CATEGORIES : Focus groups
2 May 2018

I am a big fan of the Marvel universe. After rushing to the movies this weekend to enjoy the franchise’s latest release, I started quizzing my boyfriend on which superpower he’d like to have. Time control would be his thing, as I myself contemplated the idea of telepathy.

Telepathy is sadly not a tool marketing experts can count on. To help them dive into someone else’s psyche, they instead use specific interview techniques called projective techniques. These were greatly inspired by clinical methods from the psychology field. One of the most famous among them is the Rorschach Inkblot Test, where a series of drawings that look like ink spots are shown to a patient in order to evaluate their personality and highlight any underlying psychological trouble.

Projective techniques used in a marketing research context are comparatively more lighthearted. Each of them is like a little game (i.e. word associations, writing a letter to a brand, cartoon-completion strips or even role-playing), and bring a playful mood to the discussion. In a previous article, we already explored the advantages of using these techniques during a focus group, their greater advantage being to uncover the emotional components of opinions rather than the rational expression of participants. By doing so, they allow a moderator to gather significant insights that might otherwise have stayed buried in participants’ minds. All stakeholders can benefit from the use of projective techniques, meaning not only participants, but also moderators and clients.

  • A focus group does mobilize participants for a fairly extended period of time, and topics can vary from pedestrian to challenging. Changing the pace from direct Q&A techniques keeps it fun and engaging, ensuring a positive experience, which ultimately yields more useful insights. When designing the discussion structure, I usually make a point of including projective techniques at relevant moments of the discussion.
  • From a moderator point of view, these exercises can be used as an energizer by appealing to participants’ spontaneity and creativity. By doing so, they can bring a second wind to the group. Projective techniques also allow to really dig in deep from multiple angles. At the analysis phase, the moderator will have more content to draw conclusions and formulate recommendations relative to topics that can be complex to explain in simple terms. They can also serve well at other phases of the research process. For example, we use the super power exercise when pre-selecting candidates to assess their communication abilities.
  • Finally, from the clients’ point of view, these techniques usually output vivid insights. The ideas submitted by participants can serve as inspiration for slogans or marketing persona. Furthermore, any issue relative to the products or concepts that are being tested will without a doubt emerge, as projective techniques usually free participants from self-censorship. The insight generated can be quite inspiring for future strategies.

Beyond their above-mentioned perks, don’t forget that projective techniques are also just fun to use

Diving into the psyche of customers is no super power, but still requires some skills. Projective techniques are wonderful tools, but one must use them wisely. With great power comes great responsibility…