What Are Looking For in Qualitative Marketing Research?

Qualitative marketing research identifies people’s behaviors and attitudes about products, services, brands, or advertising.

Understanding behaviors and attitudes provides deeper and broader understanding about your prospects and customers.

Behaviors and attitudes influence buying and product use. They influence acceptance or rejection of advertising.

Let’s talk about the behaviors and attitudes in more detail, and how qualitative marketing research can identify them.


A behavior is an action or reaction to something or somebody.

Behavior, whether it is conscious or subconscious, is what happens. It is a fact. Past behavior sometimes signals future behavior.

You want to understand customers and prospects’ behavior about products, services, and ads.

You want to understand what they are doing about your products and your competitors’ products.

Specifically, you want to understand product buying and use behavior in reaching this understanding. How do they use the product? What problems do they have in using it?Also, you want to understand their behavior about advertising and promotions. Are people responding to your ads or not?

Behaviors and attitudes are sometimes contradictory.

When behavior contradicts stated attitudes, behavior may be a truer reflection of the attitude.

An example,

A respondent tells you “I am always up-to-date with the latest sports news.”

But you notice the respondent rarely reads, listens to, or watches sports news.

What piece of evidence would you use?

Self-reported behavior is valuable, but sometimes less reliable than observed behavior.

People mix up their facts. They forget. Or they tell half-truths to be socially acceptable. Or they twist facts to be consistent with previously stated positions. Or, when behavior is automatic and subconscious, they are often not aware of what they do.

Study behavior because it offers clues about the present and future state of mind. Qualitative marketing research can help identify behavior.


Attitudes are a state of mind or feeling towards a person or something.

Attitudes contain three parts,

  1. A view or belief about something
  2. A feeling or emotion about something
  3. A tendency to act, or not act, in a certain way

Examples of attitudes,

“I am always up-to-date with the latest sports news.”

“Dressing in the latest trend-setting clothes is important to me.”

You want to understand customers’ and prospects’ attitudes about your products and your competitors’ products.

Attitudes play an important role in buying and product use.

Knowledge, perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and emotions form attitudes.

Emotions and beliefs are often powerful buying motivators. People buy products and services that satisfy emotions or beliefs.

Changes in knowledge, perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and emotions change attitudes. Qualitative marketing research can help identify attitudes.

Now let’s look at what makes up attitudes in more detail, in the context of qualitative marketing research.

  • Perceptions
  • Opinions
  • Beliefs
  • Emotions


Perception is an awareness and understanding of something.

Here is what is important:

Perception is reality.

Your customers’ perceptions about your products, services, ads, or brand are your reality.

Their perceptions, whether right or wrong, affect your business.

We use our five senses to gather information about the world. We see, hear, feel, touch, and smell. These senses affect perception.

And previous personal experiences, knowledge, culture, memory, beliefs, and feelings also influence perceptions.

Personal experience, feelings, beliefs, and culture are lenses through which we see the world. They influence perception.

The lenses cause people who witness the same event to see it differently.

Is the glass half-empty, or half-full? Is the smile an apology or a sneer? Is the gesture offensive or innocent?

Different perceptions about a person, object, or event cause cultural misunderstandings.

Perceptions change with new knowledge, beliefs, feelings, and experience.

Empathy – the ability to see and understand someone’s world – influences perceptions. In fact, empathy is what you try to achieve in qualitative marketing research. You try to see and understand the world of your customers, prospects, industry experts, and competitors...their perceptions.

And, most importantly, you want to know the perceptions of customers and prospects about your product, service, or brand.

Their perceptions are your reality. Use qualitative marketing research to check your reality.


An opinion is a subset of an attitude.

Opinions are a person’s evaluation or judgment about something.

Opinions can be based on facts, knowledge, beliefs, or feelings, or a combination of them all.

With expert opinion – for example legal, medical, or technical opinion - experts form a judgment according to the facts and knowledge at their disposal. You need to know experts’ opinions about your industry and product category.

Opinions are durable or fleeting. They swing with new facts, beliefs, and feelings. What are customers or prospects’ current opinions about your brand? How durable are these opinions?

Qualitative marketing research can help gather opinions.

Opinions without evidence are beliefs.


Beliefs are a mind state in which a person is convinced about something without necessarily having proof. It is a feeling of certainty that something is true.

Beliefs shape attitudes and behaviors. They influence buying.

Beliefs come in variety of flavors: convictions, dogma, popular beliefs, myths, doctrines, opinions, and articles of faith. Values are beliefs. Values are beliefs about right and wrong, and usually provide a direction for how to act.

Core beliefs exist in the conscious and subconscious. Culture, religion, upbringing, education, and region affect core beliefs. Core beliefs are like granite. They are solid.

They don’t change easily.

Good ad copywriters try to connect with prospects by empathizing about a belief. A copywriter wants the prospect to feel, “Hey… they are like me.” Or “Yes, that rings true.”

Find out what customers and prospects believe about your product category and its different brands. Focus group or depth interview qualitative marketing research can help spot beliefs.


Emotions are conscious or subconscious feelings.

Anger, anxiety, benevolence, boredom, contempt, curiosity, disgust, disappointment, fear, greed, happiness, joy, love, remorse, sadness, surprise, and vanity are examples of emotions. And, there are more.

So why are emotions important?

People buy products and services that satisfy personal emotions. Every product or service delivers emotional benefits. Product features and functional benefits deliver emotional benefits.

People buy home theater systems because they want to watch movies with their kids or watch football with their friends. Being together is the emotion – love or acceptance. The home theater serves an emotional benefit.

Emotions are primary buying drivers in consumer and business purchases.

Politicians manipulate emotions to spur people to vote for them. Promises of prosperity and happiness, and fear of job loss and enemies, are emotional buttons.

Human emotions have not changed much over the past several thousand years. The inventory of human emotions is about the same for each generation. If you read the ancient classics you will find the same emotions in the stories of thousands of years ago that you see today.

Your job is to find emotions that stir your customers into action – buying action. Emotions stimulate action. Good copywriters know how to appeal to emotions. They use qualitative marketing research to spot emotions and feelings that cause action.

Understand your customers and prospects’ emotions about your product or service. Use emotional benefits as part of your sales pitch or advertising strategy, with features and functional benefits.

Emotions help sell products and services. They get attention and interest.


Qualitative marketing research can help you identify behaviors, attitudes, perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and emotions.

They are the keys to understanding your customers and prospects.

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