Space Doctors recently presented at the annual, two-day QUAL360 conference in Washington, D.C., which brings together leading insight and methodologies in qualitative research. Grace Flavin tells us more:

QUAL360 was a brilliant opportunity to learn more about how qualitative research is evolving. It also gave us an opportunity to showcase some of the work that best represents how Space Doctors can merge semiotic methodologies with qualitative research to achieve extraordinary cultural insight.

Space Doctors’ Director, Mariah Hartman, and Wyckoff Partners’ Phil Wyckoff presented hugely successful work that was completed last year for ConAgra foods about understanding the evolving visual and verbal language for ‘real food.’ The talk exemplified ‘semio-qual,’ a powerful fusion of cultural and consumer perspectives, and uncovered a range of consumer insights and associations that would not have been established without the application of semiotic methodology or qual research alone.

To support our analysis, we were also lucky to share this inspiring feedback from our client, Geri Yoshioka, at ConAgra,

“This research was instrumental in creating a cultural shift within ConAgra. It got teams thinking outside their narrow definitions for their brands and gave them inspiration for what their brands could become. All participating brands were able to improve their strategic positioning, particularly their reasons-to-believe.”


In honour of such an engaging two days, here are some of our top takeaways and memorable moments from other speakers:

Mobile ethnography apps get closer to the consumer

What better way to understand consumers’ everyday experiences than by using the accessory without which any of us can leave the house? Our favourite example was a study on The Global Affluent Tribe, which was a six to twelve month-long project that uncovered what makes affluent consumers tick. Challenges involved keeping consumers engaged, dealing with sensitive topics such as money, and rewarding people who aren’t interested in financial incentives. It inspired us to consider how we might develop our own community management via our live semiotics app, Cymbol, with an even more personal and engaging interface?

Qualitative research needs to understand behaviours, influences, and culture

One presentation explored how cultural codes are affecting the 2016 US Presidential Election—a really relevant topic and a great way to prove how an understanding of the broader context brings quality and depth to cultural insights. It was refreshing to hear other companies talk about how powerful qualitative research can be when you begin to make sense of the culture that surrounds it. This is a topic close to our heart because it proves how much CULTURE MATTERS!

Memories matter

Talks by Heineken and Cirque du Soleil both explored how qualitative research can help brands associated with live experiences and family heritage understand the significance of meaning and memory. Cirque du Soleil presented eight pillars that define the experiences and worlds that their consumers speak so highly about. By acknowledging these pillars, Heineken and Cirque du Soleil were able to better balance and prioritise components of the experience, realising that all eight pillars were imperative to making the brand meaningful.

Involve the decision makers

At Space Doctors, a connected, integrated, and mutually inspirational workplace is a necessity and so it was interesting to hear about a case study presented by General Motors on the benefit of involving the ‘decision makers’ i.e. the designers and engineers, in the consumer research process. Businesses are finding that there are better results when non-research departments of the company participate in research.

Food for thought

What is the future of qualitative research? According to the event host, Gallup, the biggest opportunity in qualitative research is business to business. For Space Doctors, our collaborations and continued focus on cultural and hybrid approaches position us at the forefront of qualitative research.