​Checklist of 20 principles for the customer journey

When creating proposals and planning for big, multistaged, multiphased, mixed method style, authentic, and longitudinal market research customer journeys that involve in-context ethnographic observations that tap into in-the-moment decision making, I have a checklist to use as you work with fields, teams, and your process. Note on the image accompanying this post: The usual, developed customer journey map after the stages of market research will look quite different than the legendary Hero’s Journey diagram shown here. But, it’s important to acknowledge that, behind every customer journey and the research journey of the observing team, there is a deeper inner and outer journey that resembles the psychological monomyth in key ways.

QSR case history:  Salad and craving​

Here’s a new success story, aka qualitative case history, that I heard last week in Toronto from our fast food client. Our research team did two large culture-specific authentic ethnographies that were live, in context, at the right timing, and in-person—along with focus groups and digital ethnography—in consumer homes and in their favorite fast food restaurants.  It was for a QSR (quick serve restaurant) brand with almost 100% visibility internationally. We conducted the work in North America.  After hours of observation—but definitely from the very beginning to the end of our ethnographies—our anthropologists discovered the subtle emotional obstacle that was also the biggest core insight.  Craving.  What we saw and experienced:  When moms and dads went through the threshold of this QSR with their kids, they entered into a known atmosphere of craving and indulgence that they loved, desired, and that then took them over.  Even and especially if these consumers represented a typology who much preferred salads, natural and lighter meals, or eating healthy organic foods (we did an algorithm to be sure this conscious, healthy-eating typology was being studied), they invariably felt attracted and pushed as if against their wills to eat whatever they wanted (probably from childhood) inside the QSR.  Then they felt guilty, later.  Basically, as soon as they passed through the brand’s portal, they found themselves compelled to indulge with fries, multilayered burgers, and flurries of desserts even though the QSR’s salads were advertised, readily available, of several wonderful varieties, and deliciously, amazingly fresh. This QSR had been using a freshness positioning for their salad advertising—over 30 years of freshness ads—from 1987 into early 2017.  It wasn’t working.  Freshness is a given and of course it’s the category standard. Then the insight consumer research manager, when reviewing more fresh salad advertising storyboards, remembered the key insight and obstacle from our ethnography.  It was craving.  She convinced the agency to flip freshness and do a new campaign based upon archetypal craving for their salads.  The agency developed a new commercial based upon craving and indulgence, with a male-female couple kidding around about who goes to this QSR to eat salads anyhow, the trickster-like male character with gestures of stealing indulgent ingredients from her salad, and beauty appearance elements of craving in the salad visuals.  The ads moved from outmoded Innocent to new Transformer archetype. Result:  Salads are flying off the shelves. The commercial is differentiating, motivating, and recalled.  Healthy-eating consumers are coming to the QSR and eating salads with delight and indulgence. They experience no guilt and return for more. The advertising campaign for salads is no longer the category stereotype, which is taken for granted by consumers, but aligned with the brand’s core insight of craving based upon real-life, true, emotional, archetypal resonance.   Conquer your craving!​

