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Foreword (InDepth Issue 17)

In this edition Kevin McLean enthuses about the different experience and benefits of what he terms "wild qualitative"; unstructured conversations with people as people rather than target consumers.

An analogy can be drawn between "wild qual"
and wild swimming. Dr Alice Roberts, in the BBC 4 series on
Wild Swimming, describes a journey full of mystery, doubt and
uncertainty, likening it to being a "leaf on a stream".

Kevin advocates getting out of the pool and into the lakes and
rivers as he argues for more experimentation with qual in the
real world. At the very least, he says, these kinds of conversations
could help on pitches and to prepare for projects. "Wild qual"
offers a number of advantages:

  • real world context, as opposed to the "consumer world" we collude in perpetuating;
  • fewer rationalizations, more direct and to the point;
  • being more flexible tactically;
  • fresher and more creative output: new ideas and meanings arise spontaneously;
  • scope for further exploration e.g. behavioural experiments.

Of course, there is nothing new under the sun. Some of the
ideas discussed have already been put into practice, for example
by the late John Cronk. One of Kevin"s regrets is that, having
met John a few times, he"d wanted to share his thinking on "wild
research" with him earlier this year. Sadly, he was too late. For
those wanting to delve further, why not read John"s chapter in
Brand New Brand Thinking: Brought to Life by 11 Experts Who
Do, edited by Mark Earls and Merry Baskin (Kogan Page, 2002).
His article is dedicated to John and his family.


Geoff Bayley
Alumni Member

This article was first published in InDepth magazine, September 2012
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2012