5 Whys Technique in Market Research

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Review of: Market Research Technique - the 5 whys

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On January 3, 2014
Last modified:October 25, 2014


Using the 5 whys in market research is helpful and pragmatic. Watch this video to learn more.

The 5 Whys technique, from Taiichi Ohno, is an effective technique traditionally used to arrive at root causes of a problem. But, the method can also be used in other interesting and valuable ways. One could use the 5 Whys to create Customer Support Pages; another way is to use the 5 Whys can be used in qualitative interviews for product research.

Latent Needs

I don’t know where I first heard it, but I believe that 90% of mental processing happens in the without us being conscious of it. We process signals, clues, emotions, moods – without us even being aware that we’re doing it. If this is true, then we have needs and thoughts that we aren’t able to verbally articulate because we’re not aware of them in the first place.

This is why customer surveys in product research don’t always work. The adage about the iPod rings true here – that if customers were asked about their music listening habits and what they wanted, none would have asked for an iPod – they would’ve asked for a better Walkman.

Using the 5 Whys for Market Research

But, using the 5 Whys can be helpful in qualitative interviews that can get us closer to those latent and unarticulated needs. Here’s an example 1:

General Mills does this with qualitative interviews, but after the respondent answers a question, the interviewer answers the respondent with another question focused on trying to get the conversation to a more abstract or emotion level. For example, you might get an interview like this:

Q. Why did you pick out Cheerios when you selected a breakfast cereal?

A. Because it tastes pretty good and it’s low fat.

Q. Why is it important to you that a cereal is low fat?

A. Well, I heard that the oats in Cheerios make a difference in lowering your cholesterol levels.

Q. And why is it important to lower your cholesterol levels?

A. Well, I have a three year old son, and I want to be around for him when he’s older, because you know I had an uncle that died of heart disease, and I don’t want that to happen to me.

This approach helps to surface latent needs and also provides marketers with more emotional and captivating messages for their product – messages that resonate with customers because it addresses a latent need.

  1. http://www.quora.com/How-do-you-identify-latent-customer-needs/answer/Jon-Pennington-1/quote/1061490

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