Visionary archetypes: History and contemporary applications​

The more we investigate and use archetypes, the more exciting are the archetypal variations and possibilities within categories that exist. And, the more that archetypes seem coherent, motivating, and compelling. There are corporate organizational archetypes, psychotherapeutic archetypes, and branding archetypes, and each archetypal category seems to have its own purpose, definition, and application. The way archetypes are defined and used in the contemporary perspective depends on postmodern theory, expertise, and by category.  But the earliest articulations of archetypes originate with the ancient Greek philosopher Plato who hypothesized ideal forms or Ideas that existed in the universal mind and were the standards and perfect innate forms of which material forms in the regular world were imaged. The founder of contemporary archetypal theory and creator of the field of depth psychology is C.G. Jung who, between the 1920s and early 1960s, discovered, described, and used in clinical psychiatry and voluminous psychological writing the idea of attracting motifs, images, and structures within the psyche that he saw as a deeper form of archetypes.  Jung and now classical post-Jungian psychologists (of which I am one) observe the presence of archetypes in consumers, patients, in culture, in brands and organizational structures, as well as in worldwide art, literature, film, and mythology.  The Jungian archetypes include the shadow, the mother, the child, the hero, the trickster, the anima-animus, the wise old man or archetype of meaning, rebirth, and the path or journey.   Most Jungian archetypes emerge in relationship to the path of individuation, which can be defined as a journey to make the unconscious elements conscious (often based upon compelling dreams, aspirations, fantasy, and experiences of synchronicity occurring in the outside world at the perfect moment of psychic awareness), thereby helping to seek and develop one’s inherent destiny and unique blend of individual talents.  The path of individuation is different when experienced for individuals, corporations, and cultures. Post-Jungian practitioners continue to explore and hypothesize that archetypes—powerful emotional, spiritual, conceptual structures innate within the psyche and which are present or potentialized within each person and culture throughout time and location—are located in what is called the collective unconscious.  This innateness and existence of archetypes emergent at key moments in a person or corporation’s existence from the vast unconscious worldwide collectivity is what make archetypes so powerful. To accept archetypal theory, one needs to at least acknowledge the idea of the collective unconscious as a dynamic, transpersonal psychic field underlying all consciousness and containing archetypes similar to the compelling nature of the instincts. The universality of the collective unconscious suggests that archetypes can be sourced and interact with others in the imagination and within genes, biology, and the body.  Archetypes are like invisible containers of energy that then generate archetypal images, or primal images of recurrent motifs and resonating attraction, that shape and influence persons, cultures, and organizations who are open to their affect.  Starting in the late 1980s and going strong throughout 2017 in academic management journals and corporate practices, archetypally oriented management consultants and business academicians have found archetypes to be an innovative, insightful way to understand, show, and conceptualize the core typologies underlying industry and organizational structures.  We can explore management archetypes to demonstrate the interaction between the dual concepts of interpretative scheme and structural arrangement.  Specifically, an interpretative scheme describes an organization’s conception of what it should be, what it should be doing, and how it should be evaluated, shaped by the prevailing set of the organization’s core ideas, beliefs, and values.   The interpretative scheme then intersects with the company’s structural arrangement to implement and reinforce these ideas, beliefs, and values through establishing the functionality of structures and processes that reflect its emotional, aspirational, cultural beliefs and values. Thus, a strong interrelationship between interpretative scheme and the structural arrangement mutually reinforce the corporate archetype. There are three positions of coherence in archetypal formation of a corporation: Archetypal coherence: The interpretative scheme and structural arrangement match, reflect, and reinforce each other.  When optimum, coherence is vibrant and unitary…or when it is reflecting transformation, it moves between one archetype and another archetype in a planned, creative, resonating way.Embryonic archetype coherence: Here, some elements are discordant or do not perfectly match.  Such organizations may show the effects of archetypal change that is not planned and that may differ inharmoniously between global and organizations vs. organizations at the local level within individual countries. Some shift between outside practices vs. internal modalities.Schizoid, unresolved incoherence: Some organizations show the disturbing presence of two different and incompatible archetypes at the same time, with competing internal interpretative schemes and structural arrangements.  Such issues show up as discordant external communications, a failed change process, employee stress, ambiguous reaction to new brands by consumers, decreasing share of market, or being trapped in advertising chaos between two or more competing archetypes.  These problems make the company or brand feel ineffective with little traction by consumers. The schizoid corporation/brand may require a fundamental archetypal assessment and potential transformation through an archetypal development facilitated in special corporate teams leading to revisions of advertising positionings, policies, and structures.    The use of archetypes along with research, creative team facilitation, and innovation can help a visionary corporation see and meet its branding, advertising, and new product goals successfully. ​

Ethnography for storytelling

In live and digital authentic ethnography, we get to see consumers live their real-world lives as they show and describe their deepest dreams, needs, obstacles, and successes. Upcoming posts will how we link consumer stories to brand stories through observation, teamwork, intuition, personas, and archetypes.​

