Bringing a sense of what writer and teacher Jeff Davis calls vismayo, the Sanskrit word for being open to wonder and amazement, to understanding your customers isn't only productive -- it's a big exhilarating adventure.
I enjoyed reading this riveting account of a market researcher using "video interviews with ordinary consumers in ordinary contexts to get feedback for the companies in what makes their products sell (or not)." In this particular instance, the CIA videographer was sent to Cameroon, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast to be wondrous and amazed by customers on behalf of Unilever's laundry detergent Omo and Johnnie Walker's whiskey. (That's Consumer Insight Agency if you're still wondering.) After some firsthand whiskey research in a Lagos bar, the researcher writes:
That said, I wasn’t loving my job too much at 6am the next day: hunched over a tin basin of foaming laundry, and doing my best to look riveted as to exactly why Mrs Funmi Adeneken chose Omo Multi-Action over Duck Detergent Soap. As the intense pounding of the hangover began lifting, so the sun started to beat down. Slowly the neighbourhood stirred from its slumber and, for the first time ever, clothes washing became a hugely popular spectator sport. Crowds were captivated by Funmi’s shrewd use of the overnight soak method for her whites, and her driving scrub-action technique on dirty jeans. Nah, in truth I suspect they were just totally gobsmacked as to what the hell this crazy whitey with a camera was doing da washin’ with der sistah for...
What we always find with our work is that (although it seems that way at the beginning of a project) it’s never about a product. So even watching a person going through the mundanity of their laundry routine becomes interesting (at times) because its not the Omo you’re interested in, but rather how and why it fits into the jigsaw puzzle of their life. Best I stop before I get too carried away here and make my job sound like a rose-tinted, National Geographic honeymoon. Because it’s not. Some days your mojo is just not there so you don’t connect with people. It can be stressful being a confident, curious, charming, chatty, clever, intuitive, insightful, empathising, patient, nice guy all day.
Bonus: Contrast watching to simply asking. As narrative journalist Gay Talese says, "What people say isn't necessarily what they really believe. And what they say to you today isn't that they are going to say to you later on when you know them well." From Diageo (coincidentally parent company of Johnny Walker) press releases:
In consumer research during the production phase, the 'Don't see a Great Night Wasted' ad performed very well with 72% of those surveyed saying that they agreed with the sensible drinking message the ad conveyed and 66% saying they would be more likely to consider drinking more sensibly having seen the ad.