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Anne Hooper

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QRCA 2017 Conference Recap

Posted by Anne Hooper

Wed, Mar 01, 2017

powerofperspective-image.jpgA couple weeks ago I took a hiatus from the Boston winter and flew to sunny Los Angeles for the Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA) Annual Conference: The Power of Perspective. For any qualitative researcher interested in learning and connecting with the qual community, this conference is a must

For three intense days, my fellow “quallies” and I were immersed in the latest industry methods, tools, and techniques.  I’m always impressed with QRCA and this year’s theme “The Power of Perspective” didn’t disappoint.  In fact, it was one of best conferences I’ve been to in years!  I came home feeling renewed, refreshed, and reenergized with plenty of new tools for my qualitative toolbox.

While I learned a lot during those three days, a few things really stood out to me. Some of my learnings will make me a better practitioner while others went as far as making me cry.  (Yep, you read that right.  I cried.  But I swear I didn’t make that ugly cry face!). 

So here are some of my most memorable takeaways from QRCA 2017:

Theater and qualitative research are more alike than different. Theater is storytelling—stories that reflect our society, help us empathize with others, bring to life historical figures and moments, and have the power to change our perspectives. This is similar to what we do in qualitative research. We are storytellers, truth-seekers, and opinion shapers. We strive to connect with others in a meaningful way, to tell their stories, and to ultimately affect change.

Just as the protagonist is vital to a theater performance, the participant (our “protagonist”) is vital to the market research story. For our story to be successful we must fully understand them—who they are, what they want, and their situation.

Technology continues to shape qual. As new technology transforms society, it’s also reshaping the way qualitative researchers collect and analyze data. In one session, speaker Pam Goldfarb Liss spoke about the impact of new technology—for example, using virtual reality like video screens and specially outfitted wearables to let participants interact with a fabricated environment. Qual researchers are also using facial recognition software, augmented reality (i.e., virtual shop-alongs and package testing), and artificial intelligence in their work. With new technology emerging almost daily, it’s important to continue to think of ways it can help improve our work for the benefit of our participants and clients.  

Listening is powerful. Benjamin Mathes, founder of Urban Confessional*, the LA-born free listening project, lead an interactive session on listening. Urban Confessional is grounded in the belief that people just need someone to talk to and recruits volunteers to stand in public spaces and offer to lend an ear to anyone who wants to unload something.

Armed with a simple cardboard sign reading “Free Listening,” a few quallies and I hit the streets of LA to give Urban Confessional a try. Was I scared? A bit. Excited? Totally. Ready? Not at all… but what an experience! What I learned not only applies to life, but there is a direct connection to what makes for an effective qualitative researcher:

  • What others hear is more important than what we say
  • True listening is allowing someone to be completely themselves in our presence
  • Respecting silence can be really tough, but it’s important

My QRCA experience culminated in a session lead by John Boettner, Chief Enchantment Officer at Teen Press Inc. John, along with two teen journalists, spoke about the beauty and challenges of humanity and how they apply to the work that we do.

Whether you’re a qualitative researcher or not, you’ll be moved by Teen Press, maybe even to tears. Here are my key takeaways that will stay with me forever: 

  • When someone is telling their truths, things can go where you never expected them to. Embrace it and let it happen.
  • Listen to people with sincerity and a genuine desire to connect with them—when you do this, something special happens
  • Other peoples’ perspectives and stories better help us understand each other as human beings. We need to do this now more than ever.
  • Everyone has a story to share and sometimes just wants to be listened to. Be an active listener for them.
  • Embrace awkwardness, especially silence. You might learn a thing or two from it.

I could go on and on about the great things I learned at QRCA 2017, but you’d be here a while. This is just the tip of the iceberg of a conference full of tips, tricks, tools, and special moments.

I’m putting all the valuable insight I learned at QRCA to practice and am already excited for next year’s conference. See you in Phoenix for QRCA 2018!

 As CMB’s Qualitative Research Director and mom of a 15 year old daughter, Anne is thankful for teachers like John Boettner and the millions of other teachers out there that make a difference in our kids lives’ every day.  And BTW:  she’s finally stopped crying and is officially back to work.

 *Disclaimer: If you aren’t familiar with Urban Confessional, I highly recommend checking it out because it’s relevant to all of us human beings.

