More than anything else, marketers want to know why people buy or do not buy their products. Direct questions dealing with motives rarely elicit useful answers. As pointed out above, most people do not have a clear idea why they make specific marketing decisions. Direct questions do not measure the relative importance of the various types of reasons, and many individuals will not report motives that might be considered base or socially unacceptable. The family who bought a new Mercedes to make the neighbors envious would be unlikely to report such a motivation. Instead, the statement that Mercedes are really economical in the long run might be made.
To overcome these difficulties researchers have developed depth interviews and focus group interviews. Instead of approaching respondents with a fixed list of questions, the interviewer attempts to get respondents talk freely about the subject of interest. By so doing, the interviewer hopes to put respondents at ease and to encourage them to express any ideas which they have on the subject. If some idea of interest is passed over too quickly, the interviewer may seek more information by probing For example, the interviewer may comment. That’s interesting. Why do you feel that way? This encourages further discussion of the point. The objective of these interviews is to get below the surface reasons for particular marketing decisions and to find the underlying or basic motives. Such interviews do not involve the use of formal questionnaires, yet the discussion is directed to the specific problem at hand. They are non-structured non-disguised questioning.
They tend to obtain more information from respondents because the latter are encouraged to express any ideas they have and points of particular interest can be explored at length. The interviewer is free to adjust to each situation as it develops. This flexibility on the part of the interviewer handles each interview differently. It is difficult to compare results. Average and percentages cannot be computed with validity. Thus, focus groups and depth interviews are best used in exploratory research where the objective is to find ideas for specific hypothesis that may be tested with other methods.
This reliance on the judgment of the individual interviewer also creates other problems. An interviewer who has a strong preference for one brand of car will be apt to find different attitudes toward that car than one who dislikes the car. In some cases, such interviews are taken verbatim by recording machines. This reduces interviewer bias, but it may put respondents ill at ease.
Depth interviews take longer than the typical structured interview. Many of them last an hour or more and so are costly. As result, group interviews have become the prevalent method of conducting this type of research. In both cases the time involved creates difficulties in securing respondent cooperation and, hence may lead to biased samples.
A final disadvantage of the non-structured non disguised type of questionnaire lies in the difficulty and cost of interpretation, trained psychologists are usually used. Even then it is a subjective process and will probably vary from one analyst to another.
Many people are either unwilling or unable to give accurate reports as to their own attitudes and motivations. Thus, even focus groups (non-structured, non-disguised questioning) probably give biased results. To overcome this difficulty clinical psychologists have developed disguised methods of gathering such data. Disguised methods are designed so that the respondents do not know what the objective of the study is. Such disguised methods may also be non-structured. Projective techniques are an example of this type.
The theory of projective techniques is that all individuals, in describing a situation, interpret that situation to a degree. The description they give is a mixture of their own attitudes, beliefs, feelings, and motivations.
Various projective techniques are used, but the most common are word association sentence completion and story telling. In word association a series of words is read one at a time to respondents. After each word respondents say the first thing that comes into their minds. Sentence completion requires respondents to complete partial sentences. In story telling respondents are shown pictures or given descriptions and asked to tell a story about them. —