What Are Stimuli?
Stimuli are any materials used in a market research study with the aim of inducing a reaction from respondents.
They can be:
- Auditory – such as a read out of a concept or product features.
- Visual – such as images or video of marketing materials.
- Physical – such as an actual product presented in focus groups or face-to-face interviews.
Stimuli can be used in several types of research project including advertising research, branding research, concept testing and product development studies.
Why Use Stimuli?
There are several potential advantages of using stimuli in a research project:
- Tangible and nuanced feedback on a concept, user experience or advertisement can be gathered.
- The research is more engaging for respondents, which can help to ensure high response and completion rates.
- B2B market research often deals with abstract terms or ideas, and using stimuli material can focus respondents’ attention on the key issues of the study and make it more ‘real’.
Some Best Practices
Our past experience has enabled us to identify a number of best practices to ensure we get the best insights from the data:
- Keep it short: It is crucial to keep auditory or video stimuli concise in order to maintain the attention of the respondent.
- Simplicity is key: Ensure that visual stimuli are as simple as possible, only incorporating aspects on which respondents’ views are required. Respondents will react to everything in the stimulus and thus it is important to avoid respondents’ reactions being influenced by unnecessary elements.
- Ensure alignment across countries: When conducting multi-country studies, ensure that the stimuli material is consistent across all markets if the results need to be compared geographically.
- Go beyond the headlines: Respondents have a natural tendency to comment on superficial design aspects of visual stimuli. This is appropriate in advertisement testing and brand image studies, but less so if the aim of the study is to gather more detailed views on a product concept or value proposition. Our experienced B2B in-house interviewers are trained to prompt for the type of information required and remind respondents to fully synthesise the stimulus.
- Use stimuli strategically: Stimuli should only be used when it adds value to the project. In addition, research should be carefully designed to ensure that the stimulus is suitable for the type of respondent. For example, tradespeople are often working on-site and unable to view materials on a computer. In this case, reading out a concept over the phone may be a more efficient way of gathering their feedback.