KS&R Blogs


I love metaphors. I am not alone. Metaphors have long played a key role in communicating emotions and cultural values worldwide. Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, noted that these "primordial images" emerge from our "collective unconscious" and are shared by all.

A metaphor is a method of description, a direct comparison between two unrelated things. Metaphors make connections that convey meaning, emotion, and imagery. And they do it succinctly and powerfully:
  • Our relationship has been a real rollercoaster.
  • I feel like I am dragging a great weight around with me.
  • That's a half-baked idea.

Employing metaphorical techniques in qualitative research can yield new, often unexpected, learnings and insights on brands, products, and UX design. Since logic can stifle openness and creativity, metaphorical techniques provide participants with a way of thinking differently. As a popular metaphor states, it enables participants to "think outside the box".

Personification is a metaphorical technique where an object or concept is given human characteristics or qualities:
  • The candle flame was dancing in the dark.
  • Justice is blind.

In qualitative research, participants are asked to imagine that a brand or product has come to life as a person. They are then tasked with describing his/her qualities, including physical characteristics (gender, age, size/shape); lifestyle (employment, home life, hobbies); attitudes (what he/she is proud of, personal motto, nickname); and likeability (is this someone you would want to spend time with, or avoid?).

Well-done Personification is extensile. If, for example, a women's apparel retailer is "X" type of person, you can get envision where she would vacation and how she would behave in queue -- which can serve as springboards for advertising concepts.

Personification is also highly effective when the results of the qualitative research will be reported to a culturally diverse group. When KS&R presents to a global audience, we translate the Personification into a "Facebook format" -- which readily and memorably connects clients to the information and insights.

If you are interested in learning more about metaphorical techniques in qualitative research, please contact me. If you have your own favorite metaphorical techniques, please share them!

Lynne Van Dyke