Running creative “focus” groups in 2017​

What’s the best way to run what used to be called focus groups when this methodology is the beginning to a hybrid, innovative, exploratory, qualitative research effort?  Once upon a time, the original style of focus groups was used for everything…from concept reaction, to behavioral and attitudinal focus, and to get high-level needs information at a broad, diverse level. Groups were sometimes the only methodology; their findings were then quantified.  Then, focus groups fell out of favor 10+ years ago, as online bulletin boards and mobile techniques emerged. There were complaints of bandwagoning and too much subjectivity with the old focus groups.  However, groups are back in fashion again.  We’ve discovered (as have clients) that we really want to—need to—understand the social and collective elements of a product, concept, or category.  The social and collective are just one of multiple perspectives on the persona of the consumer, and the social and collective are only possible through live groups.  Of course, groups aren’t a final word on a study because we want a 360 view of the consumer through more individualized online and personalized in-situ ethnographic methodologies.  But, groups remain the best beginning to a customer journey because they open the inquiry into multiple perspectives that can finetune the online and put it into an observational dimension once we’re at the ethnography stage.  Through the creative group, we get to know the real consumer in person. When running contemporary focus groups in 2017 that start an exploratory effort, let them be as spontaneous as possible. The new name of the game is to eliminate “focus” from the methodology of focus groups.  Run them for a little longer time, like 2.5 hours, and take a break in the middle, to get consumers really relaxed and friendly with you and the others.  Don’t worry too much about bandwagoning and competing opinions.  If it gets too much, you can always take out the disturbing consumer. Use a lot of projective exercises, keep crayons and archetype cards around for new insights, go deep emotionally, and ask a few off-the-wall questions about consumers’ lives, loves, and interests outside of the topic at hand.  Ask about weight loss or dating even if we’re in the middle of a technology project.  Ask if anyone had a dream or a fantasy that they can tell us about…on anything as long as it’s not TMI.  You’ll be surprised how revitalized a group can get when the subject is really relevant.  We can always go back to the real topic once a new wave of subjective vitality has inundated the group.  We like to double moderate our creative groups when it seems right.  If two anthropologists are going to do a phase of later observational ethnographic methodologies, the same two anthropologists or psychologists will run the group together, one sitting across from the one in the moderator’s seat.  Two moderators frame the group.  There are three benefits for double moderation: The consumers get to know that there are several research leadership styles, they get to know the other anthropologist by name and personality who might do their personal ethnography in another week or moderate their portion of the online, and the other anthropologist can take over while the first moderator leaves the room, checks with the client team in the back, or gets materials ready for showing and discussion. Things stay livelier with two.  The moderators can talk with each other and ask questions out loud, like, I wonder why the group went silent when we showed this concept?  Consumers dive back in to answer two of us.  New or deeper questions that one moderator didn’t think of can be asked by the second.  Sometimes, we have a client from the backroom sit in the groups to act as a second moderating force.   In 2017, the way we moderate our groups is to actively seek looseness and environmental subjectivity, creativity, and spontaneity.  We encourage emotions, adding in projective techniques early on. We go on and off topic.  We add in moderators.  We put in a wishing module that extends to consumers’ lives and families independent of the topic.  The topic remains important, sure, but it’s not necessary to run a strictly linear group with a totally democratic style.  No, we don’t want distressing or disturbing dominators—nor wallflowers—but people are people and we want to see them interact in a highly social experiential mode that portrays the collective spirit of the concept or category. In summary:  Wish a little.  Let the group dive into the collective unconscious.  Let creative—rather than focus—groups be the entry point into a hybrid qualitative effort that quickly moves into online and ethnographic dimensions to gain a 360 perspective for our consumers.​

