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Do Your Homework: Learning Through Consumer Research

October 15, 2009

Before you begin a new and effective conversation, you have to know thy audience. You have to find out what “makes them tick,” which is a function of their K.A.P: Knowledge, Attitudes, and Perceptions. Understanding their beliefs and K.A.P. about nutrition, health, and food safety will help you tailor your messages into highly relevant and feasible advice.

There are two major ways of conducting consumer research which involve the in-depth collection and interpretation of K.A.P. information:

  1. Qualitative Research uses open-ended questioning through focus groups, one-on-one interviews, or on-site observations to explore and understand the attitudes, opinions, feelings, and behaviors of individuals or groups. This type of research is valuable in generating a hypothesis, but because of the smaller sample size used, the results cannot be extrapolated to larger populations.
  2. Quantitative Research entails surveying a large number of individuals to determine if or how they may share particular characteristics such as an opinion or a behavior. Telephone and mail surveys are common tools for conducting quantitative research. When conducted properly, quantitative research provides results that can be analyzed statistically and extrapolated to a larger population.

Both qualitative and quantitative research techniques are essential for creating a composite picture of consumer characteristics. This “picture” will help you get on the same page as your target audience and facilitate better communication with them.

It is important to note that more informal forms of consumer research exist and are as effective as the formal types in developing messages and tips. For instance, simple interactions with members of your target audience and discussions with clients, colleagues, community members, and neighborhood kids, etc. generate rich insights for health professionals.

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