The insight community toolbox: ‘think’ activities

For a long time, the dominant belief among philosophers, scientists and economists was that humans – and their decision making – are driven predominantly by ratio, and this was no different in marketing research. While we now understand that human behavior is complex and requires a multi-dimensional approach, ‘think’ activities are still an important part of the research mix – they allow to grasp the perceptions, opinions and attitudes people can easily express.


Focus on system-2 processes

Think’ activities mainly focus on capturing system-2 processes, or those consumer decisions which are taken more deliberately and consciously (in contrast to system-1 processes which are automatic and unconscious). With the rise of Behavioral Science, popularized by the work of Daniel Kahneman, the value of those methods that focus on system-2 through self-reporting was under scrutiny, the underlying rationale being that human decision makers have little or no access to the processes behind their choices.

However, sometimes we really need to know what consumers think, know and believe, as these internal states are strong predictors of their behavior. Observational data may help us derive that a consumer was unhappy about their recent experience as they stopped spending money. But it might be faster, easier and better to simply ask them. In fact, academic research has revealed that we are more reliable witnesses of our lives than assumed. Hence, still today, there are good reasons to ask people questions and not solely rely on behavioral data.


Think’ activities: zoom in on questioning

One of the most common ‘think’ activities is ‘questioning’, literally asking consumers questions which they can answer by indicating an answer option, typing their answer or even by uploading an image or video. Although a very common activity, questioning can be done in creative ways, like we did for AB InBev as part of their yearly strategic initiative coined ‘iWeek’. iWeek is a (yearly) one-week innovation event, centered around the generation of ideas which then gets tested overnight with target consumers. This allows the team to iterate the ideas generated the previous day. The overnight testing doesn’t only serve as a stage-gate approach; it also contributes to understanding how each idea could be further improved.– resulting in a compilation of consumer feedback for each of the ideas. For the AB InBev team, it was really powerful to submit their ideas at 7PM and get polished results and recommendations first thing the next morning.

Jake Kirsch - Anheuser-Busch

“Overnight, we were able to connect with 3,000 consumers, in only about a 12-hour period. We’re using technology in order to really move faster than we’ve ever moved before and put consumers at the center in a way we never have before. Even when living and breathing innovation, it’s incredible to see how many new ideas our teams are able to generate. They continue to push the envelope, which really gives me confidence that we can lead future growth.​”

Jake Kirsch, VP Innovation at Anheuser-Busch

Next to questioning, we can distinguish five more activity types within the ‘think’ level: choice-making, reviewing, storytelling, interpreting and discussing. For more on how to apply these in your insight community work, download our bookzine ‘The power is in the mix: think, feel, do and make’.

Better Together V3: The power is in the mix

Better Together V3: The power is in the mix

Human behavior is a complex interplay between actions, cognition and emotions. In this bookzine, we showcase how to choose the right blend of ‘think’, ‘feel’, ‘do’ and ‘make’ research activities for the right business challenge.

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The Innovation Machine - an Anheuser-Busch case study

The Innovation Machine

As the world’s leading brewer, Anheuser-Busch has a strong commitment to lead future growth. To meet changing consumer needs in a category with more choice than ever before, the company overhauled their product development process in 2018. iWeek, A-B’s annual strategic innovation initiative with people centricity at the core, has evolved over the past 3 years, yielding exceptional results.

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The insight community toolbox: ‘do’ activities

We all know that what people say, does not always correspond with what they actually do. This phenomenon is also referred to as the ‘say-do gap’ and is especially visible in topics where people are prone to maintain a positive image by giving socially desirable responses. This often explains deviating election-poll results, or why stats are off for sensitive topics such as racism, substance use, smoking, or bankruptcies. Wanting to understand human behavior, it is thus not enough to focus on what people ‘think’ and ‘feel’; what they ‘do’ is another vital part of the research mix.

The insight community toolbox: ‘feel’ activities

Neuroscientists have found that if the brain’s emotions network is damaged, people would lose their ability not only to laugh or cry, but also to make decisions. Likewise, when making a decision, one does not say ‘What do I think about this’, but rather ‘How do I feel about this’. Clearly, emotions are key drivers of decision making.
This strong impact of emotions on behavior also has implications for marketing research, where ‘feel’ activities should be an integral part of the research mix.

Choosing the right research activities: the power is in the mix

For a long time, the dominant belief among philosophers, scientists and economists was that humans are driven predominantly by ratio. And this was no different for marketing researchers. But how realistic is this? Can we truly unravel and understand complex human behavior by solely focusing on their ‘thinking’?