Get Real

Research Manager, Amy Harrod feels inspired by a taboo-busting, feminine hygiene advert and gives her perspective on how we can get closer to reality in market research.

This month Bodyform launched its new campaign, ‘Blood Normal’. In an effort to make feminine care advertising more realistic, they used red liquid instead of the infamous blue liquid in their ad. The aim is to make menstruation more normal. I’m sure if you asked a group of women what getting your period felt like, they wouldn’t recall frolicking in a sunlit meadow, the setting of many feminine hygiene adverts, just as they wouldn’t talk of bleeding blue liquid.

In the same month, France also ‘got real’ – any publication of a digitally edited or airbrushed commercial image not clearly labelled as “photographie retouchée” (touched up photograph) will be punished with a fine of at least €37,500, or 30 per cent of the cost of creating the advertisement.

The world of social media, where you can portray yourself in any which way you please, even shows signs of trying to become a little more honest. Katherine Ormerod, blogger, journalist and founder of Work, Work, Work, “an anti-perfectionism project which aims to reveal and explore the non-edited challenges that women face behind the fantasy of social media”, recently shared her experiences and offered a frank, highly personal account of her journey to motherhood.

Her account reiterates what most of us have known for some time, that what you see on Social Media is not always what you get. It’s a ‘good news platform’ that avoids the harsh reality and disappointment of trying for a baby, skipping past, as she puts it, ‘the first three months of hell’, straight to the glowing mum-to-be and ignoring any extended period of actually trying to conceive.

Social Media Monitoring has been a tool at researchers’ fingertips for some time and it can be great to hear what consumers are saying about brands. It has now evolved to even allow us to ‘listen’ to more visual social media platforms such as Instagram but the results don’t always tell the whole story. How can it, when the story we are told is so heavily self-edited?

As market researchers, we know the importance of being real, with a simple aim to uncover truths to inform better decision making. We recently conducted a study with Consultants, using our ‘real time’ research app, Pickles. Using a digital diary feature, we were able to uncover the rollercoaster of raw, in the moment, emotions they experienced each day. The day’s events were uploaded onto the app as they happened and the beauty of a mobile platform is it slots in to respondents’ real life.

I moderated the discussions, just as I have moderated focus groups with the same audience. Pickles allowed me to get closer to the Consultants, building a relationship with them over 10 days, rather than 2 hours. Witnessing their highs and lows as they happened made for a much more real account. They built stronger relationships with each other too and in a space that began to feel familiar, shared truths more readily. If something went wrong that day, from work place bullying and excessive admin to bed shortages, excessive unplanned clinics and one particularly moving account from a Paediatrician, it was all uploaded onto Pickles.

The Pickles app allows us to live digitally alongside our respondents, gathering real-time insight in a more realistic setting (the familiarity of social media and chat apps). It is staking a claim to be the useful tool needed to research taboo topics.

I wonder if the feminine hygiene brands did their “real” research when they set out on their creative pathways for their ad campaigns…

For more information on Pickles or how Mustard can help you get closer to reality, contact Amy on +44 (0)161 235 5270 or email