Daniel Berkal on creativity in market research

We recently welcomed Daniel Berkal, SVP Research at The Palmerston Group, to our market research podcast. Daniel's team has conducted literally hundreds of energetic market research projects and specializes in immersive methodologies and hard to reach participants. A recipient of "Qually" Award for excellence in Qualitative Research,, Daniel has worked on some of the most innovative brands in the business and is best known for completely immersing himself in consumer environments. He came on to share more about the importance of creativity in market research. 

Daniel shared that while research often focuses on data and processes, creativity adds an interesting and additive element (what he calls the “sizzle” to the steak) to the field. During our discussion, he emphasizes the need to think beyond traditional approaches and infuse creativity into all aspects of research, whether using qualitative to quantitative methodologies. This includes how we present information from our projects, something Daniel says can be done “theatrically.” By theatrically presenting the data “it allows it to hit harder to the client and allows them to communicate to their peers and their audiences better.” It can, in short, bring data points to life and capture attention.

He admits that creativity can be a somewhat nebulous term, but he interprets it as looking at something on a new level, in a new way. While traditional ways of doing things are not necessarily wrong, Daniel says that adding in creativity doesn’t need to be the same for everyone and can help bring research to life in myriad ways. “Being creative means acting in a way that's uniquely you. That presents your personality alongside the information in an honest, authentic, natural but really hard-hitting manner, a way that makes the audience – our clients - to understand what is what we are seeing happen in the world.”

Using recruiting research participants as a specific example, he says that in the past qualitative researchers would turn to recruiters to find a certain number of respondents who meet a list of criteria. But he says there are many more creative and interesting ways to find these individuals in today’s world, such as participating in an online community, like TechTalk or Twitch. And then you can “reach out directly and try to find people who aren't cheaters and repeaters, those who have come to 100 focus groups and just want the paycheck to go home. And so I think there's a really good space to look at the way we find humans to take part in research and play with that.” 

During the episode, he dives into several more examples of how researchers can make their work shine, no matter the methodology or approach. He cautions against being “different for different’s sake” and think about finding the smartest route for figuring out a problem, while also treating every project as a blank slate and build the approach as if you were “in nature” trying to figure it out. He says that his team often measure success by the level of excitement they have when they complete a project, and often that boils down to the amount of creative energy that went in on the front end. 

Daniel mentions that he is currently teaching a course on creativity in research for qualitative professionals. The course, organized by the QRCA, focuses on infusing creativity into recruiting, methodology design, and reporting and includes about 15 professionals who have worked in the space quite extensively. He says “What's interesting from my point of view is listening to all the different angles about the business and the quality of the business that I hear from other practitioners.”
We cover a lot of ground in this dynamic episode, including touching on the ever-present theme of AI. We encourage you to listen to the podcast in its entirety on your favorite platform! 

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