Qualitative research serves many purposes, but its exploratory nature is its strength. This year’s conference had three themes:

Different approaches working together

The presentations here ranged from looking at how experiencebased co-design was used to get to the core of one of the last taboo subjects: debt (Chloe De Schryver, Robert Hartley, 2CV, Ben Murphy, Money and Pensions Service), to how an ‘agile’ approach to strategic development research could cover two continents in three weeks (Tom Woodnutt, Feeling Mutual). The third showed the virtue of going from ‘data quagmire’ to an elegant fusion of sources, thus putting customer insight on the Board’s agenda (Sarah de Caux, Join The Dots/Wendy Crofts, from Matalan).

Changing behaviour using behavioural science

We were shown how it’s possible to help people become more active through micro-choices (Raphael Malek, Charlotte Malton, Britain Thinks/Hayley Lever, GM Moving). Better, simpler communications, meanwhile, can result from a behavioural science audit: the guiding principle of cognitive ease led to banking letters with a third of the text, large icons and salient calls to action (Jamie Halliday, Camilla Cooper, The Behavioural Architects/Lee Brumwell, Barclays). There was also a whirlwind masterclass in effective communication, using a delightful range of ads as inspiration (Martin Lee and Caroline Hayter, Acacia Avenue).

Connecting with customers

Superb video quality linked the final two presentations. Ethnographic filming of holiday makers isolated exactly why they chose their holiday provider (Jonny Stuffins, Sparkler, Karen Bilsborough, TUI), while a five-year (!) global panel project of TV viewers, connecting commercial, creative and marketing teams close to real viewers, explored what they get out of programming and how they dealt with the infinite variety of TV consumption opportunities (Stuart Knapman,The Sound/Mat Watson, ITV).

We closed with a round-up of AQR’s Listening Project, exploring what client research buyers need from qual now and in the future. The themes will be shared next year. I came away proud to belong to a sector brimming with ideas and can-do chutzpah.