Portland Marketing Analytics (PortMA) | Portland, Maine

Why? Because I Said So….

WhyI’ve been thinking a lot about qualitative research these past few days, and one thing that always pops into my head is how do we ask the all-important why question.

In both qualitative and quantitative research, the need to ask “why” arises.  Sometimes we want to know “well, why did you say that?” or “why did you give that rating?”  The why list is endless, “why don’t you want to buy our product” (so we can make changes that will help meet your needs). Or in the positive,”why do you” (because we can use that to really help communicate with other consumers.)

While why gets you the problem that needs an answer, it doesn’t provide the best method for getting to an answer.  Yes, I know, confusing right? But let’s step back a minute. Asking why can sometimes put people on the defensive.  No really why? Seriously why? Can you just tell me why? (I’m being a bit ridiculous, but still…)  Asking a why without context can sometimes seem combative, and that is the last stance one wants to take in an interview.

Then again, think back to when you were a kid.  Your parents would say something. You would ask “why?” being the curious and observant child in search of knowledge.  The back and forth ping pong of question and answer would ensue until one of you either gave up, changed the subject, or issued the standard “because I said so.” (To this day I’m still not 100% sure why I had to wear those red pants but learned that the “I said so” was a valid and stalwart answer against which one should not continue to “why.”)

In research, I’ve found that “why” is a quick way to shut people down.  Hey I saw you gave us a “5” why? Well because.  Yea but because why? (Can you see a similar pattern here?) For a qualitative interview I would step back and say ok, you gave us a 5.  When you think of the 5, what does that mean to you? What went into that rating? What makes something a 5, and how did we achieve that? What else could we do to be a 5, or exceed it?  The depth of information is much more useful than a hey why did you say that. If done correctly, I’ve hopefully provided the client with numerous consumer insights that help provide context for what makes a 5 in the consumer’s eyes, and how best to move forward to continue to be a 5.

A qualitative interviewer will work hard to think about your questions and make sure that the “whys” are answered but with a slightly different approach, sound or feel to them.  Our goal is to get you the most information from your interview subject, with their voice, thoughts, values, perspectives and experiences without putting them on the defensive.  Why do we do it this way? Well….because I said so.

 Photo Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/buzzfarmers/7318389106/


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