Internet DNA Podcast
As a slight diversion from the norm Abi wanted to discuss the differences between user experience research and market research. Inviting Jem Fawcus CEO and Founder of Firefish Market Research to join the podcast an interesting discussion ensues. Through the myriad of methodologies and practices utilised by both types of research, the holy grail really is looking at humans as humans..... didn't Confucius say 'life is simple but we insist on making it complicated?'
Hello. Welcome to Internet DNA and today. No, Dan instead, I'm excited. Jem Fawcus, CEO, founder of global market research Firefish
who were the pioneers of youth market research which made a great industry. Joe, welcome. Nice to have you on the show.
Hello Jim. When did you start Firefish? We started five fish in 2000 it was the head he is of youth marketing that had come out through the explosion of youth brands like Nike and play station, uh, in the late nineties. And it was a period where both marketing and research and insight with changing the way they interacted with their audience, going from a master servant or teach a pupil relationship to one much more pairs and equals and integration of learning and information between both
a pretty exciting time.
It was pretty exciting. It seems like an awfully long time ago now.
The interesting thing as well is as you say, there was a real change going on at that time and now 20 years later we're here. Are we going to discuss the difference between market research and Ux research with it is almost the new kids on the block in the same situation that you were 20 years ago. Would that be fair?
Uh, yes. I think a lot of it comes down to semantics on how you define the words that we use. So my industry always used to be cool or still is by many people call consumer research is a label I reject because it's comes from the starting point that we are only interested in people as consumers. I were only interested in what they consume, which can lead people to think that if you're a shampoo manufacturer, people are in a sort of states in the suspended animation, uh, waiting until the moment that they are ready to consume your product. User research, user experience research has a similar bias in it that you are forced or you are encouraged to think about the people you're talking to only as users of your products. And your sole reason is to help them have a smoother user experience. Now.
Both those are important elements, but I think it misses the bigger picture, which is that the most important people in both UX research and market research are the people who are gonna buy and use and engage with your company and your product. And the key is in the term, they are people. They're not consumers, they're not users, they are not customers, they are people. They're humans. With all the experiences and hopes and desires that humans haven't. To be able to see and understand them as humans is the most important part of having a successful brand or product or service in the world we live in. Now,
the interesting thing there with Ux I think is because technology now is part of every moment of our day apart from them asleep or even though we are asleep these days. Therefore it is the product itself that has become completely intertwined with a human as opposed to, as you're saying with market research is where you've gone, no, we really want to think about the holistic approach. So you've gone out of your way to find out about the person, not the product. Whereas from Ux, they'd gone to look at the product and then the product has become part of the person.
So I wouldn't necessarily agree with that because I don't think the product of Ux is technology. Technology is just another medium or another part of human life like talking and artifacts and other things that are in life. So I think the product is the product, the product is the APP, the service, the website, the experience that your focusing on. Um, and was technology has become an integral part of life. I don't necessarily go as far as saying, therefore UX products have become an integral part of life
if they feel like they have, I feel that you act is the process of making our online experience better, easier, more seamless, more like we're like an extension of us as opposed to, and here's me and now here's my technology. So the Ux is trying to just make us be able to use technology without really know where there.
But I think you could say that that's the same for many products. You know, we want to be able to access and use things in a way that we want to be able to access and use them. So I might be able to shop for and buy a product, you know, in my own time and fitting in with my life. I technology the online and the offline well both have a role to play in that. I don't think technology has any necessary claim to take more ownership of that space. If you think about the rest of our life, we eat, drink and travel to work and play with our kids and live our lives using a myriad of products and services which combine online and offline worlds. I don't necessarily think that either can claim to be.
Yeah, maybe it's just my, uh, excitement about future tech and the fact that we will have seen in this sort of part robot. They say the tips and I had to remember everything. That's just me. That's not hugely the UX industry in market research. You do have people in a room, then you watch them do something, but what do you,
it depends what you're doing fairly well. This is very much user testing, but it's a bit different from us because more often than not, when we're doing research, we're trying to replicate the real world. We rarely go, go buy a car or show me moments. Market research is much more about observing, ideally without influence, if there's a lots of different levels. So if you really want to understand natural behavior you observed without influencing, and the best way of doing that is to literally do almost anthropological ethnography where you go live
with a culture for so long. They forget you're there and start acting normally and you observe that. But that's my anthropology integrase often go into market.
