Tuesday, September 13, 2011

We have permission to reproduce

I am reproducing, below, an anonymised evaluation report. It was for a client who commissioned a study using our platform. The agency is one of the most globally respected. The client for whom the report was written is a household brand.

We have permission to reproduce this:

"Research on Research

This was the first project xxxxx have run using Ethos (apart from a small internal prototype). Overall we feel it was very successful and is able to create exciting new insights for brands. It is a unique methodology that covers both qualitative and ethnographic styles of research.
This methodology has a number of potential applications:
• Identify different beliefs and motivations towards a category
• Gain insight around routines and rituals
• Build hypothesis for segment creation
• Provide colour and context for existing segments
• Uncover role of family dynamics
• Understand difference between expressed belief and actual behaviour

What worked well

Unknown unknowns
Creating broad tasks for respondents leaves room for the unexpected to reveal itself. Traditionally research is confined by the expectations of the researcher, using grounded theory analysis lets us move beyond this.

We purposely did not read the client segmentation work before the analysis so were not led in our analysis. Despite this, we identified eight of the nine need states (although they were categorised slightly differently).

Observable routines and rituals
We can see not only how often people treat their dog but also what happens when they do. For example, whether they use treating as an opportunity to play, train or simply to derive pleasure from seeing a happy dog.

Shows up relationship dynamics
Most dogs exist in a family, this creates its own family dynamics. For example the role children play in treating – typically looking for the most excitable treat, asking the parent’s permission before treating. Partners can act as treating ‘handbrakes’ – dissuading the other person from excessive treating.

Human findings
As the data mostly consists of pictures and videos the story it tells is an extremely human one. This makes it a far more intuitive way of learning about people’s habits, beliefs and behaviours.

The fieldwork is ten days which provides a good snapshot of people’s lives including both typical and non-typical days. It also provides the opportunity to digest what they’ve said and probe further where necessary, this allows you to focus in on interesting aspects of their lives. There were 475 pieces of content uploaded, from 12 people over a 10 day period.

Unobtrusive technology
People feel very comfortable using their phones as a capture device and this allowed a real window into people’s homes. Although there were a few technical problems during the first task, these were resolved by the second. Some of the participants asked to be included in future studies.


Self Vs other ethnography
The nature of this project was very home-focussed which made it difficult to replicate traditional ethnography where they would actually go and observe other people in their homes. We did ask them to interview a friend about their dog, but this was more of a structured interview rather than an ethnographic situation. Some categories may be better suited to a methodology where the participants become the ethnographers, this could be achieved but would require more incentives and potentially some training.

From end of fieldwork to final report took around a month. This was partly due to getting to grips with a new approach but also the depth of the analysis, in particular creating the prezis (the initial word-based analysis took under a week). In future more could be done during the fieldwork to prepare the prezis and the final report which would speed this process up, developments to the ethos site site also will make this a smoother process for the researcher.

Some of the events felt staged for camera, this could be because participants were asked to upload six items per day. Even in these occasions there was still a lot for us to learn as the owner’s still maintained their standard treating ritual. To get more authentic occasions we would need to make sure that the tasks fit naturally into their lives (e.g. photograph every meal you eat).

Only 2 of the active 12 participants had children in the house, would have been better to get some more households with children. Out of the 25 people we invited to take part 10 were households with children, it could be that we were unlucky to get a low response rate from families with children, or that these families have less time to conduct this type of study. Next time if children in the house is an important consideration we should aim to over-recruit slightly more.

It is hard to record yourself, especially during a treating moment, holding a camera will limit your actions. It worked well when people got other family members to video them, or the participant was videoing someone else. It might be useful in future to recruit families to partake as a unit of analysis rather than an individual, although this may pose some technological problems (i.e. they all need iPhones or androids), we could get round this by giving them a family flip camera for duration of the fieldwork. It would be interesting to get multiple perspectives in this way."

I do have a few comments to add - especially about people setting up events and challenges recording ones self. The best way to avoid is to ask people not to! And not to set too many tasks. We recommend around 3 per day.

In India we used the platform for a study involving people filming their own routines. People managed with help from friends, family, props and even an old cassette case which worked beautifully! But perhaps we should send people those cheap 'n cheerful iPhone stands...

Would value feedback from readers of this post.

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