Consumer Insights Ethnography

A Brush With Fame – Consumers Are Eager to Participate in Brand & Market Research

A Brush With Fame – Consumers Are Eager to Participate in Brand & Market Research
By Doug J. McIntyre

It’s no secret that some of the biggest and most profitable brands owe much of their success to market research teams. This is to say, they owe much of their success to the consumers. After all, the chief goal of market research companies is to establish a connection with the consumer on the most basic levels: how a particular product affects their daily life. The results that can come from this type of ethnography research can be invaluable to the planning and execution of any branding strategy.

Perfect Pitch San Jose 1

Image by aipmm via Flickr

But how do consumers respond to this kind of research? Do they see it as an intrusive invasion of their privacy? This couldn’t be further from the truth. The average consumer has an overly positive view of participating in market research surveys. And while there are certainly those out there who seek market research jobs for the financial incentives, many consumers aren’t even concerned with being paid for their opinions.

Consider this example. A consumer insights ethnography research team hit the streets to evaluate some new products for a company in the teeth whitening industry. The objective was to research several top-secret new product concepts as well as to obtain more information and uncover refinements to the company’s current 7-day smile whitening system. The client’s current teeth whitening system was being distributed in boutique stores and other retailers nationwide, as well as through direct sales the company Web site.

To get real and useful information for the client, the ethnography research team had to dig deep into the psychology and emotions surrounding teeth whitening, perceptions of beauty, and the various rituals and practices associated with this deeply personal topic. So how does a researcher pitch this proposal to the consumer?

“We want you to let a few market researchers come into your home, watch you brush and whiten your teeth, dig around in your bathroom drawers and delve into your deepest emotions around dating, beauty, and self-confidence.” “Oh, and by the way, we’d like you to create a collage, use the product for 7 days and attend a concept brainstorm session.” An approach this candid and direct could never work… could it?

As a matter of fact it can – and does. Transparency is the key consideration when making a proposal to the consumer. They don’t want to be tricked or scammed into doing something. And they certainly won’t appreciate an intrusive market research team if it wasn’t disclosed up front.

Surprisingly, compensation is not necessarily the reason many people opt to participate in these types of market research studies. The fact of the matter is people want a voice. They want to feel important and are excited that an important market research company values their opinions and thoughts.

An ethnography research company should do everything possible to make its subjects feel special and important – because they are. One inspired person can provide the breakthrough insight needed to spawn an idea that will have a huge impact on a client’s branding and marketing. It is a unique and mutually beneficial relationship that exists between the research team and the subjects; valuable information is exchanged for a chance to voice an opinion.

Doug J. McIntyre is the founder and CEO of Cult Marketing – an ethnography research company. An authority in his field, Doug has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal and his creative ideas have been featured on TV broadcasts. Learn more at

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