Yeah. But that's totally an utterly impractical. So we take some of those principles in a way that is commercially viable. So we might give people cameras in their house. We put cameras in people's showers before, obviously with their permission to, to understand their sharing behavior. And, and after a few days, they forget they're there. And if we paid you £1,000, we might do. Um, and then we'd get them to do box pops before, not. So we observe behavior. We often try to make it as natural as possible because we know it's a famous, I think it's Schrodinger says famous quantum science principle. Few observe something, you change it and it's the same human behavior. If you tell people, I'm watching your behavior, people change it. So we try
what people say they do is very different from what we know, but none of that.
The whole lot of different things. So this is talking about observation. So the best way to understand what people do in behavioral terms is to see their actual behavior. And you can do that now through data is an online behavior or if it's got electric point of stat in it where they went, what they shot, you can understand their behavior. So visa or a mastercard and thanks, we'll have loads of day. You can plot maps of where people go spending things. They go to a coffee shop, they go here, they go there. You can see what they're doing to understand more in real life and some online journeys. You observed them. We give them cameras, we given diaries after the act. And Allison to record what they do. But the principle there is you're trying not to influence what they do. You try not to say, well, the best way to understand real behavior is not to say will you now go and buy an ice cream?
Cause they probably won't do it in exactly the normal way that they would do. You just let them get on with their life and they bought an ice cream. You can go at it so you can send them on missions. The purest understanding of behavior is unprompted. Um, not knowing I'm recorded or got so used to being observed that I've forgotten about it. The second day is you're slightly aware that someone's looking at UBS still doing natural behavior. The third is prompted going and do this behavior. You still do it as much as possible in your natural life. So that's actual behavior. The point you make, that is a long, long time ago. It didn't actually happen as much as people usually have something else to sell. Say it did. Some people used to think if you just ask the people why did you buy that ice cream?
Or what's your process for booking a train ticket? Or even what are you going to do at the weekend? People aren't very good at being accurate about that. We can't remember where what we did in the past. We're not very good at being very specific about a motivation, so we don't know what we're doing in the future. But if you combine actual behavioral observation or data with asking people what they were doing at that moment, what they were thinking, what they were feeling, what was going on. You get a whole new lab, you access the emotions and the feelings and the meaning, the wide and meaning behind what they're doing.
And that makes sense. And so you can discover how Abby lives, but what if you are working for a car hire company is pain points of hiring a car. So what sort of company would you work with when you were just going to observe them? Let's say in the shower, I assume it's a shampoo products, but what are you hoping to achieve? For a brand by observing
a deeper understanding of, yeah, the truth is in behavior in that arena, in that sector. So what are people doing in the shower? How does it differ from what they say they are doing? How does it differ from what companies think they're doing? Look at the advertising. It's all, hi there, I'm, you know, I'm having a relaxing time. They ring up and singing to myself or I'm having a kind of weirdly exciting time or I'm having a luxurious time. Actually most showers are fast and furious and fairly aggressive with people almost punishing the areas of the body they don't like. Um, so that gives you a whole new on the standing to innovate and communicates around or they're very transformational showers. You see people come in in one state and mood and go out in another, so you can use that understanding. It gives you empathy. You use that understanding to be able to design products and tell people
all about them, ancestral ways, the research before you even know what product you need to design. This isn't improving a product you have. We have no idea what's going to come out of this. It may be something that we've never even thought about before. It's going to give us a whole new picture.
