Customers are craving to be understood at a far more personal level, and growth in today's competitive markets is realised by the brands that successfully unlock, and fulfill the deep emotive desires of each individual consumer. These brands include the Apples, the Toyota’s, the Red Bulls of the world, and these personal insights are the driving force behind their innovation, communication & go to market strategies.

But uncovering these insights is a complex process. Many quantitative methods are too broad, too 2-dimensional, and too impersonal. Qualitative techniques are far more successful, but these face their own challenges of scalability & resource allocation & cost.

However, with the almost ubiquitous penetration of smartphones with video cameras in every one of our customers pockets, the ability to gather personal, qualatative insights at scale is now possible. Below we’ve listed 10 situations when you may consider user generated video interviews as a rational step in your next research study.

10 situations to consider innovating with consumer generated video

Think about buying a new laptop, do you choose an Apple or a PC. Is your decision to buy one or the other primarily based on performance? Or price? Or are there more emotive reasons behind your purchase decision?

Written research techniques often fail to uncover the true emotive reasons people make decisions, yet in person, this reasoning is much easier to uncover. This is because we interpret the emotive states of others by reading their facial expressions, body language and tone of voice, in addition to the words they use.

Even the type of language customers use when giving verbal feedback instead of written feedback can make deductions about emotive states easier - when talking people are more impulsive, use more graphic & emotive language, and actually share far more information on a given topic.

Asking customers to record responses on video rather than filling in a survey will better capture this emotive expression behind the decisions made about your services & products.

Tip: Ask people to talk to the camera where possible.

Many products and brands have widely differentiated audiences, and therefore more numerous & complex decision making journeys to solve.

The challenge here is that focus groups and customer interviews take considerable time, and as a result, good qualitative data collection has always come at the expense of scale with generally smaller sample sizes.

The beauty of consumer generated video studies, is that for the first time they enable truly scalable qualitative research, as these studies are conducted in the respondents time, rather than individual ethnographic researchers. Of course this video data needs to be analysed afterwards, but many short video studies are easy to share between a team, and transcription and emotive analysis rapidly speed up this process.

This is not to say you should be replacing interviews, as these allow you to dive very deep into specific issues, but as a method to explore highly differentiated audiences, it really can’t be beaten.

Tip: Run studies over a number of days. This enables you to pick up on themes and modify questions to suit.

Interviews and groups take time. Time to set up, time to run, and time to analyse. In contrast, the commercial landscape is moving and evolving faster than it ever has before. Marketing methods that worked on Facebook 3 months ago don’t work today, and long deadlines for feedback and research can severely hamper a brands speed to market.

Video campaigns, like surveys and other quantitative methods, are quick to set up, quick to launch, and most importantly, quick to uncover insights.

If you have access to respondents mobile numbers, and permission to use them, this will further increase the speed at which you can gather data. SMS invites for video responses experience responses 3x faster than any other delivery method (How to triple response rates with SMS).

Tip: Time outreach to ensure maximum speed of results. Filming parents? Send an SMS before school drop off.

You’re going to change the packaging of a product, so you turn to consumers for insights. Which would be more valuable: Feedback from a focus group, sat in your office comparing your product to 5 competitors, or visual feedback from consumers actually in their local stores, comparing your product on the shelf to the other 200 products surrounding it?

Our environment has huge impact on how we interact with brands and products. The way we interact to the same brand will alter depending on where we are, and therefore what state of mind we are in. If your brand finds its home in competitive shelf space, outdoor environments, sports situations, work places, bathrooms, in fact anywhere that isn’t a focus group office...maybe its worth seeing how that interaction changes through the use of simple, efficient, video feedback.

Tip: Ask people to take their camera shopping & have a friend film them.

You may deduce that you need visual feedback of how clients are interacting with your brand, comms strategy or product, but with limited resources there are only so many groups and interviews you are able to run.

Video surveys, like traditional surveys, are an efficient use of those resources, and may enable you to run projects with greater scope than you originally considered.

