September 10, 2022 Cue Insights

A Decision You Face: Qual or Quant For Testing Creative

Choosing the right methodology for testing creative is not always straightforward.  Both qual and quant have unique benefits.

Testing creative stimuli – such as concepts, messages, claims, adlobs, sales aids, patient education materials, and other customer communication – can be a crucial step in innovation or marketing processes. However, choosing the right methodology for testing creative is not always straightforward. Both qualitative and quantitative research methods have unique benefits.

One way to differentiate quantitative from qualitative research is to think about them as providing breadth vs. depth, respectively. Quantitative research reaches large audiences to validate your insights (breadth).  Qualitative research dives deeper into the emotional and human perspectives of your audience (depth). Another way to think about it is the broader you go with quant, the more knowledge you will gain; but the deeper you go with qual, the better your understanding will be.

Quantitative research is more objective because it uses fixed questionnaires with closed-ended survey responses (e.g., Rate this ad on a scale of 1 to 5). Because of the larger sample sizes, quant data is more projectable: you have confidence that your research insights accurately describe your customer or marketplace. Larger sample sizes also allow you to more confidently assess even the most subtle differences between subgroups (e.g., males vs. females). Quantitative is often used to answer questions such as “who,” and “how much.”

Qualitative research, on the other hand, is conducted among smaller sample sizes using conversation, such as focus groups or 1-on-1 interviews, relying on unscripted language more than discrete data. Qualitative techniques better identify feelings and capture human reactions that are difficult to measure in quant. Qual insights reveal the “why” behind a research question or hypothesis and uncover emotional relationships between your audience and a particular concept or product. Qual is also best if you want to use a more fluid and iterative approach to creative development and testing, such as modifying your creative midway through fieldwork (e.g., tweaking language on an ad) so that it can be immediately re-tested.

When budget and timing allow, using both methods can create a valuable new dimension to your research and provide deeper levels of insight. Qual can be used as a step before quant to define or narrow down options or ideas for quant testing and validation. But qual can also be used after quant to dig deeper into the why’s behind quant findings.

Thanks to advancements in technology and the increased acceptance of video conferencing platforms, it’s easier and more affordable than ever to combine both methods into a single project. But the sequence in which you conduct these studies matters and knowing which methodology should go first is important.

At Cue Insights, we are uniquely experienced in designing research methodologies that put your precise objectives and long-term goals at the forefront of any research initiative.

Starting with open-ended questions through conversation can uncover themes from respondents that experienced survey writers can then translate into aided response lists for more measurable rankings.

The case for Qual before Quant:

Starting with qualitative research can provide a valuable roadmap for your project. If you are still in the development phase for your creative stimuli or ad concept or if you are testing different iterations to give more direction to the final decision, it’s best to start with qualitative fieldwork.

Utilizing qual for phase 1 to understand attitudes about a particular message, concept, or product can be used to spark discussion internally during the development phase of your message or claim. Once a concept or message is narrowed down, a quantitative study can measure and validate the effectiveness of that message to ensure a successful launch in the market.

Starting with open-ended questions through conversation can uncover themes from respondents that experienced survey writers can then translate into aided response lists for more measurable rankings.

Qualitative research can also identify attributes of a product, concept, or message by asking probing questions about the audience’s perceptions and beliefs about the product. Once these attributes are identified, a follow-up quantitative study can identify which of those attributes are the strongest drivers of the core KPIs (key performance indicators).

Case study: When a client needed primary research to identify the patient journey of a medical condition, Cue Insights developed a dual approach that utilized both qualitative and quantitative research. Phase 1 consisted of in-depth interviews with healthcare professionals to fully understand the patient journey from detection to diagnosis, treatment, discharge, follow-up, and ongoing treatment and management. From there, Cue was able to develop patient journey maps, which helped identify market conditions, HCP segments, and how those segments should be prioritized.

In phase 2, an online quantitative survey among HCPs measured prescription and recommendation trends as they relate to those pre-identified patient journey maps. By profiling the target audience with a quantitative approach, Cue Insights was able to validate the profile of these HCPs and better understand their usage, awareness, and selection criteria for specific medications at various stages of the patient journey.

When combined, the findings from the qualitative and quantitative studies painted a robust picture of the patient journeys. And the client was able to make deeply informed decisions around “where to play,” “what to say,” and “why!”

The case for Quant before Qual:

Let’s say you have a series of messages or different variations of a creative concept and you want to determine which will resonate the most with your target market. Starting with quantitative research can help narrow down these options or identify the best one. Measuring each concept against specific metrics is an objective approach to picking the best one or weeding out the duds. But this is only half the story. By adding a qualitative research component, you can also learn why your audience gravitates toward one concept more than another. This can provide valuable context into what it was that resonated the most about that particular message or creative, giving you valuable information to make crucial adjustments and iterations that align with your strategy.

Case Study: Cue Insights conducted a dual-phase research study for a client who wanted to test four creative concepts for pain medication. The first phase of the study utilized a quantitative survey to measure specific KPIs for the creative concepts such as overall appeal, uniqueness, and brand fit. An engaging hotspot highlighter exercise identified specific areas of each concept that respondents liked or disliked, creating a measurable and visual map of success for each image. As a result of this study, Cue Insights identified two of the four concepts that performed the best.  

Phase 2 of the study utilized qualitative one-on-one interviews among a select group of respondents who had participated in the quantitative phase and preferred the two winning concepts. By digging further into those two winning concepts, this qualitative research provided context and clarification to the quantitative phase by asking about specific words used in the creative stimuli, interpretation of the highlighted images, and the audience’s overall impressions of each concept.  The findings from both phases of research identified that the word “multimodal” was more appropriate than “multidisciplinary” in this type of pain management communication. However, it also uncovered that there was a need for more education around the term “multimodal.” Additionally, Cue Insights was able to recommend which aspects of each concept resonated the most with this key audience, empowering the client to create an updated concept that utilized the most successful elements of each.

Regardless of your project needs or complexity, it helps to consult with research experts who can guide you toward the methodology that best fits your goals and objectives. Whether that’s quant, qual, or a combination of both, the best approach is a custom design tailored specifically to your strategy, objectives, timeline, and budget.



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