How lucky are we as professionals to be witnessing the evolution away from the old mentality of lobbing an idea or brand over the fence—and into a shared process of emotionally driven brand experiences?
Well, that depends… has the process evolved enough to allow you to exercise this strategy? Maybe not, but it will.
The idea of generative research has been around for a long time. Long enough for doctors to have a say in how the design of a surgical stapler should be optimized to avoid fatigue. Long enough for pilots to express the need for information hierarchy in the cockpit. Certainly long enough for the average “consumer” to learn that when a brand hasn’t engaged them in the thinking process from the get go the result can be disastrous … publicly (see the Motrin Mom Babywearing Ad ).
Evaluative research can’t go away, in fact quite the opposite. Asking someone “Did we hit the mark you helped us to identify?” is a powerful question and far more streamlined than “So… did we hit the mark? No? How about now? How about this one? Still no?! Ughhhh!”
If that sums up your experience listening to focus groups or message testing scenarios then you are not alone. Don’t beat yourself up. The marketing world is catching up to what product designers have known for decades. Why guess at what your users want? Ask them.
But don’t just ask, give them tools to express themselves in a way that is engaging. Participatory design research methodologies are one way to do just that. Participatory design research is loosely defined as a way to help you design WITH, not FOR, the end user.
Engaging an end user in a conversation that is grounded in their emotions can result in functional implementation. How? By providing stimulus to elicitt response including metaphorical imagery, physical, and sensorial objects such as fur, bells, a laundry dryer sheet, or anything that may be relevant to the experience you are trying to understand.
Take the dryer sheet for a minute.
Breathe in deeply for me… do you smell it?
Somewhere in your brain you do, and along with that comes a memory.
Is it of the dryer line that your grandmother used for her linens? Or of your first-born’s baby blanket? Or like a warm summer night and fresh cut grass? Whatever comes to mind, if captured correctly can lead to an emotion, a story.
What is a brand? It’s a story. So, how will yours resonate like the dryer sheet? What emotions do your messages have to bring to life to make a lasting impression?
That is generative research.