Researchers’ Voice – The Beating Heart of Research

A Picture of Julie Gavrilis

The FocusVision Researchers’ Voice blog series highlights first-person stories from researchers from around the globe. Each account offers unique perspectives on collecting insights across disparate environments.

The Beating Heart of Research
By Julie Gavrilis, Principal of Jules Marketing Communications

You’ve settled in for a solid day of focus group observation. You have your tablet booted up, your discussion guide ready, a sweater on your chair for the inevitable air conditioning spike and a big bowl of M&Ms by your side (plus a bottle of Vitamin Water to somehow justify an entire day of sitting). The respondents have arrived and are getting down to business. Soon, the conversation takes a turn. Someone in the group shares a very personal and emotional moment. Something in your throat tightens, and what’s this…a tear? Sit up and pay attention at this point, dear researcher, the heart of your research is about to reveal itself.

Too often, we approach research as a science. Well duh, you say, it is a science. Yes, yes, but deep within the methodologies, exercises, statistics and reports beat the hearts of living, breathing people. This uniquely human element holds the key to true insight. And, when harnessed correctly, a little heart can result in the most effective uses of research in the real world.

The Mother of All Revelations

An example of this occurred during a series of focus groups I worked on for a brand producing early-motherhood products. On the whole, we sought to capture data points related to brand and product perceptions, likes, dislikes, media consumption, packaging preferences, etc. The usual stuff. However, as each group unfolded, a key emotional theme became clear: these young moms were exhausted. We watched from behind the glass with growing empathy as these women shared personal stories of having too much to do, and not enough time to do it. Each focus group morphed into a support group, full of laughs, tears and anecdotes. These raw emotions became the key to differentiating our client’s products in a very crowded field.

Quant Emotes Too: The Secret is in the Open Ends

I must admit to being an open end junkie. Before digging into the meat of survey responses, I go straight to the back of a report to read what respondents really think…and feel. These pages (and pages) often hold the “it” elements that will make or break the resulting product, campaign, etc. Not surprisingly, the quantitative phase of the early motherhood project unveiled some of the same emotions as the qualitative phase…in the open ends.

Can’t Stop the Feeling

The result of this blended research initiative was a branding campaign that presented a humorous, yet heartfelt take on the real world experiences of mothers with infants. The campaign included print and online placements, along with a web community (in the fledgling days of social media) that allowed mothers to share their stories and connect with each other. Response to the campaign was positive, with many moms applauding the fact that the brand presented a fun alternative to ads with cute babies and “got it”.

Discovering the heart of research involves paying attention, and moving beyond what people think to focus on what they feel. It also means not being afraid to tap into your own emotions as they reveal themselves. So, when you find yourself getting a little verklempt, grab a tissue and open your heart to the possibilities.

About the Author:

For over 25 years, Julie Gavrilis has worked in corporate, agency, non-profit and entrepreneurial environments. As Principal of Jules Marketing Communications, she has partnered directly with executive management to strategize and execute major milestone and growth initiatives. This has included significant brand activation programs for Performance Bicycle and TravelSmith, the launches of WD-40 BIKE, Itrim US, Focus Bicycles USA and Active Sports Clubs, and strategic reorganizations for Temple University and Advanced Sports, Inc. As Vice President of Business & Brand Strategy for Finch Brands in Philadelphia, she served as a senior strategist and trusted executive counselor. For more information, please visit


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