Yeah. Although it can also use it for improving products you've already designed. But going back to your point of car, obviously if your trying to understand the behavior that people don't do all day every day, you need to prompt him, specialize it and of course it can send people on missions so you, depending on how much time and money and and and aptitude you've got, you know, you could recruit a load of people who are thinking of renting a car in the next three months and follow their journey and you can do that in loads of ways. You could cookies to follow their online journey. You can get them to fill in what they're doing. You can give to do a diary. You think there's a million things you can do, but that's time consuming. Or as you say, you can just get people to go and book a car and replicate as much real behavior. There's always a trade off between the purist academic and expensive and complicated way to really understand something and the practical commercially viable one, which gets you as close as you can within the time and the money that you've got to do.
I think you started much closer to the product. We've got to create an online journey to allow people to book cars online. And I think recently it's been gone further and further back end up treading on the toes more and becoming more blurred with market. And so what you're saying, it started much further back than where you ex did begin that now, which is where the customer journey and customer stories come in because it's not just a user story not getting from a to B through the web crawl. It's what happened to them before they got to the website or to their phone and what's going to happen after death. So we started at building a website and then we realized that we needed to plan the re website and then we realized that we needed to research way in advance to get that best journey back again through the planning, through the build.
And that's where I see the crossovers happening because it's very much if we're a car company who works to improve the only a booking a call align, a team of us would also go and do the research that we would actually go and get the car and took the people at the airport. But it's the whole is every customer touch point around the online drilling. Yeah. So let's, I don't know if you want to talk a bit more about five fish and given us an understanding of you as a company or whether you want to start talking about some of the practices and methodologies where we started, we touched on personas and I think that is an interesting topic to touch on, but I'd sort of like to know where that comes in your process.
Yeah. So Firefish started life as you said, as focusing on, you've coached a youth marketing. The core of what we've always done is making sense of the human experience. And uh, you know, in, in, in, uh, in one definition we are market researchers, but we also are human strategists. We make sense of the mess of human life in the human experience.
Um, I mean, depends how you define words. Yeah. I'm just interested really.
Yeah. Anthropology is the academic study of cultures and society, I guess you could say. Market research is the commercial study of markets and society and brands to help companies build better relationships and ultimately sell more stuff. Anthropology wouldn't go as far as that. Everything we do, we see from a human lens and we see ourselves as humans, strategists. And our job is to bring that understanding of the human experience to brands and companies to help them innovate, to communicate and grow. And we do that by providing insight about people, culture, audiences, brands, and helping drive their brand strategy, their innovation strategy, their communications strategy, and more and more the Ux strategy.
Okay. When you talk about culture, you're not talking about that business culture. You're talking about human culture. Yes. Which I think is the interesting and an exciting and perhaps differential area. So if you, uh, I know you can't end the lies really. Let's say you had a project that most visited with you that you really wanted to do and you were doing from your point of view, from beginning to end. How would that look?
That's an interesting question because there isn't really such a thing. So there are lots of different projects. Yes. Perhaps it helps to break it down into instead of the marketing process, I guess if you're a brand or product and a service, first of all, you need to define, um, what your offer is. And so we may help at that stage to explore. Let's say you're a snacking product or you're a company who wants to move into the snacking world. They say you've been around for a while or you could be a new one, but you have some values that your business has for hundreds of years or brand new your founder has in that say they suddenly line healthy, natural, clean tasting, so that's you stand. You need to understand the snacking market and what roles you can play, so we do some cultural insights to look at what are the narratives go on and culture both in snacking and elsewhere.
One of the emerging narratives at the moment is the blurring of binary thinking, so we see it in conversations about gender. There's a blurring of the binary nature of gender. We say massively in the online off line world. You're not either online or offline. As you said, there's a big blurring. Your financial footprint is both online and offline. Your experiential for like prejudice both online and offline. You can take that into the food world. You're no longer either snacking or eating. There's a blurring with small plates and grazing so you can take some of those insights from the wider cultural conversation to help you understand your market. We will also look at what other brands would do and show where the energy is, where the emerging middle, so talk to people, which is still very much at the heart of what we do. We'll talk to people about their snacking behavior.
