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GUEST POST: Why Qualitative Research Is Important For PR – A Case in Point

I was prompted to write this blog piece for a couple of reasons – not least because both myself and Rick Guttridge have been asked to judge separate categories at the upcoming UK Blog Awards. That said though, Smoking Gun’s is a blog I actually read fairly regularly, particularly their weekly “Blagger’s Blog???, and it is this regular feature that gave me the inspiration for this piece.
To set the scene, the “Blagger’s Blog??? of November 15th 2013 links to a fantastic online video (find it here) which Sony has created for the new PlayStation 4. The advert is brilliant – immersive, absolutely spot on in terms of capturing what we were doing as their consoles progressed through different incarnations (I should know – I’m slap bang in the age range!) and it featured a nice soundtrack which helped hold my attention for the entire three and a half minute running time. Furthermore, at the outset Sony notes that the whole thing was inspired by the hashtag #PlayStationMemories which ran earlier this year. All fair and well you might say – but what’s this got to do with PR and Market Research?
In short, what Sony have done is utilised market research (qualitative research precisely) for advertising in the best possible way – by utilising the right techniques (in this case  a simple form of social media monitoring) they have been able to produce a piece which so accurately captures their target market – even down to the little things like ‘Daniel!’ being shouted repeatedly by a parent, the use of ‘Ace’ in a non-tennis setting (big at the outset of noughties), and the changing taste for music (Blur, Franz Ferdinand and Tinie Tempah all get a mention) – that it creates an instant affection for the brand. They have used real life experiences to create a replica of a real life experience – and more importantly, to infer that PlayStation is a part of that experience.
What Does This Mean For PR and Advertising?
The key point here is that sometimes a little bit of qualitative research (the touchy feely, emotional, ‘what did you think about that and why?’ type) can be far more effective in the right setting than a 15 question quantitative survey about whether or not people would buy a PlayStation or an Xbox. The difference is that if you do the survey, you end up telling people that, say, 80% of people would buy a PlayStation 4 rather than an Xbox; you’re working on facts, figures and recommendations. You’re working on logic and negative emotions. Logic isn’t that useful in this case (logically, why would you spend any time at all on a games console when you could be working a second job or spending time getting healthy, with your family, etc.) so we’re relying on the negative emotion of wanting to fit in, of needing to conform.
However, if you do the qual, you are able to touch consumers and individuals on a positive emotional level. Instead of convincing them to buy a product, reminding them of numerous positive emotional experiences which that product just so happened to facilitate. The logical thought process around price, graphics and performance shifts to the emotional memories of hours (days…weeks?) spent with friends, a few beers, FIFA 2009 and Domino’s pizza.
In a way, this Sony advert is a less interactive version of the consoles they create, taking people out of the real world and in to a fantasy where our – probably wasted – childhood takes on a golden glow filled with friends and comfort food. If you think about it…how good were those beers really? Probably no better than they are today. And FIFA 2009 is nothing like playing football in the park! Yet somehow Sony have convinced me they were, and it is. It’s like a three and half minute photo of ‘that holiday’, and for that I, and countless adolescents around the country, will thank them.
Still, there is one final question, how much did Dominoes pay for all that product placement?
Elliot Simmonds leads Marketing and Communications at DJS Research Ltd. If you’re interested in carrying out some qualitative research or quantitative research in marketing, feel free to get in touch with him via email [[email protected]] or visit

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