Are You a Tourist or a Traveler?

“The difference between landscape and landscape is small, but there is a great difference between the beholders.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

There’s this tourist and traveler comparison I love when I think about consumer research approaches. Here goes:

As a tourist I go to some far off exotic land and I have an agenda of activities, I observe the culture at a safe distance, go to the must-see places, maybe a museum or two, eat at restaurants recommended by the hotel concierge or chain restaurants familiar from home, look for newspapers and TV from home, take lots of beautiful pictures of beautiful things to post on FaceBook, and I probably only spend a day or two or maybe three in each city – you get the idea. I’ve had a great experience, but how much new did I learn about myself, about the culture, about the people who live there? I feel like I just touched the surface. This is parallel to my experience in a traditionally formatted (really good) consumer research process.

As a traveler, I immerse into the culture. Move into the rhythm of the place, slow down, spend some time, learn some of the language, wander maybe even get lost in the city, meet regular people doing regular everyday things, have totally unplanned unexpected experiences And, if I’m lucky I may even be invited for a meal at someone’s home. I connect. I know when I leave I have been touched by my experience deeply. I’ve learned so much about myself, about the culture, about the individuals I’ve met. I have stories to share that make me laugh and cry and desire more and more and more of that! This is what we need – this is what the human heart longs for. This is GREAT Consumer Research.

At IdeaConnect (and our alter ego Ah Ha!), in our practice of consumer research (aka LearningConnect), we love to be travelers and guide our clients into the learning experience of a lifetime. Our workshops are face to face (no backroom) and whenever feasible we send our client team out to visit people in their homes, to shop with them, to get to know them, to travel into their world.

And yes, sometimes if they’re lucky, they’re even invited for a memorable meal at someone’s home. Each team member is touched in a different way. They come back with pictures and treasures and stories that make us cry and laugh and want more and more and more of that!