We might do some ethnography where we ask them to keep diaries or film them as they are in different sorts of eating and snacking occasions. We may do some social analytics to look at the conversations around snacking on social media. We may do some further data analytics. Perhaps look at Google search terms are looking at behavioral data to really build up a picture of the snacking market, both from the perspective of cultural insight and actual human insight. What people are doing. That'd be the first stage and from that we would help the brand or the business or product develop their positioning in their offer. So they might go, okay, well we really need to dial up the healthy and the natural elements of, of our brand.
Then they then could influence a rebrand, a brand strategy, sort of set an internal look at the visual elements.
Yes. I mean this is the kind of cool brand positioning. Everything a brand does should start from a kind of clear idea of what the brand is about. At this stage. It's still slightly scoping out the market, what's going on in the market, how well do we understand this? By the mark, I mean the world was going on in the world. The next phase is to identify your audience and that's often done by segmenting the people into different segments. Stacking might be people who like natural snacks, people who like sweet stacks, people who like, yeah, salty snacks and you'll decide, well I'm going to target this segment. How would you present the segment? They're usually done as a combination of personas which include demographic information, some lifestyle information. The other sorts of brands they might buy both in general so that say we're people who like natural snacking. They might be younger age between 25 and 35. They might like other brands such as apple and kind of well design and technology brands and that they might appreciate clean design and ease of use. So you build up a persona but they'll also be demographic information in there. Generally a size, this is 21% of the market. There might be some media behavior in there. So you can target
and I may have a name and a picture
they can do, they can do [inaudible] the pendulum swings. There's lots of dreadful typologies in marketing history called hurried Helen's and ambitious Abby's and, and um, stuff like that which get bad press because they can simplify things time poor Tim
concentrating on the thing that's in the name. You're not actually looking at Tim as a whole.
Yeah. But in that way they are also useful as well because if that really is the key thing then it helps. So it depends what your segments are and what specifically you're going to use them for.
I think there is a difference there with you at where the persona, although taken from that information that you've talked about, it tries to distill it into a person with real emotional need and so that you have created a fictitious person as opposed to a representation of a segment.
Yeah, I mean I think that happens in the wider marketing journey as well. So I think the segment is often developed from a commercial standpoint. So how big is this sector? How many people are there? How much money have they got to spend? Where do they spend it? Which tells you is this an opportunity worth pursuing? What can I price my products and where should it be? They all shop on a Cardo, right? Better put it in there. They only shop online about and that they only shop at stations, petrol stations. Well I better put it in there. So it starts off in a commercial way, but then when you come to exercise your marketing plan, I communicated and provide user experiences. You then need to understand a richer, more fleshed out version of it, which includes the emotions. And it goes back to what I saying about you need to understand people as humans. And in order to build a relationship with them as a brand of business, you need to understand their emotions, their hopes, their fears, what else they're doing in their life,
how they feel at the point that they might engage with the product.
Yeah, well not even how they feel, what they might engage with the products were junk.
That's a great UX way.
It is. So, but we're jumping forward a step or two here. So just to square the circle study, once you've identified your broad target audience, you then start going into the kind of execution and activation of it. So then the next day, just to establish what your brand purpose, uh, or a unifying thought is that's going to engage with these where your values and approach to life meets stairs. And then you're going to work out how you're going to communicate it, how you're going to develop other products around there. And as I said, in order to do that, you need to fill the relationship with your audience. And to do that you need to understand their lives. So I mean there's been some stuff, got a lot of heat recently. So the Nike Kapernick card that didn't have anything to do with how you feel at the point of use of a pair of shoes.
That was, we are Nike, you know, we stand for the competitive spirit and excellence in sport and we have a set of values which are around honesty, openness, equality, and this downing up for Colin Kapernick, who is the guy that took the knee protest against racism in basketball and then was basically frozen out of all the teams. It builds a relationship with Nike's audience who are the sort of people that believe in that as well. And it also has the advantage of generating a massive amount of publicity. So in branding and communication, it's not always or only or often about capturing the emotions of how you feel, where you buy or use the product. It's about capturing the emotions that are relevant to the product brand or service that resonate deeply and people's lives.
