Seven pillars of wisdom: the idea of qualitative market research

Jon Chandler

Mojo Brand Development

Introduction

Market research tends to be a practical and pragmatic discipline. It is usually most interested in results, it is a ‘we want to know’ kind of business. Sometimes there is less interest in how those results are actually achieved, ‘how we found out’. Typically, there is less interest still in the theoretical underpinning for ‘how we know what we know’.

This is particularly true of qualitative research for which there is no comprehensive and coherent theory of knowledge or epistemology. Here researchers tend to be much more interested in looking at people and listening to them, what they do and why they do it and, beyond that, what they might do in the future. Qualitative researchers are generally not prone to ‘navel gazing’ about the status of the ‘knowledge’ they generate. While this is understandable, it does make qualitative research vulnerable. There is always the lingering doubt that what we purport to ‘know’ is an illusion or deception, founded on an overestimation of what it is possible to know.