 

Topics: qualitative research, conference recap

Qualitative Research Isn't Dying—It's Evolving

Posted by Anne Hooper

Wed, May 06, 2015

qualitative research, anne hooperBack in 2005, Malcolm Gladwell told us that focus groups are dead. Just last November, Jim Bryson, CEO of 20/20 Research, questioned whether qualitative research was thriving or dying: If we take a narrow, more traditional view that qualitative is defined by the methods of face-to-face focus groups or interviews, particularly those held in a qualitative facility, then the case can be easily made that qualitative is dying.”

To all of this, I say: wait, what?! Qualitative is dying? I refused to believe it, so I embarked on a journey to explore where qualitative has been, and more importantly, where it’s going. During my research, I found plenty of evidence to support the fact that qualitative is not, in fact, dying. Great news, right? (Especially for me, because if it were true, I just might be out of a job I love.)I took a look at the fall 2014 Greenbook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) Report and focused on the data from Q1-Q2 of 2013 and Q1-Q2 2014. In this data, I learned:

  • The use of traditional in-person focus groups increased from 60% (Q1-Q2 2013) to 70% (Q1-Q2 2014).
  • Within the same time period, the use of in-person, in-depth interviews increased from 45% to 53%.
  • Interviews and groups using online communities increased from 21% to 24%.
  • The use of mobile qual (e.g., diaries, image uploads) increased from 18% to 24%.

Yes, it’s important to note that not all qualitative methodologies saw an increase in usage within this timeframe. In fact, there was a decrease in the usage of telephone IDIs, in-store shopping/observations, bulletin board studies, both chat-based and webcam-based online focus groups, and telephone focus groups.  All this notwithstanding, I think it’s fair to say that qualitative is still very much alive and well.

So why do people keep talking about qualitative dying? We can’t deny that there are a number of factors that affect how and when we use qualitative methodologies today (technology, access to big data, and text analytics are a few). But, this doesn’t mean qualitative is disappearing as a discipline. Qualitative is evolving at a rapid pace and feels more relevant than ever. Sure, we need to keep up with client demands for faster and cheaper research, but there will always be a need for the human mind (i.e., a qualitative expert) to analyze and synthesize the data to provide meaning and context behind the way people think and behave—and that is where actionable insights are born.   

Now that we know qualitative really isn’t dying, what does 2015 (and beyond) hold for us? The future is about truly integrated research—in which qualitative and quantitative are consistently, thoughtfully, and purposefully used together to provide well-rounded, actionable insights. We’re poised to do exactly that with our dedicated analytics team and network of expert industry qualitative partners. By using two equally important disciplines that are both alive and well, we can provide our clients critical insights they can really use. Far from killing off qualitative insights, technology and an evolving marketplace are helping make qualitative insights even stronger.

Anne Hooper is the Qualitative Research Director at CMB. After recently finding out that her 13 year old daughter did a quantitative assessment of her Jazz Band’s upcoming Disney trip itinerary, she’s determined that an intervention may be in order.

Topics: methodology, qualitative research

A Perfect Match? Tinder and Mobile Ethnographies

Posted by Anne Hooper

Wed, Apr 23, 2014

Tinder JoeI know what you are thinking...“What the heck is she TALKING about? How can Tinder possibly relate to mobile ethnography?”  You can call me crazy, but hear me out first.For those of you who may be unfamiliar, Tinder is a well-known “hook up” app that’s taken the smartphone wielding, hyper-social Millennial world by storm. With a simple swipe of the index finger, one can either approve or reject someone from a massive list of prospects. At the end of the day, it comes down to anonymously passing judgment on looks alone—yet if both users “like” each other, they are connected. Shallow? You bet. Effective? Clearly it must be because thousands of people are downloading the app daily.

So what’s the connection with mobile ethnography? While Tinder appears to be an effective tool for anonymously communicating attraction (anonymous in that the only thing you really know about the other person is what they look like), mobile ethnography is an effective tool for anonymously communicating daily experiences that we generally aren’t as privy to as researchers. Mobile ethnography gives us better insight into consumer behavior by bringing us places we’ve never gone before but are worthy of knowing nonetheless (Cialis, anyone?). Tapping into these experiences—from the benign to the very private—are the nuts and bolts behind any good product or brand.

So how might one tap into these experiences using mobile ethnography? It’s actually quite easy—we create and assign “activities” that are not only engaging for participants, but are also designed to dig deep and (hopefully) capture the "Aha!" moments we aim for as researchers. Imagine being able to see how consumers interact with your brand on a day-to-day basis—how they use your product, where their needs are being fulfilled, and where they experience frustrations. Imagine “being there” when your customer experiences your brand—offering insight into what delights and disappoints them right then and there (i.e., not several weeks later in a focus group facility). The possibilities for mobile ethnography are endless...let’s just hope the possibilities for Tinder come to a screeching halt sooner rather than later.

