Controversial, may be; different, absolutely.
An increasing trend in research today is the use of Implicit techniques: see the Harvard University website https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit or in the UK the work of Dr Nigel Marlow (London Metropolitan University) and Dr Peter Shire.
What we mean by this is a survey process that rather than asks people: ‘on a scale of 0-10 how satisfied are you with X’ we test their speed of association between a brand, logo, experience or other concept and a word – say a set of good or bad words. To use a ‘pop culture’ example this is rather like ‘You say Mother… I say Father’. The advantage of this is that by measuring speed of association we avoid survey issues of social desirability bias, lying and the fact that consumers simply don’t know what they don’t know!
Consider how for instance, if we had taken an Implicit survey of attitudes towards Bankers at the time of the Credit Crunch the word ‘dislike’ would have possibly been more quickly associated with a picture of a Banker than say a picture of another business person.
This measurement approach essentially avoids people’s response bias, which is perhaps why the take up has been high in studies of race and gender. No-one is going to admit they ‘are a racist’ on a survey but through speed of response we can see if they associate negative words more quickly with a certain ethnic group.
What does this all mean for consumer research? Well if we are moving to accept the role in consumer decision-making of ‘gut-instinct’ and intuitive reasoning (as outlined by Malcolm Gladwell in Blink) then perhaps we need new measures that look at this side of our experience. Further, as Sasser identified, Satisfied customers defect: perhaps this is because they are not truly satisfied or loyal at this intuitive level, they just say they are, they don’t feel it.
For me then there is a call for action for more research and use of intuitive measures like the IAT (Implicit Association Test) in the commercial world. In marketing and branding there is a clear case for this. For instance, at the intuitive level what emotions or concepts are most associated with my branded experience; which logo or packaging design resonates most with consumers?
Head of Research and Consultant.
By Steven Walden | Published: December 2, 2009