Depth Interviews with consumers

Direct questions to consumers about their attitudes or motives seldom elicit useful answers. Most people do not have clear ideas why they make particular purchase 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 that bought a new Jaguar to feel superior to their neighbors would be unlikely to report such a motivation if they understood the motivation themselves.

Instead of approaching respondents with a fixed list of questions, the interviewer in depth interviews, attempts to influence respondents to talk freely about the subject of interest. This is intended to put respondents at ease so they will express any ideas they have on the subject. Of some idea of interest is passed over too quickly, the interviewer may seek additional 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. Various probes can be used as desired to get respondents to expand on particular ideas.

Although no formal questionnaire is used in depth interviews the interviewer has an outline in mind. If the respondents do not get into areas of special interest, the interviewer will insert questions to open up these topics. The objective is to get below the respondents surface reasons for particular marketing decisions find the underlying factors. This is the source of the name depth interviewing.

The advantages of depth interviewers are obvious from the above discussion – they bring out information that would not be obtained in a normal interview. The interviewer has a great deal of flexibility and can use his ingenuity to stimulate respondents to reveal more of their attitudes and motives. This flexibility on the part of the interviewer however is also a major disadvantage. No two interviewers will proceed in exactly the same way thus it is difficult to compare results.

This reliance in the skill of the interviewer also creates other problems. Only individuals with special training and skill can be used successfully as interviewers – and they are expensive. Any biases on the part of the interviewer may be reflected in the results. Depth interviews take longer than other interviewers; this creates difficulty in securing respondent cooperation and increasing costs.

A further disadvantage of the depth interviewer is the difficulty and cost of interpretation. Interpretations are obviously subjective and may vary from one analyst to another.

Depth interviewers were popular in the 1950s but were then superseded by focus groups. They are now making a come back.

Projective Techniques:

These techniques are another approach to getting respondents to reveal more than their surface feelings. Projective devices can be used to help consumers express the different images they may have of competitive brands of a given product such as golf clubs, frozen dinners or power lawn mowers might be asked such questions as:

If Brand A were a car, what would it be?
If Brand B were an animal, which one might it be?

Looking at these people, which ones do you think would be most likely to use the following brands?

The data show that the mustached man and the man wearing the hard hat were identified as the ones most likely to use both brands, but it is clear that consumer associate brand B much more with young people and women than they do brand A. Advertising for the two brands would certainly be directed to different markets and would features different themes.

Another type of projective technique is that of role playing or role rehearsal. An example is a study done for the US Department of Agriculture to determine the maximum amount of poultry products consumers might consume.