The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Thinking

Research in Poland (methodologies and markets)

The market research scene is buzzing in Poland, so the Directory invited two members – Joanna Chrzanowska and Fiona Jack – to give a personal view of the market, its history, and its current workings. This snapshot by Fiona focuses on methodologies and markets.

At the 2007 Trends Day, Barbara Fratczak-Rudnicka from 4P Research Mix took delegates on a guided tour of the country’s development from an almost marketing-free zone with a centrally planned economy to a free-market democracy with a fast emerging brand and advertising culture.

What follows is a quick snapshot, inspired by her talk, of research in Poland focusing methodologies and markets.


I do a lot of projects in Poland, and am always impressed by the quality of the work and the understanding of qualitative issues and problems, as well as the warmth of the welcome. The British and the Poles have a long historical association, and have much common ground on which we see eye to eye.

In terms of methodology, there is very little that you can’t do in Poland. ‘Classic’ group discussions comprising seven or eight respondents and one-to-one depth interviews are by far the most popular research approach. Triads, paired depths and mini-groups are less common, but nonetheless a useful adjunct to the more traditional approach.

Ethnography has grown in popularity over the last two to three years, and often forms part of a project. It’s become a ‘must-have’ approach among clients, to the point where instead of briefing the research agency on the project objectives, I’m told clients ring up and say ‘I want some ethnography’! Which country does that remind me of, I wonder?

Workshops have also become ‘de rigueur’ among Polish clients, as a more innovative way of getting closer to the consumer. As in the UK, this trend reflects a shift in perspective from ‘tell me’ to ‘show me’, and a move away from the agent-patient paradigm of the past towards a co-creation approach, with clients and consumers interacting to solve a problem and develop a solution.

Use of consumer blogs is still in its infancy in Poland, and while there is much talk of this technique in research circles and at conferences, many clients still remain sceptical of its validity, so in practice it is not a technique that is currently used very often. The real new kid on the block is use of ‘Second Life’ approaches on the web, and this also remains controversial among clients — much as it still does in the UK.


As in many other countries, fmcg, toiletries and cosmetics make up a large proportion of the qualitative research that is carried out. It is no surprise, either, that mobile phone networks also represent an important and growing sector. These companies advertise heavily on TV, in a highly competitive marketplace, and a relatively new competitor in the market (Play) has led to even more jockeying for position.

Equally, in the media world, satellite channels are big spenders on research and advertising, with HD a relatively new phenomenon for the Polish consumer.

Another growing sector is finance — banking, insurance and pensions. There have been fairly major changes in this sector in the recent past, which means consumers need to rethink their attitudes. Many Poles do not have private financial provision, e.g. life insurance or a private pension, and in light of the changes in State provision, are now being encouraged to take both. This, in turn, has led to an explosion in financial advertising and consequently research in this category. So not much change there, then.

Brief summary

Poland is a sophisticated market with an infrastructure of high quality research agencies, which are unlikely to be fazed by anything you throw at them. There is still a strong local culture which anyone would be unwise to ignore — particularly when it comes to eating and drinking habits. Poland is, however, proud of its place in the new Europe — there is a strong sense of efficiency and customer service, as well as a willingness to learn. Besides that, they make great vodka — how can you go wrong?


Fiona Jack
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2008