In addition to funds saved on the operations side of running groups, incentivisation for doing research at home is usually much lower than the incentivisation for attending groups or interviews. Video research is billed per response, which overall means your budget can be used to service a much larger data set. Lastly, interpretation of individual insights such as those captured in video is an easier skill than that required to manage and interpret groups, potentially saving you consultancy costs too.

Tip: Tailored incentives work best, these could be donations, gift vouchers or passionate causes instead of direct reward.

In another life, I ran a product design consultancy, and one of the skills I acquired was observational user testing. Watching, and interpreting how someone interacts with your product is crucial to creating great design, and you can simply never envision all the ways in which people use & misuse your product.

Uncovering these use cases is crucial as it enables you to predict failure and potential dangerous use cases, to which you can design elegant solutions. In addition, this observation enables you to innovate and produce better designed products by observing how people naturally interact. One of my favourite examples is Urinal Fly. The agency behind this observed that by placing a fly sticker in a urinal, they could encourage men to hit the “sweet spot” eliminating splash back.

Video of course, is the natural way to capture these visual interactions at scale. If I could have gathered 100 product interactions on video easily and quickly in my design days, it would have doubled the efficiency of our design process.

Tips: Send clients your product by post, and ask them to unwrap this, and use it for the first time on camera. Those first seconds of engagement are crucial.

Next to testimonials from your customers in person, Video can be the most successful medium for creating impact & change within organisations. We are hardwired to respond more emotively to people than we ever will to documents full of numbers - which is why video testimonials as a sales tactic have higher conversions than any image or piece of writing.

This works as well internally as externally. A recent project saw one client ask their respondents to take them shopping on a Saturday - fully anticipating reels of in store footage. When 75% of the video responses instead showed respondents jumping online with a glass of wine, the team finally understood their market had already made the shift online.

Tip: Edit out key insights and produce a 2-5 minute edit for greatest impact.

You’re running a new campaign to sell apples, so you ask lots of people to describe how they know an apple is good. They will tell you that colour, texture and flavour is key, so maybe you design your strategy around flavour.

Now you ask the same people to eat a great apple on camera. They select their apples, checking for blemishes as they go. They will rub each apple an average of 3 times on their shirt before smelling the apple and then slowly biting into it, savouring that first taste. When they find a truly delicious apple, they close their eyes for 1.2 seconds, chewing 6 seconds before swallowing. Instead of taste, you build your strategy on apples so good you close your eyes when you taste it, and that subconscious messaging is the key to growth in this commoditised market.

NEVER underestimate the power of seeing how someone interacts, vs how they tell you they interact.

Tip: Be open ended in your questions and observant. Innovation often lies in uncovering a visual insight that even the respondent is unaware of.

Circumstantial influence is inherent in any focus group, or interview you run with a customer. One of the skills of a great ethnographic researcher is to try to minimise the impact of this influence. Unfortunately, no matter how skillful that individual, group dynamics will always play a part in focus groups, and we’ll always react different in a research interview than we would act on our own.

By asking users to discuss theme without that third party influence, you may be able to gain a much more representative view of how they react in everyday life. This can be especially helpful with individuals more affected by others such as natural introverts or children.

This is not to say replace all group work with video, but you may wish to run a video diary prior to interviewing or running a group to collect that unfiltered data and drill down on this.

Tip: Start testing by adding video to your existing research strategies. Have group attendants do a few videos the week before you meet and compare the results.

Smartphone video is an incredibly creative, and personal storytelling platform. Our phones have become the keystone to our communication, never leaving reaching distance for more than a few minutes. Added to this, the video content they can capture is beautifully data rich both in terms of visualisation & audio.

Presenting findings to clients in an engaging, multi-media format can be challenging, and a little video goes a long way to crafting the stories you wish to tell.

Find your way into customers lives. Let them introduce you to family and friends, even join them for Sunday lunch. Go clubbing, ride in their cars, meet their pets, curl up with them in bed, hear their secrets, their desires, and do all of this in an emotive, engaging and highly personal manner.

Its time to make research more creative, to start sharing real lives, and listen to the voices of 1000’s of people to make more considered decisions.

Tip: Try anything you haven’t tried before.