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A Conversation with Jan Lohs

What’s ‘hot’ about qualitative research?
I’m excited by the merging of SCIENCE and ART to make qualitative research more dynamic and effective than ever before.

What’s SCIENCE got to do with it?
State-of-the-art brain scanning equipment has taught us much about how the brain functions. How memories are formed. How the brain’s reward center influences behavior.

If we keep track of what the brain scientists are learning, we can do better qualitative research. We can gain a far deeper understanding of what makes consumers tick. Why they do what they do. Buy what they buy. (For more about neuroscience’s impact on research, click here).

But science is only part of the story, right?
That’s correct. Great qualitative research also requires ART:

  1. Inspiring honest, in-depth, insightful conversations
  2. Reading subtle cues -- body language, facial expressions, tones of voice, energy levels
  3. Interpreting what is said, as well as what is not said

When science and art merge, we can connect more genuinely with consumers and understand them more fully. Clients can enjoy greater success in communicating about their products, developing new ones, and transforming their brands.

Focus groups are one of the research methods that you use. There has been some criticism of focus groups recently. What’s your response?
As with any market research method, focus groups are effective ONLY when:

  1. The method fits the research objectives
  2. The research is executed well

Clients often call me and say "we need to do some focus groups." But focus groups may not be the best method for them. An alternative approach – IDIs, dyads/triads, ethnographies, bulletin boards, or even a quantitative method – may be better suited.

And some questions simply cannot be answered with market research at all -- research is not a crystal ball!

When “everything is right,” what are the benefits of focus groups?

Benefits of groups Why that’s important to you
They generate lots of information quickly You get up-to-speed fast on an issue, category or product
They stimulate new, dynamic thinking among research participants You hear a broad range of responses
They prompt participants to recall details they might have forgotten You hear more of the story
They simulate real-life societies You gain insights into how your audience influences and is influenced by others
They showcase sensory information
(as participants respond to others through body language, energy levels, tones of voice, etc.)
You gain a richer understanding of your audience – beyond the verbal

Regardless of the method, how can we get the most from our qualitative research projects?

Work with a pro.
Conducting qualitative research may look simple. But assuring that the project ends up delivering valuable, quality data requires a great deal of knowledge and skill -- developed through years of training and experience. For 25 reasons for using a pro, please see "Why Use a Professional Moderator."

Allow lots of "white space."
Limit the questions and discussion issues. This allows spontaneous, unexpected discoveries to emerge. And sometimes…an epiphany that can be a springboard to new successes. Read More.

Dig deeper.
For example, start with focus groups and expand their value by incorporating projective techniques and ethnographic elements to enable a richer understanding of the emotional (vs. rational) brain.

Read my brochure.
For more about how to get the most from your qualitative research, click here to download my publication "Getting More Value from Your Qualitative Research."

Why should a company select LRG for its research project?
Executing a research project well requires excellence at all steps in the process -- design, recruitment, facilitation, analysis and interpretation, and presentation.

To help ensure the success of the research, I’m involved in every step of the process. I’m particularly committed to project set-up, carefully considering the “what ifs” to help assure that the research design, the respondent criteria and the screening process all are absolutely on target.

Also, I believe LRG is extraordinarily committed to – and skilled at --obtaining depth of understanding. I’m insatiably curious about what makes people tick. To this passion, we add a strong work ethic and desire to deliver the biggest bang for the buck.

Jan Lohs
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