Workshop 2: Personas and Focus Groups

I had my second ‘advertising and branding’ workshop yesterday which I really, really enjoyed. It connected to the lecture we had been given the day before on market research. (which I also really enjoyed). Reconnecting with the research methods I was introduced to last year reminded me how fun and interesting it is. It’s proven to me that I made the right decision in choosing the ‘research and creative practice’ module for next semester.

Anyway, back to the workshop. We were given a brief: To get people to try Smash – the instant mashed potato in a packet.

It was actually described rather eloquently in our notes:

“Smash is dehydrated mashed potato. When boiling water is added it reconstitutes into hot mashed potato that can be served as part of a meal.”

(Yuck…Although I think I really should force myself to try it his weekend in the name of research)

We were also given some notes about the product and it’s market, basically desk research stuff including a SWOT analysis. Rather than coming up with a new marketing campaign for Smash, our job was to do some market research. This involved collecting ‘reactive data’ involving peoples attitude and relationship to/with food. We also wanted to explore nostalgia, happiness, friendship, memories and experiences, particularly within the context of food. In the afternoon we would use this data to create some personas of people we wanted to target.

Morning Session

I met up with the girls in my group and we decided to find out about people’s favourite meals. We liked the idea of it being more interactive than a question so we drew some plates on some paper with coloured markers. After splitting up into two pairs of two (so we could cover more as well as different ground) we started asking people to tell us about their favourite meal and encouraged them to draw it for us.

Christina and I headed down to Magdalen Green because we thought people would be sunning themselves. It was a bit of a mistake because it was the wrong time of day but we bumped into lots of people on our way back to the Perth Road. We found a little park type area with benches and got lots people to talk there. Heading down towards the town was not as productive and we got a few knock-backs from people who were too busy. Nonetheless we did get some people in that area – I think it helped telling them that we only needed a few minutes of their time.

Here are some photo’s of the people we asked with their hand-drawn dinners!

The boy on the right was one of the most interesting dinners we got. Initially he didn’t want to tell us because we wouldn’t have heard of it or be able to spell it. We quickly told him that didn’t matter, he could draw it for us and write down the spelling. Whilst he was drawing we got him to tell us more about it. It turns out he was from Sweden and this was a really special, expensive meal that a group of about twenty people would come together to eat. Apparently his uncle would hunt a reindeer then spend ages preparing, cooking and carving it up. I wished we could have been in a better environment with him rather than just on the street. Had we been in a cafe or somewhere more comfortable I am sure we would have found out a whole lot more! But that’s the nature of ‘outside’ research, we would never have met him had we not approached him like this.

We had been told in our lecture the day before to offer people the chance to cover their face with the drawing. This is apparently a technique Lauren Currie uses just to make people feel more comfortable but still allow her to have a record of her research subjects. Some people didn’t mind being photographed as you can see but it was definitely a good tip to have up our sleeves when we sensed the person was uncomfortable.

I also think they responded better to having the paper rather than being asked questions. As Lindsay, one of the girls in my group, said: it takes away the awkward silences where you are writing down their answers. In effect they write down their answer for you and actually get quite involved in it as they draw away. It becomes more of a conversation where you can ask some open questions or ask for more detail when they mention something interesting.

I did try to ask people who made the meal, where did they learn to cook it, does it remind them of anything/anyone when do they eat it e.g special occasions. My only regret is that I didn’t push these questions more. It didn’t always work mind you, sometimes we got flat responses such as “mum made it”. Other times we did get the more descriptive answers like “she made it for me most days because it’s all I would ever eat”. It is a generative tool I would most definitely remember and use again.

Afternoon Session

We had a quick run-through of how each group had gotten on with their research. Most of the groups, like us, had taken the decision to not mention Smash. We focused on peoples attitude to food in general. One of the groups had decided to ask people about it – once they had completed their questionnaire. They told us that a lot of people had memories of it being watery, lumpy and not made properly. One person told them they actually used it, to this day, to make a pizza base! One woman had a positive memory of the old ad jingle “for mash get smash” but said she would never buy it! One group tried to get people to interact with an iPad and draw food on it but apparently it didn’t go down very well. I think a lot of people were put off by it because they didn’t know how to use it. My favourite story was the group who asked people “if the meal were a person, what would it be like”.

I couldn’t help thinking that was an instant ad campaign!

> What’s Mr Roast Beef like? He’s lean (athletic), rich, grounded  and has traditional family values. He enjoys being surrounded by people with different tastes but likes to be the main focus of the gathering. He also likes a good glass of red wine.

Anyway, sorry I am getting carried away. Once that was finished we had to create some personas of the sort of people we might want to target. These were to be quite general, not too specific. For example our Swedish student would be generalised into International students from a range of countries. In fact it could be broadened out even more into people who like travelling and visiting different countries.  One of the groups had a camper so that would be broadened out in active people who like exploring. The idea being that this persona represented a type of person. This ‘type’ would have a similar view on life, similar interest and use the product for a similar purpose or in a similar way.

I have drawn a quick sketch of some personas for the Apple ipad:

While not every student would say use it exactly the same as Sean, they are more likely to use it in similar ways to him, apposed to Katy. They will be in a similar stage in life to him, have ambitions, goals and wants that are similar to him.

So, here are the personas we created using our data and experience from the morning research:

As you can see, we have three distinct targets: International Students, British Students and Busy Mums. I actually remember speaking to quite a few older people so I have created another persona for our group myself:

You can see that we persona of a busy mum who sometimes opts for quick dinners. We could also have created one for a mother who insists upon nutritional food for her children. She would be a harder person for us to tackle but as my lecturer said: “know your enemy”. We could investigate the nutritional properties of smash and see if there was an argument that would encourage her to try it.

Anyway, these are our personas who represent the people we want to target. The idea being we want people like them to give Smash a go, to be attracted to it, buy it and try it out.

I have a few ideas in my head already for some possible ad campaigns so I will draw them out over the weekend!

3 thoughts on “Workshop 2: Personas and Focus Groups”

  1. That’s a great write up – looks like you had fun! Who said research was boring… Have you seen the IDEO video I put on the second year blog? – you might enjoy it

    Looking forward to seeing your hit Smash campaign! Especially if you can tackle the nutrition-focussed mums… ;)

  2. Thanks! I did quite enjoy it actually, gets you talking to different people you normally never would. Nope but I will have a look now, I’ve been halfway through that book for about a year. I really liked it as well, just never had time to finish it.

    Just posted my “ads”…
    The conversation the robot has with the woman honestly sounds brilliant in my head, just not so much on paper :s

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