Introducing Qual 2.0: Part One

Elevating Qual in an ever-increasingly digital era.

Sometimes I wonder when the last focus group will ever be.

That notion may seem a tad dramatic based on where we are as an industry right now, but when you think about it, given how common telephone interviews used to be, surely the last telephone interview isn’t too far away?

Qual research is always going to have immeasurable value. It’s an art form that keeps us human as we progress further into our digital lives. As such, in these musings, I note how I feel Qual and digital can better co-exist together for anyone who’s interested.

Further, I also intend to pepper in insights that have been gleaned along the way.

The Good Ol’ Whiteboard ✍️

Anyone in the industry will agree that there’s something special about the trusty whiteboard. Over the years, they’ve been invaluable to me, and probably all of us, in landing a big idea, crystalizing a product road map, or saving a flagging pitch.

For me, it can be quite humbling to acknowledge that you can probably articulate more in 5 minutes with the help of a whiteboard than you are able to in a half-hour con call through verbal communication alone.

This process of indexing and clustering ideas makes short work of numerous tasks that are essential to a good Quali. In this, we acknowledge that no matter how strong we are in our field, the right tools can make a good Quali better.

Digitizing The Whiteboard 🖥️

If you’ve made it this far, I want to clarify that I’m not actually a whiteboard salesman in disguise. The whiteboard analogy is almost over, but stick with me here.

At the onset of the pandemic, many of us were forced to use new software as we planned, conducted and analyzed workshops in the digital realm. While I recognize these tools helped us do what we used to, did they really improve thinking?

In my view, if we’re going to be lifting whiteboards, and workshops, into the digital realm, rather than being constrained by conventional workshop ‘behavior’, this is an opportunity to rethink how we drag, drop, cluster and label images and ideas.

Insight: The Electric Vehicle Allure 🚗

Let’s talk about the new ‘whiteboard’ in action.

Recently, we sought to understand what was really driving interest in the Electric Vehicle (EV) category.

Very quickly, through basic Search data techniques, we were able to see that over the past 5 years in the UK, searches for Electric Car App had increased by 225%.

Yet, we know that the internet, as a ‘whiteboard’, is capable of far more than providing Search data, as insightful as Search can be.

When we look at Social data, such as Twitter, we’re able to quickly classify thousands of conversations in the EV space, and when it comes to the US in particular, the most common conversations are around price, as opposed to clean and green credentials.

However, the project really came to life when we began decoding brand imagery across the likes of Instagram. Tesla, for example, over-indexed on Luxury, compared to other car brands, while popular US models (Ford F-150), doubled down on Performance when it came to their EV offer.

When you look at this, and the low interest in the clean and green space, we learn that, most likely, EV drivers are generally more interested in saving their own money (and how they look and feel when driving), as opposed to saving the climate.

Looking Ahead

While I do believe in the power of tech to improve qualitative thinking, it is also obvious that tech does need qualitative thinkers to bring this to life.

If interested, stay tuned for my next iteration where I delve further into the integration of tech and semiotics when it comes to qualitative thinking.

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