So market research very, very much helps you develop a loyal brand, which in turn with that product, it's not so much about just selling products and the holy grail is about you want people to buy into a brand wasn't your product because you've got longevity in that. It feels a, again, a bigger, more holistic approach.
I mean I would argue that UX research is market research. There's no actual limits. It just depends where you want to stop. So people have different skills and specialisms and within the terminology market research and have some people who specialize in advertising development. Some people who specialize in product development, some people specialize in pack design and some people who specialize in cultural insights. So it's not that market research does this or that. I think the way we position ourselves is it's human insight. We are about understanding people and people doing whatever it is that your brand wants to engage with them on. And if that is building relationship with them, if it is buying product, if it is using products of it is using technology or services, then give folks is understanding people. That's how you get the best results in those areas.
So you've looked at the market, you've looked at the audience, you've looked at the brand, what do you do next?
Then you're often looking at out the brand touches. Yeah. How do implement where, how it touches their lives. So where it is installed, what it looks like in still where it is online, what it looks like online, what conversations are happening around it on social media and elsewhere, how it communicates. So obviously a key part of marketing is so how the brand advertisers in all the different channels that it does, that that's how it develops new products and how people are able to access it. So, you know, how does it come into their lives, either online or offline. And I guess that's where Ux starts to come into the frame of how do people access it and what is their journey to purchase or use this brand or product or service.
Yeah. I mean this hoe much differentiation between all the different words in Ux as well. But what were you starting to get into there is from the UX research into the UX architect to really, but when you're doing your market research at the end here, does a, does a solution, a direction start to staff this? Does it become a parent that it's a proof of concept and it's not gonna work or it's a concept that actually is going to work if you build x or do y or sell zed, do you start to suggest paths forward to pass forward, present themselves or does it stop there and the company goes and thinks about it and then decides what to do next with that?
That very much depends on lots of things. So it depends what we're trying to do, what the objective of the project is and where we are in the marketing process. So if we are working on communication development, we might start at an early stage where the company's going, this is what we want our brand to stand for. This is what we understand about our audience and this is what we think we're going to say about it and we will be able to flesh out that process and be clear of what they're saying about the brand and how they're thinking of saying it is gonna work or not, and give guidance on how it might work.
Hi. With Ux, there is solutions that have arisen. Then more often than not, he would go through a proof of concept prototyping stage that would be tested by using so as another great facet of user experience is the user testing and the ability to do really quick prototypes as well. It's almost like it is standing further into lots of different disciplines. I don't know a process where UX would, I suppose like what you're saying is they're always different projects and he'd stop at any phase, but more often than not are x per project is to create a UX product, which I think differentiates very much from what you do in market research.
But I guess there's the difference though, isn't it, to marketing and market research and there's a difference between Ux and Ux research. So I think that would be the difference is as simple as that really the marketing process always has an end output as does the UX process. The UX research will stop where you think you've got enough information to be able to launch the product or service.
How succinctly put,
but I do what I do, but I do think that I don't like the term market, so that's what we do. But yeah, I think, yeah,
well what you do now then
is market research, but we talk about insight driven strategy, a strategic insight consultancies, but Margaret Search Tan and has learned a lot from UX and has adopted some of the approaches. So you know, rapid prototyping and iterative testing. It is something that has been part of our landscape for a long time. Certainly the iterative testing, but seeing how rapid and how it's IV, it's like in right testing. The UX industry is has informed the market research industry and the difficulty we have is that it's harder to prototype product and artifact to the same speed that you can online offerings, but equally we still use some of those principles so when we're developing product concepts or communication concepts, we will often work in a very iterative way and go back and rewrite them and refocus them and then go back into them to market to explore them. The other advantage you have is the ability of user testing of continually ab testing, whereas other, the distinction between online and offline is utterly meaningless because everything spans both. But if you're just measuring the success of a website or an APP to do his job here that you can keep on testing. The bigger picture is is this product a success? Is it selling more, is it sounding less? And that is really the ultimate user testing is that, was it successful or not? Is it still on the shelves in x amount of time?
