Corporate America’s current love affair with Big Data has made it more difficult for marketing professionals to get the underlying answers they need.
Dwight Fletcher / July 15, 2015

OK, so why do we at Spearfish focus so much on qualitative approaches?

The answer is simple.

Many marketing issues we deal with require getting deep input from consumers.  That requires a forum where consumers can speak freely and richly about their experiences with the brand, product or service in question.

Quantitative just isn’t set up to do that nearly as well.

Quant’s best at identifying trends – like 46% feel that the problems involve service issues, 27% pricing. That’s all well and good, but consumer insights professionals are typically asked to find the real answers which lie beneath the surface – finding what’s behind those trends, the real reasons why.

There’s a huge over-reliance on data in today’s marketing departments, and that’s one of the key reasons companies “miss wide” when attempting to communicate with their customers.

They’re simply only getting numbers when they really need reasons.

But CEOs are currently in love with numbers, and marketing staffers have to justify their every move with numbers…and more numbers.

As an example, because of the cyclical nature of the hyper-competitive restaurant business we are often asked to determine why a certain brand or set of stores within a brand is in decline.  We could use a quantitative approach to help us identify whether, among other variables for instance, pricing is a major contributor to the problem.  But then we naturally begin to wonder about the various aspects of the pricing.  Is it the pricing of every item on the menu?   Are certain favorite items overpriced?  Can customers find real value anywhere on the menu?  Are the prices too small and hard to read on the menu board?  Are consumers confused about how the pricing works?  Is it even pricing at all, or did someone just suggest that and everyone ran with it?

The answers to these questions come easily with the right qualitative approaches, ones which ensure that consumers are comfortable and in the right environment, their “habitat” – where they are experiencing the brand, not in a focus group facility or at their computer filling out a long, laborious survey, where all they are really concerned about is getting the thing finished.

Quantitative research is extremely valuable.   But it has arguably received too much play in recent years, and we figure the pendulum is likely to swing back toward qualitative as more marketers find gaps in the data they collect and find it difficult to connect with their customers at anything other than a superficial quick-read level.