Interviewer with articulate avant-garde consumers revealed that they get their food ideas from editors and magazines. The food editors, in turn, told us that they look for what certain selected chefs and restaurants are doing in determining what to write about.
Interviews conducted with top restaurant owners and chefs in key cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. They helped us identify five current trends that will continue to be important:
1. Fresh ingredients
2. Visual presentation of foods
3. Eating light
4. Easting seasonal foods
Individuals with ideas on the general subject of interest may be found in widely diversified groups. All persons who have any association with the efforts to market the product in question are potential sources of inflation in a marketing research project. Such individuals may include the top executives and also managers of the company in question and those of companies making similar or related products; sales representatives, wholesalers, and retailers who handle the product or related products and consumers who have used a product of the type in question or have had occasion to need such a product.
While people with ideas may be found in the groups mentioned above, it does not follow that everybody in these groups will have ideas. Unfortunately, because of limited experience with the problem at hand, lack of ability as observers, inability to express their ideas, or other reasons most individuals are unable to give any new insights into a marketing problems. Therefore, if time and effort are to be used economically, it is necessary to single out the most imaginative individuals. Among sales representatives and dealers this can be accomplished partially by getting suggestions from sales managers and sales representatives, respectively. It is more difficult to locate imaginative consumers: in some instances, however research departments have been able to locate consumers of special ability along these lines. General Motors, for example, at one time built up a list of consumers who had a special interest in automobile engineering and design and who were imaginative about future developments in the fields.
Despite the desire to find individuals with ideas, it is important not to concentrate the investigation only among the better educated, more articulate persons. Such individuals are apt to have similar ideas, whereas reactions to product characteristics or sales appeals may be quite different in other population groups. As a result of this desire to reach heterogeneous groups – and because of the difficulty of finding those particular consumers with ideas – the typical exploratory survey is made by interviewing individuals known to be cooperative and to have ideas on the subject, plus some others selected somewhat haphazardly from among various population groups thought important. This is a reasonable practical solution.
As the objective of exploratory is to find new ideas, it is important to give respondents the greatest possible freedom of response. Within the context of the problem at hand, respondents should be allowed to choose freely the ideas and topics they wish to discuss. At the same time, most respondents need stimuli to bring out their attitudes and ideas. Various techniques have been developed to aid in collecting exploratory data from individuals – they make up what is usually applied qualitative research. When applied to consumers, such research is generally aimed at finding the thoughts, feelings and attitudes that influences consumer behavior. The techniques involve interviews with individuals and groups. Individual interviews may be depth interviews (often called one-on-ones) or projective techniques, by which respondents are asked to project themselves into a particular situation. Group interviews have come to be called focus group interviews.