Fast and slow – yes, that’s how our minds work. We make quick and intuitive decisions which ultimately get rationalised and modified over time. However, those first impressions are really important. They bias everything else.
It is the basis of speed dating. What happens when you sit opposite somebody for the first time and have just a few minutes to get to know them? You start by looking at your date. You weigh them up. You look at their eyes – are they smiling? You look at their clothes – do they sit comfortably on them? You look at their body language – is it open and welcoming? And then you pose your questions. It’s not just what you ask, it is how you ask it. An open question delivers more insights than a closed one. A bit of sharing in the question may unlock the door.
So what has this got to do with market research you will be asking? Well, we market researchers seldom have more than a few minutes with our respondents. We are speed daters. We want quick responses and thoughtful responses. We want people to give us an initial reaction and we also want to hear their rationalization for it. The quicker the reaction, the more we get at the truth. There is less chance for someone to edit out what they want to say.
The concept of speed dating is relevant in both qualitative and quantitative market research. In qualitative research we are in a typical speed dating environment. It is the getting together of people who have not met before. We are meeting for the first time and sharing thoughts and ideas. It is why the moderator plays such a crucial role. The moderator must come across as a great date. They must be easy to talk to, someone you can trust, someone you want to open up to. And, when you have finished talking to them, they should leave you feeling that what you said was worth listening to.
In quantitative research it is a bit more difficult. We need to set the scene with some context. Our speed dating question may begin with something such as: “Imagine your current supplier has let you down and you need to find a new one. What are the three things that you look for, above all else, from your new supplier?”. Followed, of course, by the inevitable “Why did you say that?”.
Does speed dating work? Perhaps if you’re looking for the love of your life it is a bit risky. Out of the dozen or so people in the room it may be too much to hope that one of them will make you happy for the rest of your life. But, if you’re looking for market research insights, it really does work. It forces into the open those important system 1 responses that are subconscious, emotional and automatic. It also gets to the system 2 thinking which is slow, conscious and deductive and which we need to understand because it is what the new love of our life will tell us – even if they don’t mean it.