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Mining the Subconscious: How do you translate a business strategy into an emotion?

Posted by Kathy Ofsthun on Mon, Aug 09, 2010

qualitative brand researchIn the summer’s hottest movie, Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio plays the role of Domenic, the Extractor – a thief who steals ideas for his clients by entering others’ dreams. Extraction is routine to Domenic, but his newest challenge, Inception, is far more difficult. It requires the placement of an idea in someone’s mind.

Point man Arthur, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, poses a familiar question, “So how do you translate a business strategy into an emotion?” That question represents one of the biggest challenges in brand research (optimization, tracking, loyalty). While it is routine to extract information on functional attributes and personal benefits from market research respondents, the emotional stuff, (e.g. how does doing business with X, or using Y product, make you feel?) is much tougher to extract.

Psychologists tell us that emotions precede rational thinking. And rational thinking often justifies a decision that has already been made through an emotional response. In the movie, Domenic wants to implant an emotional response that will spur action, and is justified by a rational business strategy.

As market researchers, we are often tasked with the same challenge of helping clients turn emotional responses into business strategy (without the ability to leap into people’s minds). As a starting point, we often attack this issue by using qualitative techniques such as projection, laddering and mind mapping which are designed to explore consumers’ emotional responses. 

  • Projection exercises include analogies, collages, and other metaphorical techniques including thought bubbles and storytelling that help reveal hidden motives and emotions, and personification that ascribes personality traits to an image, e.g. for use in packaging research.
  • Laddering techniques are used to uncover a person’s goals and core values and how they relate to product attributes. The technique begins with a product’s attributes and ladders on the consequences and then values associated with that attribute, in an A-C-V chain, or ladder.
  • Mind mapping is used to extend an individual’s thinking about a product, company or topic, often leading to emotional discoveries. Beyond simply asking why, mind mapping moves a person beyond a single thought or experience to previously unidentified associations.
mind mappingTry these techniques for exploring and uncovering the emotional underpinnings of your brand…and enjoy the movie!

Posted by Kathy Ofsthun. Kathy is a Sr. Project Manager at CMB. She is an avid hiker and swimmer, and is a humble new owner of a home built in 1694

Consumer Spending Report 2010

Topics: methodology, qualitative research, business decisions, brand health and positioning