Researching a significant but flat or declining SKU 

In some current qualitative work we are researching now, there are exciting challenges related to brands that once led the market but are now flat, losing SKUs, diminishing in shelf position, as well as declining emotionally when consumers discuss their feelings about them. This marketing problem should be deconstructed—thought through with care—at the research considerations and design stages of a proposal for qualitative research. Sometimes it’s powerful to just research the original loyalists if we have evidence that this consumer segment who loves your core brand is still on target and on trend. Other times it’s helpful to feature the core loyalty segment but also include new segments that represent behavioral and emotional shifts away from the original loyalty. The first segment (loyalty consumers only) could be a lower budget, easier effort, while the second effort (new segments that are shifting but on trend) brings out the need for multiple psychographics and demographics, multiple regions, multiple methodologies, more days of research, and potentially more expenditures. Still, it might be worth it for the overall product’s brand health to move beyond loyalists, especially if transformation is going on in the industry and category. Let’s take the example of trying to understand the deep persona of consumers who are your base, i.e., your most loyal and frequent users of a particular product, sub-brand, or category that once was high performing, leading the competitors, and supplying most of your company’s viability, income, and generative power. And now let’s say that this product’s market has been in decline for a few years as new strategies and solutions have been unable to stop the drain. Who or what are the best segment(s) to research especially on a limited research budget? Of course, it’s brilliant to research the loyalist’s core essence and deep persona who continues to purchase your big product/sub-brand with regularity, over time, within the past month, and who also upon screening feels a tangible emotional-psychological loyalty. We will always learn good things about loyalty through depth interviewing in creative groups and individual interviews followed by ethnography, whether live or digital. In fact, as researchers, we will emerge with a profound portrait of your core loyalist. But, suppose after we’ve conducted these productive methodologies and analysis, that the persona of this loyal brand user is counter to newer trends? Suppose we discover that she or he as a persona has old-fashioned behavioral patterns, doesn’t like change, is buying the brand only on sale, has shifted from emotional loyalty to pure habit, is stocking up on deal to be sure it’s always inside the home, shows traits averse to newer trends, is a luddite, seems out of sync with contemporary ways of doing things, is eating and drinking unhealthier products without awareness that makes them a “dinosaur,” or is radically or subtly opposed to how and where other notable segments in the market are changing and going. Then, it’s even more helpful to add in research that studies the emotional and behavioral perspectives of consumers who represent where the market is heading but still have fondness or some usage for your original brand. These newer segments we can contrast with core loyalists. This newer segment could be participants who may be feeling slight reluctance to purchase your core product, are lightening their personal usage even if still purchasing it for visitors and family, are being tempted by other solutions and ideas, seem wishful, and are beginning to honor different requests from family members. Perhaps these newer users are noticing how, around them in their community, their friends are using new brands and they emotionally want to fit in. Maybe core loyalists are dependents, empaths, people pleasers, place others’ desires ahead of their own, but in their heart space, would really enjoy the collegiality of shared experiences with friends using newer products. What if they’re beginning to wonder whether loyalty to their original brand is lacking something important? If any of these research suspicions resonate for you as the lead researcher, insight manager, or among team members of your marketing initiative, perhaps an exploratory, bigger, but even higher-efficiency design would be to include multiple segments in the study. Go beyond core loyalists. Of course, the loyalist of the brand/product will always be a desired baseline, but also consider the user who used to be a once-heavy user who still buys the product but is now experimenting with new items in the marketplace. In summary, an inexpensive, fast, and easier qualitative study researching just your core base of loyalists may get profound results that satisfy for the moment but may still be too limiting. Consider adding in a second or third component of lighter or lapsing segments who still purchase your core product but are changing their behaviors and feelings. Stepping up the segments as we continue to focus on the core loyalist could make your research more resonating, creative, and viable for successful new product generation and future strategies. We ultimately want to hold onto, expand, and meet the needs of the core loyalists as we go sailing and fishing on the bright blue ocean.​

Triangulating and mixed methods

A single research process may lead to partiality, bias, or one-sidedness even when compellingly executed with flawless recruiting, moderation, and analysis. This is the context of a new workshop to be held after Semiofest 2017 in Toronto, Canada, in July 2017. It’s called Triangulating Semiotics with Mixed Methods.

