Stimulus : Love it, hate it, but don’t underestimate it!

8th September 2014

In the world of qual research, stimulus material is there to bring ideas to life and (hopefully) provoke a response from consumers.   With this in mind, the importance of stimulus cannot be overlooked.  Our experience tells us that stimulus can make or break a project.  And yet it can be the one thing that is often left to the last minute when setting up a research project.

Getting the right stimulus for the task at hand requires time, thought and consideration.  So the next time you are preparing stimulus for a research project, ask yourself the following…

– Is this stimulus really conveying the strategic  idea(s)?

– Will participants understand what is being presented?  Is the stimulus written in a consumer-friendly way?

– Are the ideas being presented in a single-minded way… or are there ideas which are overlapping?

– Is there too much (or too little) stimulus? (This last point can be a balancing act : overloading participants with stimulus can end up stifling the research process….but you need enough to get the debate going!)

Depending on the type of project, we believe it is better to approach a project with a ‘stimulus tool kit’ : it is unlikely that one piece of material  alone is going to effectively bring the idea to life.  And don’t forget that stimulus can come from lots of different sources.  Don’t overlook the role of consumer generated stimulus (eg collages, photo journals, drawings, mood boards & magazine tears), as this can often unlock powerful insights and ideas.

And be prepared for your stimulus not to always work first time around.  So often, stimulus has to be tweaked and refined after the first exposure.  And that’s the beauty of qual : stimulus can be evolved once the project has started to optimise the outputs.