• Abigail Sullivan

Destroy Your Understanding of Open Ends with Video Insights

Updated: May 16, 2019


Written by Jake Hansen.

On the surface level, the following sentence has one distinct meaning: “I would never eat your fries.” Now say it out loud a couple of times emphasizing a different word each time. I would never eat your fries." “I would never eat your fries." “I would never eat your fries." A vast majority of human communication is nonverbal, meaning that particular elements of communication are not able to be translated into text alone. Traditional market research studies often use open-ended question types that yield flat, or action-less, anemic results. Beyond annunciation, there is another way to understand the true meaning behind textual inflection: watching the person respond to the question directly using video capture.

Utilizing video recordings not only creates easily consumable qualitative data; but can also produce more genuine, real, and engaging data points that bring the audience to life. Does this mean that researchers should switch entirely from text-based to video-video responses for their open-end questions? No, but having the option further provides choice and freedom to the survey taker answering the question.

The idea of applying new research techniques is not about destroying other research methods, but instead about layering multi-faceted research methodologies on top of one another. This type of application allows the different type of data points to complement each other, and build a more compelling story. Having to tell a story or making a final decision based upon one dimensionless data point is painstaking, and not necessary. New methods for understanding human behavior should work in harmony with their traditional counterparts; they should not attempt to replace one another, but instead should work to elevate the other. Applying both quantified validation and providing the ability to diagnose a business problem in one data stream, allows for better insights.


Research has shown that traditional open-end responses yield approximately 14-24% of filler words such as “good” or “great." Alternatively, allowing respondents to record their answers using video increases the response yield of quality words by 6x, reducing filler words accordingly. While video responses can capture more textual data, researchers are primarily concerned with understanding the key drivers of behavior that are inaccessible at the surface level. By tapping into the System 1 brain, or the fast, automatic, and emotional way of thinking, researchers can capture deeper level emotional and non-conscious responses. This additional layer of insights can predict future behavior better than quantitative scales or simple open-ended questions. One fundamental technique, visual metaphor elicitation, leverages the fact that humans communicate primarily in a nonverbal fashion to understand responses at a level just below the consciousness. Going beyond the conscious mind allows researchers to understand what emotions respondents have; stemming from a concept, video, or question they are asked to evaluate. Visual metaphor elicitation exercises ask respondents to select and then interpret an image that best captures how they think or feel about a particular stimulus. The interpretation text is then analyzed at scale using the power of AI to quantify insights that are typically qualitative.


We as humans use metaphors to comprehend the world around us. When survey respondents are asked to respond to questions using them, they provide 36% more depth than when they answer using traditional open-end question types.

Think about how a complicated issue such as the housing market can be explained using “bubble” metaphors. Often, people discuss what it means when the market is in a “housing bubble.” Bubbles can expand with positive growth, but also "pop" when they become overvalued. Instantly, we can connect a complex construct into the pattern recognition that we developed as young children. Now imagine how this translates to the articulation and expression of adults. Incorporating video responses in online visual metaphor elicitation has been shown to increase the total verbiage and thematic codes used in “open end” responses by up to 65%. This increase allows researchers to uncover more nuance and take direct action on the emotions that drive or inform behavior. These insights are not able to be accessed by open-end responses or Likert scales. Giving respondents the option to express their visual voice using video creates a more enjoyable survey experience that avoids the all too common problem of respondent fatigue. Offering alternative response styles allows the respondent to choose how they provide their answers. Those more comfortable with anonymous text responses still have the option to do so, while those who are eager to express their thoughts through video are given the stage to do as they please. For researchers, the analysis of video responses has never been more straightforward. These responses can be transcribed and coded alongside their text counterparts captured in the same survey. The video responses can then be incorporated into reports to complement voice-overs with actual respondent voices and thoughts. Think of video open ends as not introducing another battery of questions to the barrage of questions that respondents may encounter, but rather as getting two different types of data points out of the same question: text and video open-end responses. Some of the added value benefits of incorporating video response capture into study designs include: 1. Seeing the people – Data points placed haphazardly on slides do not tell a story on their own. Instead of interpreting demographic questions as the be all end all profiler of those responding to surveys, see the individuals who are taking the study and hear their responses in their voice.

2. Demonstrating authenticity – Market researchers are not devoid of reporting biases or telling stories in a certain way because that is how they perceive what the client wants to hear. Providing videos of the responses captured confirm the authenticity of the data points and validate how the framing of insights used in research reports. 3. Uncovering more data, more stories, and more value – Capturing additional data points allow researchers to explain the meaning behind specific quantitative questions in depth. Possessing the ability to evaluate the inflection behind responses yields extra insights associated with data points that would otherwise go undifferentiated or explored. As researchers, our goal is to the utilize authentic research methodologies in the most effective ways possible. We want to work smarter not harder. Incorporating the option of video responses into your survey design can increase, and enhance, your data without adding extra time-wasting questions. Protobrand now offers video response capabilities standard across all of our projects. Provide meaning to your data today, schedule a meeting with a member of our team to discuss how you can empower respondents to provide their visual voice.


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