We love when we get to branch out from traditional qualitative and quantitative methodologies. A few recent projects have had us doing just that and one approach we wanted to highlight is what we affectionately call a “Customer Illumination” project. To give credit where credit is due, a vendor partner came up with that term but we thought it was a perfect description.
One output of this type of Illumination study is a “persona” although this deliverable was crafted from deeper, richer insights than so many of the personas you normally see.
Here’s how a recent Illumination project worked. A brand’s target consumers were recruited in advance and then were set up to use a special platform that almost feels like a social media environment. Over the course of one week, we gathered information straight from these customers’ mouths and fingertips. We checked in with them periodically during this week to capture their thoughts while they were in different states of mind.
Why is that important? Well, do you ever feel like someone just caught you at the wrong moment and you said something you didn’t mean? The same thing can happen with traditional research methodologies. A survey respondent may have had a negative experience at their local grocery store the day prior, so they react to your retail concept less favorably than they might have otherwise. A focus group participant may have just found out their home renovation was going to take an extra five weeks, which may have left them feeling distrusting of service providers right before you asked them what they think of their dog grooming service. The examples are endless, but you get the point.
In addition to having several interactions over time, another advantage is the previously-mentioned social media feel of the tool. This social-style format conveys familiarity and provides a comfortable space to share thoughts and opinions with an array of different activities, projective techniques and question types. And as long as they checked in once a day, they got to do it on their own schedule.
One of our favorite Illumination activities was similar to what you may remember as Mad Libs where we prompted consumers to fill in the blanks. Another activity had the participants utilizing a card sort method to tell us which words sounded like them, which did not describe them, and which they wished they could be more like. Let’s also not forget the selfie videos we had them do, explaining in detail how they came to be in their current profession. The amount of detail provided was much more than we could have learned putting them on the spot in a focus group in front of several strangers.
When we merged those findings with the values they mentioned as being paramount in their lives, typical daily routines, biggest life concerns, hobbies, and then looked at the images they sent which represented their life passions – we were able to develop rich narratives for each persona that emerged. Plus, comparing across the multiple participants in the study allowed us to group similar personalities together, creating sub-personas where we might not otherwise have known them to exist.
All in all, Illuminations are newer tool to have in our toolkit and can be an intriguing springboard to inspire customer acquisition marketing and communications strategies.