nuance of language

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Pick Up the Nuance of Language Get the most out of your respondents Author: Jacky Cheung 2013 Mar

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  • 1. Pick Up the Nuance of Language Get the most out of your respondents Author: Jacky Cheung 2013 Mar
  • 2. What do They Mean by Very Young? I have been in research industry for more than 17 years by now, and the more I interact with consumers, the more I feel that a good researcher is actually like a detective; at the same time, the respondents are like some kind of very clever, smart criminals...wooo...sounds freakycriminals who can hide the truth perfectly from the crime scene. By the crime scene here, I mean the comments thrown on the table during an FGD. Say for example, personification of a brand, we may hear respondents describe a brand as being "young" - most of time, this is a positive description associated with the attributes of energetic, progressive, trendy, bright...etc. But what if a respondents describes the brands as "VERY young", does that mean the brand is outstandingly energetic, progressive, trendy...etc.? Well, unfortunately not, in most of the cases, when there is the word "very" put in front of "young", they usually mean the brand seems inexperienced, not knowledgeable, unsophisticated...etc. Amazingly well crafted wording, isn't it? But if you are not a detective, you probably leave the truth buried behind.
  • 3. Moderator: Dear Respondent, You just Contradicted Yourself! Perhaps the previous example was not tricky enough? What about this one...I conducted research for a condiment once, a brick-like chicken powder, with a new packaging - a beautiful, transparent jar. The respondent said, Wow, great, it is protective for the product inside, and you know, you can also use the jar for storing other things". Do you notice any clue that some truth is hidden behind her reply? Give yourself a minute before going down Anyway, let's continue the story. Later on I asked her if she was interested in buying the product and at what price, and she said, Well, no, I'm not that interested" . Wait, I said, I thought you just said it was great with this and that! Was she just playing nice and over-claiming her appreciation of the new pack? Actually, she has already made herself clear in the earlier reply of course, if you are a good detective, you will notice(if not yet, give yourself another minute before going on)
  • 4. Respondent: Dear Moderator, I Did, Did I? Let's rewind to her answer You can also use the jar for storing other things"...any clue now?...the key signal are the words YOU CAN". Let's try to understand the words this way - YOU" means NOT ME", CAN" means THEORETICALLY USEFUL, PRACTICALLY NOT APPLICABLE. Now, if we replay her comments using this interpretation, what she was saying is really "I don't need the jar for storage (well, I said YOU CAN, I did not say I WILL, did I?). Now, it is clear why she was not interested in the product, isn't it? So, sometimes I say to my clients, don't believe the respondents...hahaha, freaky again, isn't it? Well, I don't mind if you call me Freaky Cheung instead of Jacky, haha...but it is also obvious, if a good researcher is like a detective, then who are the respondents? They are "suspects"! A detective does not ask for comments, a detective interrogates for confession, no kidding.
  • 5. Poor Translator, You have been Dragged down to this Muddy Water The picture comes worse if translation involved. Do you expect a translator to pick up and then translate this possible hidden meaning accurately to our clients? Simply not possible, not only because of the subtlety of language, we should also understand that the translation is simultaneous by nature (no rehearsal, pre-reading provided) and that the translator need to translate comments of multiple people so, dont blame translators, they are innocent, though they may actually help the respondents to lie (without knowing they have done so). Lets use the above example to illustrate, the comment Wow, great, it is protective for the product inside, and you know, you can also use the jar for storing other things will very likely be translated as Wow, great, IT IS protective AND USEFUL for storing you know how the critical truth is lost. Worse still, when clients hear the translation, they would automatically pick up the message as the RESPONDENT THINK it is protective AND USEFUL the notion of RESPONDENT THINK directly implies that the respondent endorses the idea PERSONALLY now it deviates even further from the hidden meaning of YOU CAN which are the actual words used by respondents
  • 6. The Traffic Light Question I have been saying respondent this, respondent that, but actually what I'm describing is a quirk of human nature that we all share; sometimes we dont really mean what we say. Well, try this one, I'm going to ask you a question, it will be a very simple question that I'm sure everybody can give an answer right away, the only thing I would like you to help is to answer this question in the most natural and spontaneous manner, that is, don't think! Ok! Now the question...imagine you are walking alone on a street, arriving at an intersection, you want to cross the road but you see the red light is on, so what do you do? Answer it immediately "Stop", I have asked this question to many of my friends, my clients, my colleagues and this is the unanimous answer I get. Then I always follow up to ask, "so, have you never ever crossed a road when the red light is on? ...well... er...yes actually. So why don't you answer Well it depends, sometimes I cross, sometimes I stop"? Just now I said don't believe respondents; but don't get me wrong, I don't mean stop believing in research - please still do research, because you can believe in the researchers. A GOOD RESEARCHER WILL HELP YOU TO GET THE MOST OUT OF THE RESPONDENTS. Feel free to comment
  • 7. thank you