The Power of Emotion: Fabric Philosophy

The Power of Emotion: Fabric Philosophy

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7 min read

We firmly believe the best consumer insights are the ones rooted in an emotional understanding of people. We would argue that the vast majority of human motivation, behavior, attitude, belonging and ultimately, decision-making, is driven by emotion. 

The “why” is absolutely important as table stakes for any qualitative market research study. However, the most successful brands, ad campaigns and product designs connect with people on a deeper emotional level.

That’s why we focus on video; it’s the most emotional of all media. It allows people to express themselves more authentically, fully and genuinely than they can using the written word. Video captures tone of voice and shows facial expressions, enabling the researcher to connect human-to-human with the respondent. Video is also the most data-rich research artifact, encompassing video, audio and transcripts.

Emotion-Based Proprietary AI

Emotion is the driver motivating us to develop our own proprietary AI. Our AI is specifically programmed to be responsive to sentiment and emotion. We purpose-built our AI from scratch to be a simple, elegant ‘research assistant’ that helps researchers work faster. Our AI assistant speeds up qualitative data analysis by identifying the most emotionally engaged videos and quotes. It also tracks eight primary emotions.

Emotional Insights in the Marketplace

Our founder, Tom Bassett, has worked in advertising and product design for some of the most valuable brands in the world. This work showed clearly the importance of emotional insights in successful brands. Here are a few examples of insights he helped identify:

Olympic athletes have an intensity and near-pathological desire for victory.

This emotional insight led to the industry-famous creative brief: How do we communicate the idea that to the Nike athlete, “Sport is war minus the killing?” The fuller story is told by John C Jay of Nike’s ad agency, Wieden & Kennedy, in “Briefly,” a documentary film about the creative brief.

Working with ultrasound technology makes doctors feel like superheroes.

Despite the environment of anxiety that physicians say surround their work—the possibility of malpractice suits, digital record keeping, new technologies—we found that they all experience personal superhero moments working with ultrasound, which gives them a massive surge of confidence. This emotional insight led to award-winning product design for SonoSite, the #1 brand of portable ultrasound.

The Funnel: Structuring Research Studies

The Funnel: Structuring Research Studies

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7 min read

Goal vs. Pre-set Process

When developing a research study, there’s an interesting tension between 1) setting out to find original insights and 2) following a pre-set process. Our general recommendation is to remain focused on the goal rather than a specific process. However, if you’re newish to insights, a previously established process may be the best place to start.

Designing Your Research Study: The Funnel

A conceptual approach we recommend for developing research studies is what we call “the funnel.”

It’s important to start broad, and then narrow down in order to help frame the context for consumers—like the shape of a funnel. For example, we do not recommend starting at, say, the feature level for a product or a specific part of an ad campaign. Instead, begin with larger subjects.

Here is our 8-point framework to help you think through how to design your study.

1. Culture

Suppose your study is about launching a new car model. Begin by exploring: What’s happening in the culture more broadly? If you start with a question or two on their views about where the culture of cars seems to be, you might unlock respondents’ views on ride sharing, the role of electric cars, personal safety, image and more. These questions allow the respondent to weigh in with their opinion on the larger culture, without necessarily applying it to their personal situation yet.

Sample questions:
What’s happening in the culture of online dating? What’s your personal impression of car culture at the moment? What’s the word on the street in sneaker culture?

2. Category

What are the dynamics shaping the category your product operates in—from the POV of the consumer? By understanding the category level, you begin to help shape feedback, but not at the brand or specific product model level yet. These questions locate the respondent in relation to the whole category, not necessarily a particular brand.

Sample questions:
How has the role of cars changed in your life in the past three years? What are your views on home ownership now that interest rates have changed? What are the most important things to understand about you in terms of how you manage your personal finances?

3. Brand Landscape

How do consumers view the differences amongst brands in the landscape? Understanding how different brands are perceived helps frame the broader context for how they view the overall brand landscape. 

As we narrow the funnel here, we learn about respondents’ awareness, imagery, associations, preference, and purchases of brands. We also learn the different Jobs to be Done that respondents associate with each brand. Clay Christensen explains eloquently how the Job To Be Done for the McDonald’s milkshake (at breakfast time) was to help kill time in the morning commute (versus provides some sort of protein-based nutritional supplement).

Often, if the researcher does desk research, they’ll assess the brand landscape based on what the brand itself is trying to stand for; but chances are the consumer doesn’t see the brand landscape the way marketers attempt to position it. These consumer-based perceptual differences provide valuable insights for researchers.

Sample questions:
 Is—or how is—the Lyft brand fundamentally different from the Uber brand in your opinion? In your opinion, what are the most authentic brands in golf and what makes them authentic to you? Are smartphone brands pretty much all the same? Elaborate.

4. Product Landscape

What are the perceived product differences across your key competitors? Knowing how consumers relate to specific product-level differences—whether overall difference between two products, or more precise feature-level differences—helps you understand how specific products are differentiated in the mind of the consumer. 

Sometimes it turns out the consumer sees no difference at all. Sometimes subtle yet important product-level differences can create dramatic points of differentiation. Without packaging, for example, Dawn looks a lot like any other dishwashing liquid. But wrap the “grease cutting” emphasis around it and suddenly, it’s very different from Dove or Palmolive.

Sample questions:
When it comes to online cloud storage, which brand has the most relevant product features for you/why? What’s the biggest difference between the feature set of brand X and the feature set of brand Y for you? What are the most important product features of a home internet plan for you?

5. Design Landscape

Are there significant perceived differences in how design shapes the brand or product experience? Many brands—and VCs—recognize the power of good design in an intensely competitive environment where color, format, style, ease of use and aesthetics become major drivers of retention.

