The power of storytelling in market research

There’s no doubt about the importance of storytelling in market research and we’ve written before about the importance we attach to delivering a clear, concise story to our clients. But what about the stories we hear from research participants themselves? 

A new smartphone app to capture and share personal stories

This month, Storycorps.me announced the launch of its new smartphone app. Storycorps positions itself as “a global [online] platform for listening, connecting, and sharing stories of the human experience”. So what exactly does the company do?

For over ten years Storycorps, a US non-profit, has been interviewing the US public, inspiring them to share their stories and personal histories. Since 2004, the organisation has collected over 60,000 interviews, forming a searchable archive of oral histories.

Until now Storycorps facilitators have moderated these interviews in one of their touring booths. However, the new smartphone app, which has been made possible thanks to funding from TED, now allows members of the public to interview anyone and upload the recording to the archive themselves.

The new app is an interesting development for Storycorps and strengthens their mission to “provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of [their] lives” but in market research, putting the consumer or private individual in the interview driving seat is nothing new.

Peer-to-peer interviewing in market research

At FreshMinds, we often include peer-to-peer interviewing tasks within online communities to deepen our understanding of the target audience, for example asking participants to film a short interview with a friend or colleague about the topic at hand. Peer-to-peer interviewing tasks like this can have multiple benefits: reaching a wider audience regarding subjects of particular importance in the community, inspiring a sense of pride in the research participant as they introduce the topic of conversation to their chosen interviewee and giving the participant a chance for reflection as we ask them to comment on their interviewee’s comments.

Beyond online community activities, peer-to-peer interviewing can be highly effective for speaking with vulnerable individuals and covering private topics. Respondents will feel more at ease discussing such topics with a friend than an interviewer and so this method can enable us to reach ‘harder to reach’ audiences in a new and more sensitive way.

From stories to insight

So, peer-to-peer interviewing has a role to play in market research and smartphone apps can help facilitate the capturing process. However, this doesn’t mean we can simply hand over the reins to our research participants and just let them get on with it for us. To get the most out of these techniques, consumer interviewers need guidance (and often reassurance), not to mention a clear discussion guide. Peer-to-peer techniques can give us a different angle on a subject, but rarely make up our full approach. At the very least, consumer interviewers will require probing so that we’re capturing their reactions to and opinions on their interviewees’ responses as well. That’s where we have found the most valuable insight often lies.