Using prompts in the questionnaire

Show cards are frequently used to provide the respondents with prompted answers in face-to-face interviews. In self-completion inter-views the prompts are provided with the question, either on a paper questionnaire or on-screen with a web-based questionnaire. With tele­phone interviews the prompts are frequently read out or, if they are to be repeated, as with a scale, respondents are sometimes asked to write them down.

Prompts can be scale points, attitudinal phrases, image dimensions, brands, income ranges or anything that the questionnaire writer wants to use to guide the respondents or to obtain reaction to. They can be purely verbal or they can utilize pictures, illustrations or logos. However, it is important to be clear about the different jobs that verbal and pictorial stimuli do.

Picture prompts

Pictures can be used in a number of different ways as prompts. If they are to be used, then questionnaire writers must be careful to ensure that they know exactly what role the pictures are playing.

1. Brand awareness

One use of picture prompts is to show brand logos or icons instead of a list of brand names, in order to measure prompted brand awareness. With CAPI and web-based interviews this is easy to do, and is often included in order to make the interview more interesting for the respon­dent. However, questionnaire writers should be aware that they might be changing the question.

Prompted awareness is a question of recognition. If a list of names is used, then the respondents are being asked which of the names they recognize. If brand logos are shown, then the question becomes which of the logos they recognize. The researcher infers awareness of the brand through recognition of the logo. This is likely to be higher than simple name recognition, as the logo gives more clues. The improve­ment in apparent brand awareness is likely to be stronger for the smaller brands in a market. Prompted awareness of Coca-Cola does not require the use of a visual prompt in order to be very high amongst carbonated drink users. There is little opportunity for visual prompts to make an improvement. But for smaller brands, the opportunities for improvement offered by visual prompts are much greater. The total average number of logos recognized per respondent is usually likely to be greater than the average number of brand names from a simple list. Neither approach is necessarily incorrect, but each is likely to give a different level of response.

2. Likelihood to purchase

When asking likelihood to purchase, much more information is given to respondents if a pictorial stimulus is used. Rather than show a list of brands and prices, a mocked-up shelf can be shown as in Figure 7.5. The cues and information that are given by the pack shots mean that respon­dents do not have to rely on memory and recall of the brands when making their decision. Price information can easily be excluded, included or changed as required.

3. Brand image

Showing logos can also alter the responses to questions about brand image. It is normal to establish prompted brand awareness before asking about images of certain brands. If prompted brand awareness is estab­lished using a list of names, then the mental picture taken into the image question is the image of the brand as it exists in isolation within the respondents’ minds. The image is purely what the brand name stands for and the images that are associated with it.

After prompting with a logo or pack shot, however, respondents are given clues and reminders of what the brand is trying to stand for. The logo or pack will have been designed to reflect the desired brand posi­tioning and may well communicate something of those values to the respondents in the interview, or at least act as a reminder of them. The image question is therefore also prompted with at least a partial reminder of the brands’ desired postionings, which is likely to yield slightly differ­ent responses.

Again it is not a question of one approach being incorrect. Using a brand list may be described as giving a ‘purer’ measure of image. This is an image, it can be argued, that the potential purchasers have in their minds before leaving home to go shopping, and it will act upon their intent to purchase the brand. But it can be equally argued that most brands are rarely seen without their logos, and that it is the image in the purchasers’ minds at the point of purchase, when there are likely to be many visual cues, that is important.

The questionnaire writer should consider which is the more appropri­ate approach for the market in question, and decide which approach to use accordingly.

4. Advertising recognition

Showing advertising to establish recognition is a particular case of showing picture prompts. Except for radio advertising, it is difficult to establish advertising recognition without the use of picture prompts. These often consist of a series of stills taken from the advertisement in question, known as a storyboard. This may or may not include the script of the characters or voice-over. It also may or may not have all references to the brand removed, depending on whether being able to name the correct brand is to be asked. With CAPI and web-based interviewing, however, there is a choice between showing a storyboard and showing the actual ad as film. The two methods will generally lead to different responses, with higher awareness recorded among respondents shown the film.

For press and poster ads, copies of the actual ad can be shown. It may be necessary to use a reduced format from the actual size (particularly for posters), in which case there should be an explanation that it has been reduced.

Source: Brace Ian (2018), Questionnaire Design: How to Plan, Structure and Write Survey Material for Effective Market Research, Kogan Page; 4th edition.

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