In the online world, there's a difference between a digital product, which the website, the APP is the product and then a product that sold via the website or the APP and you're right cause sort of iterative testing and ongoing design build test loops are extraordinary and a digital product has never finished. You can always improve it and make a better user experience on it. Whereas a product you have to stop and start again. I think what was in Ux and as you're saying has come into market research as well with the game changer was the ability to design, build a prototype and to test within five days the design sprints that are carried out and that you could really test lots of products without any major outlay budgetwise at all. And that I think has been a huge gain in the UX industry and has, has made every industry in every type of business set up and listen.
Yeah, I'd agree with that. It is harder to do it at that speed and that low budgets and other sectors and to other briefs. But the reality is that business moves at speed and with lower budgets so we will have to accommodate. That's
something I want to talk about as well, which is quantitative and qualitative. I know that you are a qualitative agency and in the UX world, quantitative almost rules too much. I felt for a while the visual side, the design, the be able to create something new is being whittled away by data analysts saying this is what the data says. Therefore you must design this, which is good, but how can you ever get anything new if you're only working on data because the data's only going to tell you stuff that has passed, but it is an industry cooked into data. There's people can't move without checking the data first. And what are your thoughts on qualitative and quantitative and the difference in that and they use as all
how long have you got? We aren't a qualitative agency anymore and we started off as one, but we have evolved the focuses on understanding people in the human experience. We are totally agnostic on how to do that. We use a combination of all the information and data that we think is relevant. So if you start with cultural insight, which is really an either qualitative or quantitative, it is about the wider cultural context. Qualitative has a huge role to play because that is deeper, broader, more emotional. It helps you get to hypothesis really quickly. Quantitative, which is at scale numbers is, is important to provide credibility in some cases to look at what's going on in on a bigger scale and in a wider world and data which is in many people's eyes a different thing. Again, zesting behavioral data is and social data and things of that is yet another light to shine on the problem.
I don't think that uh, any of them are better than the other. They all work best in combination and to rely on one over. The other is the big mistake there has been a per narrative often peddled by emerging tech is there's an emergent data businesses that you never need to talk to or understand people from first principles again because all the days were there. That's absolute nonsense. In the market research world, the biggest spending quickest emerging sector of clients are the tech businesses. Google, Facebook, Spotify, Twitter, spend fortunes on both qualitative and quantitative but especially qualitative research and cotton and so cause they need to understand the emotions. They need to understand the why. They need to understand the hopes and fears of people.
Yes, it sounded see that with all that data they've realized they need to go back and as you say, understand the why, understand the person behind the numbers
they do and of course it's important to look at the data and to look at things on a wider scale. But going back to what you were saying at the beginning of user experience is all about building empathy with people, with your, the, with your audience about understanding their hopes and their fears and their emotions and their challenges and their wider life. To do that, at least at some level you need to understand the richness of human life and a lot of that comes from qualitative research.
We're nearly out of time actually.
That's what I find really interesting and what I think people are waking up to in Ux and I think everyone needs to keep sight of is the human is the person in that is the big pain so that the longer view of their life, not the short when a product you want them to use. And I know very much in Ux we became very good at making the product's good, but it wasn't necessarily aiding the user, the person that we were trying to help. It wasn't eating them in the long run. And in that wider lines, which is very much what you've talked about and something where I think the UX industry could really learn more and I hope to move more into the wellbeing of people over their lifespan. Not a quick win, but thank you very much. Thanks for your time. It's really interesting to talk to you and have a good rest of the day. Thanks very much. It's been a pleasure talking to you.
I think that's pretty interesting. Market Research and very obvious being uh, the research for marketing and branding. It's user experience, research being the research for user experience. So traditionally market research has concentrated on people in the marketing and brand, whereas user experience research concentrates on a user. Now what we need to do really is bring those two together. And there is already a blurring of boundaries there as you could consider the user to be the person. But sometimes I think we forget to think of a user like that. Perhaps the other thought is customer. And so we don't want to think of users or customers.
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