Not for sensitive clients

“We might have gone too far,” was my first thought after we had shown a video report of our research at a client presentation. Silence fell on the conference room, and the client’s four representatives looked completely stunned. The silence, which felt eternal, was finally broken by the client’s sectoral manager: “Oh-kay. Ouch.”

We had used a video to bring a consumer and her honest opinion into the conference room, which had never heard feedback this direct or this alive before. The object of the feedback was the result of years of product development, hundreds of thousands in investments and the favourite of the company’s product family. We had conveyed a message from this favourite child’s classmates, a message that said “your fat child is boring, smells and tastes of nothing, and no one wants to play with him”. The feedback hurt and caused offence because the illusion that the client’s child was nice and well-liked was shattered.

We conveyed this message in the form of a true story, at the emotional level, which has a greater impact than a traditional written report. A good example of this is the difference between the impact of a book and a film. A book may contain the most horrific brutalities and horrors and still be the favourite of a wide readership. At the same time, if we were to turn this book, with all the brutalities of the plot, into a film, we’d have a marginal film that would never grace the main screen of a city’s biggest cinema.

Market research in video format gives huge potential for deep understanding of your client or consumer, and for putting that understanding into practice in your organisation at the emotional level. No matter how well we may understand our client, that understanding is useless unless we can exploit the possibilities it brings. This allows us to raise our favourite child into a sociable model citizen who gets his classmates to like him. The results of research should arouse feelings; they should make people laugh and cry. Emotions move us all.

I’ve never seen such swift efforts to improve things as I did at the end of our presentation. This time, our message hurt, but our job was to convey the message. We left the presentation grateful and proud. Our work had led to immediate actions. That’s why we’re here.