New with classic components make a great research design​

Issue: Everyone wants the newest research techniques. They’re exciting, innovative, and productive. Issue: Are they right? Is newest automatically better, faster, deeper? Sometimes yes…sometimes no. Issue: Classic processes like live focus groups, in-depth interviews, live ethnography, and live vision sessions are being downplayed yet continue to have superb benefits for insight. Issue: Online and social media can be amazingly fast and powerful. But, a counterbalance between online methods with in-person processes allows us to interact with real and virtual people, target a specific demographic, recruit psychographic segments for certain initiatives and see the differences in front of us, and allow the feelings of the observing team to expand as they listen to live participants speaking and engaging. Solution: Let’s design when, how, and where the newest research techniques can be incorporated into the classic so valuable processes are not abandoned for only online platforms. Solution: Add live and online team debriefs during the research for iterative effects. Solution: Make a live presentation of findings a working session to give food for thought for next-steps, quantification, and new concept development, not be an etched-in- stone monolith. Solution: Send the draft qualitative report to the marketing team in advance so they can add their recommendations to present simultaneously online and live with qualitative results.​

A primer on archetypes​

We conduct workshops in brand archetypes to train and facilitate teams on how to discover and utilize archetypes in brand development and messaging. Here are some basics: Archetypes are core narratives with deep universal meaning.Archetypes exist in the psyche and in the world as compelling images of a collective nature that occur everywhere.Their existence comes from myths, legends, first imprints, ritual, historical experiences of life stages, initiations. They are the tangible products of unconscious origin (C.J. Jung)Archetypes are recurring patterns of deep significance found in our universal stories whose themes, symbols, and imagery are an inherent part of the human psyche.Brands that are based upon archetypes are more meaningful, memorable, and expansive, attracting consumers at key moments in their need and life stages.The right archetype creates a brand that is psycho-culturally alive.“An irresistible attraction happens when a brand is consistent with an archetype that is dominant or emerging in consumers’ consciousness” (Mark & Pearson, 2002).To know that an archetype is in effect, some evidence of emotional affect, such as yearning, longing, a tightening of the throat, palpable feelings, watering of the eyes, or involuntary response must be present.Archetypes are shortcuts to resonance and meaning.The optimum archetype is the soul of the brand connected to the DNA of consumers.Following the Mark-Pearson- Marr system based upon Jungian archetypes, we use 12 core archetypes: Caregiver, Ruler, Creator, Everyman, Lover, Jester, Innocent, Explorer, Sage, Magician-Transformer, Hero, and Outlaw.  Each of the 12 archetypes for transformation and branding will be described in future posts.​

Collaborating in bicultural and bilingual projects​

When there’s a Spanish, French, or Italian component to a qualitative project, or initially even when seems as if it’s a solo Spanish-speaking project, consider whether a collaboration between a native speaker and an English-speaking moderator who knows a language well enough to converse, listen in, and analyze (but not do the groups herself) might be more powerful than a single native-language moderator. In this case, it might be optimum to have a collaboration between two like minds who know the language at diverse levels coming in as dual researchers, especially if they’re both expert qualitative researchers, anthropologists, depth psychologists, and creative facilitators. One researcher-anthropologist can lead with the native language sessions or observationals and the other expert sits in with translation equipment as a group member to pick up nuances, themes, help debrief, do analysis, create a relaxed atmosphere for participants, and develop a dual report-presentation. We’ve done this bilingual collaboration for big customer path-to- purchase journeys and simpler ethnographies for major American, international, and Canadian CPG clients. We find that when two ethnographers of like mind work in focus groups and observationals together, they, the respondents, and client teams enjoy the process more and we get better results. It’s the maxim of two heads are better than one. Collaboration enhances exponentially what could have been a lonely solo project. Dual collaborators on focus groups make the groups an exciting experience, bring in multiple perspectives, add in two researchers’ intuition about body language and emotional nuances, add in questions at breaks in the sessions, cause debriefs with clients to penetrate into new understanding, see paradoxes and emotional dilemmas, and allow analysis and writing to occur quicker and with more skill. Consider Spanish- and English-speaking collaboration for your next bilingual project with groups, ethnography, creative ideation, or even digital ethnography. Especially when doing qualitative research with millennials, most “dominants” in a native non-English language arena are usually partially or fully bilingual.​