FBI inspired market research framework

Article

4, Mar 2020. 06:46am

To grab attention in a relentlessly competitive marketplace, winning brands design inspired, story-led creative that touches the emotions of their audience. Losing brands use outdated design, stock photography (which is like frozen veggies – only eat them when there are no alternatives), and gimmicks in a desperate attempt to be seen and heard. Jen Maer, Design Director at IDEO (a famous firm we’ve had the pleasure of working with), says, “The brain produces oxytocin after listening to a character-driven story,” and, “Oxytocin motivates cooperation, so if you want someone to back your cause make your story more human-centered.”

Why do so many brands fail to embrace story-led creative?
It’s more work. Many are content doing what they already know.  
And contention is the antithesis of creativity.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing powerful practices that smart marketing strategists and creatives use to develop insights, cultivate inspired stories, and executive beautiful creative that evoke their target audiences’ emotions. Here’s number one…

Practice #1 – Go undercover, FBI-style, to find tacit truths.
Waking up before sunrise to get ready for a minimum wage job isn’t all that inspiring. But this wasn’t just any job: we were sending in our newest team member, undercover, to find out what was going on in our client’s café.  The café is not just a business, but a mission: it was launched to train their mentally and physically challenged clients in critical life and work skills.

Find the truth… 
This phase of our client engagements finds the truth behind the brand. We ask questions directly, of course, like Peter Falk’s character in Columbo— “just one more thing…” But sometimes asking questions isn’t enough. We also need to see, hear, and feel what the staff, customers, and other players see, hear, and feel. In our undercover work, which we learned in part at the FBI’s Quantico training academy, we look for elusive, yet vital tacit knowledge—things that people know without knowing they know them. This work uncovers truth better than any other. Sometimes the news is good. Sometimes it’s bad. But it’s always useful.

Walk in your clients’ shoes… 
Like the TV series Undercover Boss and John Taffer’s Bar Rescue, we parachute one of the team in to work alongside the client’s team and get a clear picture of the customer and staff experience. In The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande refers to a study done in Israel that sent engineers in for 24-hour shifts in an ICU. They found that patients, on average, had 178 interactions with staff in that period. Amazingly, 99% of the interactions were successful. 1% failed. That means the staff made two mistakes with every patient every day. How else would they have found that out?

Insight only comes from discovery, and the deepest discoveries come from walking in your clients’ shoes.

Unearth touching stories… 
Back to the café. Our undercover work, showed us, among other things, that tips were unaccounted for, there was friction between the GM and executive chef (enough to start a fire – the chef walked out during a business service one day), ticket time was too long, and costs of goods were too high. It also unearthed dozens of touching stories from the staff and customers that could inspire emotionally provoking creative.

Get your framework… 
How can you put undercover investigations to work with your team? Contact us and we’ll send you a framework we built through years of qualitative interview practices.