Anne Hooper is the Director of Qualitative Services at CMB. She has a 12 year old daughter who has no idea what Tinder is, and she hopes it stays that way for a very long time.

Topics: methodology, qualitative research, social media

How to Catch a Catfish: Secrets of a Qualitative Researcher

Posted by Anne Hooper

Tue, Mar 12, 2013

catch a catfish

Those who know me understand that I am not afraid to admit I love reality TV.  Combine that love with an interest in pop culture (generally), and a passion for understanding what people do and WHY they do it, and you have a match made in heaven. So obviously Catfish—the MTV series —is right up my alley.

Talk of "Catfishing" seems to be everywhere these days, but for the uninitiated, I’ll give you the quick (Wikipedia) definition: “A Catfish is a person who creates fake profiles online and pretends to be someone they are not by using someone else’s pictures and information.”  Put simply:  Catfishing is a relationship built on deception.

So what does Catfishing have to do with online qual?

As a qualitative researcher, I have to build “relationships” with strangers all the time, both online and in-person.  I can guarantee you that these relationships are genuine, authentic and honest—at least from my end.  My ultimate goal is to better understand research participants as human beings—how they live, what they value, what makes them ‘tick’, etc.  Most of the time, I truly feel that those I’m spending time with (both online and offline) are also being authentic and honest with me. Notice I said most of the time

Though it doesn’t happen often, it IS possible to come across a phony (AKA “Catfish”) in an in-person setting.  There are some pretty savvy people out there who seem to know how to make their way into a focus group for some extra cash.  Thankfully it’s rare—and most of the time these folks get weeded out before they even enter the room.  Online qualitative research, on the other hand, is ripe for Catfish.  Unless we are conducting video web-based research, there aren’t any visual clues to help us validate identities.  Therefore, we can’t be 100% sure that the person we THINK we are talking to is really that person.

The good news is that as researchers, we can take measures to protect ourselves from these Catfish participants online—it just takes a little effort and creativity.  Here are a few methods I’ve used successfully in the past:  

  • Demographics:  If you have a participant that has an annual income of $50K and claims to spend an average of $10K a year on vacation, you’ve got yourself a red flag.  Taking the time to cross reference demographics with online responses can be extremely helpful in getting to the truth.

  • Common sense:  Individual responses don’t stand alone, but pulled together they create a story.  At the end of the day you either have a story that makes sense or you don’t, and a story that doesn’t make sense is another red flag.  Just as one would do when moderating an in-person group, there are times when you must revisit what someone said earlier, and if necessary, request clarification.  (In the immortal words of Judge Judy: “If it doesn’t make sense, it’s not true.”) 

  • Consistency:  A lack of consistency can be another red flag.  If a participant says one thing, but contradicts themselves sometime later, there might be a problem.  Here’s an example:  in a recent “vacation” detective magnifying glassstudy we had a participant who changed her dates of a travel a few times (not unusual).  She later confirmed purchasing a package (air, hotel, car) for a family of 5 one week prior to departure (somewhat fishy … especially for someone who was very price sensitive).  Her “confirmed” travel dates were from the 25th-30th of the month—and when she hadn’t checked in, as requested during that time, we reached out to her to find out that she was “already home” on the 29th.  Suspicious?  Very.  This lack of consistency—along with several other red flags—confirmed our suspicions that she was not being truthful and she was pulled from the study.  Again, to quote Judge Judy, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to have a good memory.”

  • Engagement:  There are always going to be participants who choose to do the bare minimum in order to get their incentive.  However, a lack of engagement and openness—coupled with any additional red flags—requires some investigation.  Is the participant just taking the easy way out by answering questions in as few words as possible, or are they skipping key questions altogether?  Skipping key questions (e.g., “Tell us what you like best about product X”) could be a sign that they really don’t use product X after all.  Again, it’s important for the moderator to probe accordingly and if the probes go ignored … you guessed it … another red flag.

With online research (and plenty of Catfish) here to stay, we need to continue to be vigilant in crossing our T’s and dotting our i’s.  I, for one, am ready to catch them … hook, line and sinker.

Anne is CMB’s Qualitative Research Director.  She enjoys travel and thanks to DVR, never misses an episode of Judge Judy. Anne especially loves being able to truly “connect” with her research participants—it’s in her Midwestern blood.   

Learn more about Anne and her Qualitative Research team here.

