Why Ask Why

Author: Tim Berney
Posted: Sep 16, 2010

I can confidently state that people watching is one of my favorite past-times. It’s not just the hilarity of the public’s appearance and actions that peak my curiosity, but the actual thought process that led up to their choice, decision or action. I recently witnessed someone dip their finger  and taste every single salad dressing at a salad bar. No lie.


I couldn’t help but stare with a look of shock and amusement, hand on hip, trying to determine what internal conversation this person had before making such a disgusting decision. This is obviously an extreme situation but decisions such as these happen every second of every day.  I urge each and every one of you to become acutely aware of people in their natural habitat and you will witness the most amazing things.
I’m positive that this curiosity and interest in people’s behavior drew me to marketing and advertising as a career.   I want to know the reasoning behind every decision, selection and choice made by people every day. Lucky for me this isn’t just a creepy interest of mine, but actually is a justified form of research! Gasp! Qualitative Research. I love it! The boring textbook definition states that qualitative research  is a method of inquiry appropriated in many different academic disciplines, traditionally in the social sciences, but also in market research and further contexts.  Qualitative researchers aim to gather an in-depth understanding of human behavior and the reasons that govern such behavior.  The qualitative method investigates the why and how of decision making, not just what, when, where , when.  Small samples are most often needed.  I scrutinize qualitative research virtually every single day for my job in media planning/buying. Some may find it dull and tiresome to pore over articles, reports, white papers, surveys, focus groups, etc. But I find it incredibly enlightening and justifying.  For example……I not only want to know the demographics (age, gender, education, etc) of radio and TV stations, websites, newspapers, etc. , but  more importantly what determines their shopping habits, past-time interests, entertainment choices, and so on and so forth.  To really know a consumer, you need to understand their behaviors, passions and interests.
So, I continue my studies in and outside of work of people and what makes them tick.

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