Let’s imagine you want to research what people like about your brand/ shop/ business.
Here’s two approaches. Which one do you choose? Which do you prefer?
- Option one: ask people their opinion of your brand/ shop/ business: “Tell me your likes, dislikes, best bits, worst bits, memories”
- Option two: mental simulation – ask people to mentally process the experience of eating/ buying/ shopping. “Tell me the ‘story’ of you going shopping – visualise it all for me and tell me what you see in your mind’s eye…”
OK. Either choice gets you some info, but option one gets you talk. And it’s likely to be a bit made up. Option two gets you insight.
With option one you’ll get people accessing the remembering part of their brains. (See Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Khaneman). So you don’t really get a ‘now’ picture of how people are experiencing your offer, you’re getting a generalised, remembered, ‘created’ view. That might be OK if you want to know what thoughts or feelings people carry around about your brand, but it doesn’t tell you what people are experiencing.
Mental simulation, on the other hand, accesses the part of the brain that is being used when people are going through an experience. It’s a much closer way to get to the insight about what it’s like to be a customer or a consumer.
I choose mental simulation. I want to ask people to simulate an experience and tell me what’s going on. That way I think you can get a better sense of what is good, bad, liked and disliked. I’m choosing insight over opinion.