Qual 360 Conference Highlights: Part II – arts therapy techniques

Here I will continue sharing of the highlights from Qual 360 Conference in Berlin. This part is especially exciting for me because I was extremely happy to see arts therapy techniques application in qualitative research.

A bit of background from my side, in 2013 I got enrolled in a unique program in the Expressive Arts Therapy in Moscow. In the selection interview, I shared with my future professors that the program was highly interesting for me also in terms of the opportunity to learn some techniques that could be applicable for qualitative consumer research.

And now I see how strong consumer research utilizes arts therapy techniques!

Theater performance is one of the arts therapy techniques that has very strong potential in consumer research and that allows to uncover very in-depth consumer insights.

One of the presenters showed a very interesting case how it can be executed. I would like to describe very briefly the presented process:

1.Actors from improvisation theater started their interaction with the audience asking us about associations with a particular product. Then we did some ‘body sculptures’ with actors using previously mentioned associations.

2. Short theater plays where associations and needs were further developed (it takes around 30 min in real set up).

3. Two volunteers from the audience were invited to end up improvised dialogues built on the discussed associations and needs.

4. The process ended up with improvised music and a song that elaborated some of the previous ideas.

As a result, this performance allows to stimulate respondents creativity, drive them to be more focused on the topic and more open on ideas sharing.

In general, performance is very suitable for such objectives as:

  • consumer segments understanding;
  • product innovation;
  • development of slogans and branding items.

In order to ensure a good performance flow, it’s necessary to have more creative respondents. In terms of the environment, by now such studies have been done in the USA and EU, so other cultures might require some additional considerations.

One more arts therapy related approach discussed during the Conference is a role play. Interestingly, presented role play was just a part of a very holistic consumer research that included several stages:

1.Secondary analysis of the topic/research problem.

2. Ideas generation on the research problem together with respondents.

3. Ideas selection/fine-turning of relevant ideas.

On this stage was used a role play. As an additional recruitment criteria, the most positive/engaged respondents from the second stage were asked to participate here.

From the stage 2 were preselected 3 ideas to fine tune, 1 idea was given for a pair of experts.

During the role play participants were engaged in several activities: 1) reading and discussion of the idea; 2) paired idea presentation to the audience and jury (in the particular case they were ‘doctors’, ‘sales representatives’, ‘digital experts’ who were also changing their roles).

For the presentation the participants dressed-up in order to adopt a persona that helped to uncover subconscious perceptions, drive sharing of ideas that won’t be pronounced in a usual environment and break down existing hierarchical mentalities.

The role play approach allowed to:

  • increase participants engagement;
  • drive spontaneous and provocative responses;
  • ensure the overall positive experience in the room.

The presenters highlighted that the role play is a useful approach for usage and attitudes studies, co-creation, ideation and ideas generation, evaluation and refinement.

4. The last stage in the overall holistic consumer research was on-line evaluation to identify the most preferred ideas.

The other area where arts therapy approach brings a lot of value to qualitative research is children studies, where playing can be highly leveraged.

Consumer researchers quite often face a big problem to uncover insights from children as respondents. When children are asked as adults, for instance, in a way of usual in-depth interview, children answer in a “right way”- how they were taught in a school or by parents.

Playing allows to leave space for children to express themselves. It can be done in a form of giving children a set of figures that represent their typical world and asking them to create and play some situations related with research question. If there is a talk about a brand that a child knows, it’s possible to create a brand country and discuss what is happening there. For the studies of TV ads after watching a video children can be asked to replay it and create its new version.