As marketers, it’s rather clear that there are a number of steps that need to be taken “behind the scenes” before a marketing communications campaign sees the light of day. Many of these often behind the scenes steps involve market research. After all, we have to know who we are speaking to in order to have a meaningful conversation. Per Newman and Ridenhour; “All behavioral research is made up of a combination of qualitative and quantitative constructs(Newman and Ridenhour, 1998, P9)”. With that in mind, this short paper aims to provide a basic outline of what both qualitative and quantitative market research is. Additionally, we will take a look at the importance of these types of research to marketers as they go along with their day to day tasks.
Starting with qualitative research, essentially this type of research has its roots into ethnography as well as sociology and anthropology(Newman and Ridenhour, 1998). Research of this type often requires open ended protocols, and extended periods of observation. Going further, qualitative research more often than not leads to more questions that require an answer. So, what type of research falls under the realm of qualitative? A few examples are field studies, observations, interviews, and studies of documents. A focus group or open ended interview are prime examples of qualitative research.
Moving onto the area of quantitative research, which is seen as more of an empirical type of research. Research in this realm oftentimes leads to more concrete results, something quantifiable. According to Newman and Ridenhour; “These designs include the more traditional ways in which psychology and behavioral science have carried out investigations(Newman and Ridenhour, 1998, P10)”. Examples of this type of research include pre and post test studies, as well as surveys and interviews that rely on numerical data in their results(Adcock and Collier, 2002). A perfect example of quantitative research would be a census.
Differences Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research
As you can see from above, there are clear differences between qualitative and quantitative research. Essentially, qualitative research involves more open ended goals whereas quantitative research is more well defined in its aims. Quite often questions are brought forth through the execution of observations, surveys, and case studies on the qualitative side of the research realm that serve to formulate a plan for what types of data should be collected in a quantitative research effort.
Similarities Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research
Having discussed the differences of each type of research, we would be remiss if we didn’t touch on how qualitative and quantitative research are similar. From the start, both start with a question that requires an answer or at the very least, further data. Moving on from the initial question, both require a solid plan addressing how the question will be answered. It would be a waste of time to push forth on any type of research without some type of plan. Digging deeper, both qualitative and quantitative research require some sort of data analysis during and at the conclusion of the research. Finally, both are action oriented they should result in some sort of action being taken on the data collected(Solomon, 2013). In the end, qualitative and quantitative research aren’t all that different.
Why Is Qualitative and Quantitative Research Important To Marketers?
A wise man(My Father) used to say; “You can’t be on a hockey team and not know the score or your team’s stats”. The same applies for us as marketers. How can we be effective at creating and managing marketing communications campaigns without knowing who we’re speaking to, what drives them, or what motivates their purchase decisions(Reed College of Media, 2018)? We can create cool ad copy, post amazing content, and post our brains out on social media, but it won’t get much done if we’re just screaming into an empty forest. It is for this reason that we must perform both qualitative and quantitative research to determine who our audience is and what makes them tick.
Real Life Example
A software company wanted to better identify what their target audience was looking for in a service provider. In order to accomplish this and obtain the needed information, the hired agency performed qualitative research. This research was in the form of focus groups, not only among the target audience, but also internal stakeholders. The information gathered led the agency to the understanding that the Ecstatic Labs brand was perceived as slightly dated. From this insight, a rebrand was recommended and executed by the hired agency. In the year since the rebrand, the internal stakeholders are once again proud of their company and brand. Additionally, audience sentiment has grown along with the companies client base(Case Study, 2018).
As marketers, we need to have a deep understanding of who we are communicating with in order for us to be effective at our jobs. With that, a great deal of the time we spend on our jobs should be dedicated to research. Whether that research is quantitative, qualitative, or a combination of both depends on the questions that we determine need to be answered. Through knowing what each type of research will yield in the way of results, we can better make the right decision on what type of research needs to be conducted.
Adcock, R., & Collier, D. (2002, January 17). Measurement Validity: A Shared Standard for Qualitative and Quantitative Research | American Political Science Review. Retrieved from https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/american-political-science-review/article/measurement-validity-a-shared-standard-for-qualitative-and-quantitative-research/91C7A9800DB26A76EBBABC5889A50C8B
Ladner, S. (2014). Practical ethnography: A guide to doing ethnography in the private sector. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
Newman, I., & Benz, C. R. (2006). Qualitative-quantitative research methodology: Exploring the interactive continuum. Southern Illinois Univ. Press.
Reed College of Media, West Virginia University. (2018). Week 2 Lesson: Learning & Memory, Motivation & Global Values, & Ethical Ethnography [Online]. Retrieved from https://ecampus.wvu.edu/webapps/blackboard
Simple Thread Case Study. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.randallbranding.com/case-study/simple-thread-brand-awareness/
Solomon, M. (2013). Consumer behavior: Buying, having, and being, student value edition (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.