Sample questions:
How is the design of the Caviar app different from any other online food delivery app? What could be improved in the user experience of the Nike app for ordering new products? Does the design of an external battery for your electronic peripherals (phone, wireless earbuds) matter/why?

6. Advertising Landscape

How do consumers view the overall advertising landscape? Arguably, this question was a lot easier for people to answer when there weren’t so many different forms of media. It’s still important to understand the types of advertising people actually enjoy, and how they see the predictable patterns that many brands fall into. Note: most people will tell you that advertising doesn’t ‘work’ on them, so you have to be clever not to set them up to tell you that.

Sample questions:
What is the most impactful online ad you remember; what made it so memorable? When it comes to advertising for wireless phone providers, what annoys you most? Has a pop-up ad ever been helpful? Tell us about your favorite Super Bowl commercial of all time.

7. Your brand/product/ad

Now the funnel narrows down. Here is where the consumer gets to unpack all of the ways they view your offering. It could be on the level of brand, product, advertising, PR, employee, values, corporate behavior, executive leadership, sustainability, stock price, retail environment and more. 

Just be mindful that you don’t necessarily have to be loved universally for consumers to actually buy your product. Great brands are more frequently taking a stand on issues; in an era when social media is a powerful voice for the average person, taking a stand can cause flak. The question companies ask themselves is what do people actually BUY at the end of the day? 

An example is Nike’s ad featuring Colin Kaepernick. Some people burned their Nikes, but online sales jumped 30% in the following weeks.

Sample questions:
How is Polestar different from any other electric vehicle brand? How does our CEO’s recent press release resonate with you personally? When it comes to sustainability, how does our brand stack up against the best sustainability brands in the world? How does our download function compare with YouTube’s?

8. What is the opportunity?

Making your way through the funnel, look for the opportunity. What is the connective tissue that creates a unique opportunity for your brand, product, or ad? It could come from any level in the funnel: Culture (people want more beautifully designed products in their homes: Nest), Category (5,000 songs in your pocket helped a generation of iPod buyers understand what an MP3 player was), Brand (Blue Bottle coffee found a niche within the premium coffee landscape), Product (Peloton designed a phenomenal biking experience for home fitness), etc.

Following of the Funnel Framework
By following the funnel structure, researchers gain in two ways. They gain knowledge of the specific questions they set out wanting to know (How do people feel about this new feature? How do they perceive our brand and how might we change that?). They also develop a larger understanding of consumers and the current landscape, holistically and contextually.

The Details: How to Use Fabric Academy

The Details: How to Use Fabric Academy

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7 min read

Think of the Fabric Academy as a master class in qualitative market research. Here you’ll learn best practices for setting objectives, screening, study design, analysis and more. Detailed instructions show how to leverage video in presenting your results.

Our approach incorporates 20+ years of market research experience with some of the world’s most recognized brands. We focus on helping researchers use the most current technology while leveraging the emotionally engaging methodology of asynchronous video.

You’ll Learn How To:

    • Design your own research study
    • Make a powerful presentation of your study results
    • Create a structure for your study
    • Use Fabric AI for speed to insight
    • Set a research objective
    • Determine the appropriate sample size
    • Recruit the right respondents
    • Write a successful screener
    • Develop study questions
    • Learn how to test stimulus
    • Analyze incoming responses
    • Make an impactful video highlight reel
    • Inform and inspire an ad pitch

You’ll Leave With:

    • Confidence to create your own market research studies
    • Knowledge to communicate your study results
    • Expertise to create powerful videos for presentations
    • Useful examples from our experience with top clients
    • Clear steps for launching your study

How to Use the Fabric Academy

To learn the core process of developing your own qualitative market research studies, begin with “Start Here” in the Fabric Academy. Then make your way through all available tutorials. Note that new tutorials become available on an ongoing basis.

Who Uses the Fabric Academy?

Seasoned researchers and those new to market research—and those in between—all learn from the Fabric Academy. Our educational materials and services attract product designers, marketing professionals, ad agencies, entrepreneurs, manufacturers, researchers and more, serving a broad swath of categories and industries.

Anyone seeking to understand how qualitative market research works can benefit. The academy is particularly useful for learning to conceptualize and design the best study to gain impactful insights—then present findings in the strongest way possible.

Examples: A strategy director at an agency seeks to improve messaging for their client. An apparel brand wants to find out how their new line is viewed by consumers of a certain demographic. An app designer needs valuable information about how users incorporate their app into everyday life. 

Special Content for Agencies

Creative professionals of all stripes can learn from Fabric’s extensive tutorials. We also offer a document specifically geared toward agency professional agencies developing an ad pitch.

Sources of Information

Materials in the Fabric Academy are based on decades’ worth of boots-on-the-ground experience in the market research field, together with authoritative academic research. 

Fabric has been honored to engage in ongoing collaborations with UCSD Behavioral Sciences (Dr. Steven Dow), Wharton MBA (Dr. Martin Lautman), Carnegie Mellon Human Computing Interaction and Stanford D School.

Founder Tom Bassett is the thought leader who developed unique insights and creative strategies for advertising and product design for Nike, Apple, Google, Sonos and other top brands.

Tom’s clients benefit from his years of experience with global brands. In the Fabric Academy, he reveals the concepts, processes, and methodologies foundational to developing powerful research insights. 

Gaining Confidence Through Knowledge

Throughout the Fabric site, we use best practices, FAQs, educational resources, tutorials and informative articles to guide researchers. Pro tips and case studies provide inspiration. We’ve found that having an expert teacher with real-world experience gives our clients confidence as well as knowledge.