Topics: qualitative research, television, digital media and entertainment research

Three Ways to Level the Playing Field in any Focus Group

Posted by Anne Hooper

Mon, Feb 28, 2011

Level the playing fieldWhile I find it hard to believe myself, I have actually been in market research for just over 15 years now. Having spent more than half of that time in front of the mirror (gosh, am I really that old?) I’ve learned a lot about people and how they communicate and interact. As a moderator I have seen personalities and group dynamics that run the gamut, but I have found a few steadfast truths that level the playing field in any focus group and make sure insights are gleaned from all perspectives.

1.       Comfort is Key-  Being comfortable both physically and mentally means participants can be focused and engaged in a meaningful way.  If a focus group participant is focused on how “hot” the room is, how hungry they are, or how uncomfortable their chair is, they definitely aren’t going to be fully engaged in the conversation.  Similarly, if I—as a moderator—haven’t created a warm and open atmosphere, participants aren’t going to want to share their “true” thoughts and feelings with me.  Creating a safe environment—and showing some of my own vulnerabilities—gives participants the go-ahead to be vulnerable as well, resulting in dialogue that is insightful and findings that are useful.

2.       Everyone Wants to Share-  While it’s true that some choose to participate in research solely for the almighty dollar, they are definitely in the minority.  The fact is, those who have gone out of their way to take time off from work, battle traffic and parking, and perhaps even hire a babysitter are doing so for a reason—they want to be heard.  Even the quietest, most introverted person in the room has something to say and it’s my responsibility—as a moderator—to give them that opportunity.

3.       Keeping it Real-  Obviously market research is not the place for people to be entertained—participants are there to share their feelings and help us better understand the issues at hand.  However, that doesn’t mean we ought to create a sterile (AKA “boring”) environment that doesn’t support “color” and “creativity.”  Keeping it real as a moderator—showing some personality and truly enjoying the time you have with those participants—creates a win/win for everyone involved.

 

Posted by Anne Hooper, CMB’s director of qualitative research. When Anne’s not looking in the mirror she enjoys traveling, reading, skiing and spending time with her family (especially when it’s poolside).

Topics: qualitative research

5 Questions with CMB's Anne Hooper

Posted by Anne Hooper

Sun, Nov 30, 2008

Anne is a RIVA-trained focus group moderator and seasoned in-depth interviewer and has experience with both consumers and business customers. She specializes in several areas, including studies involving kids and teens, research pertaining to the design and usability of Web sites, projects related to the development or enhancement of products and services, and in-depth interviews with business professionals, including C-level executives. Anne has been actively involved in all phases of projects, from study design and coordination, to moderating focus groups, to data analysis, report writing, and the presentation of findings. The following are 5 questions designed to introduce everyone to the newest addition to the CMB team.

Why did you decide to make the move from your own company to Chadwick Martin Bailey?

Over the course of four years I saw a huge shift in my business;from about 20% contract work with CMB in year one to nearly 90% in year four;so making the move just made sense to me. I have thoroughly enjoyed the people, the clients and the work I’ve done with CMB over the years, so I’m thrilled to be an official team member now.

What role do you play at CMB?

As Qualitative Research Director my responsibilities run the gamut-from actually conducting field work to acting as a qualitative advisor/educator in a company that has been primarily focused on quantitative research. I will be working closely with each of the practices to ensure that anyone who works with us (both now and in the future) understands that Chadwick is not only exceptionally strong in quantitative methodologies but in qualitative as well.

Who are some of the clients you’ve worked with in the past?

I’ve been really fortunate to have worked with some of the biggest names across a number of industries: eBay, DIRECTV, The Hartford,National Geographic, Time Inc., Dell Computer, Bayer, PBS, Capital One, Neiman Marcus, JPMorgan Chase-the list goes on and on.

What do you like best about qualitative research?

There are two things that stand out for me in particular:

I get to spend time with real people-exploring their attitudes and feelings about everything and anything.It’s so enriching in so many ways for me. I simply love it.

Quite honestly, I never get bored.My work is so varied I can be talking to teens about travel one week and physicians about venous access devices the next. The fact that my work allows me to learn something new each and every project is really cool as far as I’m concerned.

Outside of work, what kinds of activities do you enjoy?

I know it sounds cliche, but I really love traveling (especially when gorgeous beaches are involved) and enjoying the time I get to spend with my family. We love the mountains and the ocean and feel fortunate that we can enjoy both in just a short drive. In fact, I’m finally going to get my 6 year old on skis this winter-I just hope she loves it as much as I do!

Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, our people, qualitative research