Community Narratives, also referred to as storytelling, is a qualitative research method in which a creative consumer group is encouraged to share experiences with products and to express their feelings. Consumers describe experiences or situations in their own words. The participants in the group are typically users of a category of products, not a specific brand. Both established and innovative qualitative data collection methods are used in the context of ongoing relationships within groups of target consumers. While traditional focus groups allow only a short time to probe the feelings and actions of representative consumer groups, storytelling employs multiple sessions to allow the same creative, articulate consumers to build community within their group, a process that leads to more honest communication, enhanced creativity, and increased discernment of the target product category and/or concept.
Community Narrative techniques probe beyond surface consumer attitudes, behaviors, and feelings to allow researchers to learn at a deeper emotional level than traditional sensory methods. Consumers are encouraged to express their experiences and feelings, allowing motivations and unarticulated needs to be uncovered and new insights to emerge, often by building on other group members’ ideas. Using literal and figurative exercises, the storytelling process provides focus on the researcher’s initial questions while allowing spontaneous “verbal excursions” by group members. Understanding consumer responses on product sensory attributes is a major outcome.1
1 Meilgaard, M., G. V. Civille and B. T. Carr (2007). Sensory Evaluation Techniques, 4th Ed. New Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 12: 267.