink from an open cup” and “Does your child respond to simple commands” was this one:
“Do you have enough money after monthly expenses for food?”
At the time, with a wriggling baby on my lap and the dreaded shots on my mind, I didn’t think much of it, checked off “yes” and handed the sheet back in.
But on the drive home that question came back to me. And I couldn’t help but think about how very misguided it was.
Don’t get me wrong – I value the intent of trying to flag situations where a family may be struggling and may need help.
But truly, what parent or person is going to answer “no” to that?
Pride or embarrassment or shame or worry or a hundred other emotions will prevent you from doing so.
If you really wanted to identify high-risk families, then there are countless better (albeit harder to parse) questions. Questions like: “What does your child typically eat for breakfast and dinner?” or “How much do you spend on the following items each week: housing, food, clothes” (week vs. month gets you to think about the question in a non-standard way so you may get a more truthful answer) or “Where do you typically shop for groceries?”.
These may not be the exact right questions, but my point is, by asking around the question, you actually stand a better chance of getting to the real answer.
It’s what I ultimately find so fascinating about consumer research – how do you ask the questions that help people tell you the truth, not the answer that they think they should tell you. Or in some cases, what they truly believe is the answer but their actual behavior says otherwise.
A great example is Ok Cupid, which you may think is a dating site but is actually a really interesting data science company. They hire tons of data scientists to analyze the answers to questions users respond to on the site. They published this blog post on the three questions you should ask on a first date to see if there is long-term compatibility.
Those questions are:
- Do you like horror movies?
- Have you ever traveled around another country alone?
- Wouldn’t it be fun to chuck it all and go live on a sailboat?
On the surface you might be like, “what?” but after thinking about it, and seeing how they came to this conclusion, it makes a lot of sense.
It’s what I’m most excited about for what we’re building now… how can we help families with their crazy, packed to overflowing lives by understanding what’s important to them more than they might even be able to articulate themselves?
It makes for a fascinating and mindbogglingly complex endeavour: What’s considered the most important? How do you go about understanding that? Then how do you formulate and ask the questions to understand those things better?
To be honest, I’m not entirely certain. The whole thing is a bit daunting. But even just the first months of trying to figure it out have been some of the most interesting and fun.
At least I know this much: we won’t be asking anything remotely near to the answer we’ll be seeking.