Improvisational Comedy Fosters a Winning Brand Optimization Strategy

by Jeanette Hodgson | Apr 25, 2017

They say that laughter is cheap medicine, but it may also greatly benefit healthcare market researchers by uncovering the true emotional drivers of behavior.

Custom qualitative research is designed to reveal elusive, subliminal drivers to behavior. Over time, we have experimented and successfully adapted a variety of approaches inspired by psychology and behavioral science, but despite some success in this area approaches available to us usually require an element of rationalization by the respondent either in the elicitation or in the post-analysis phase. As a result, we often find ourselves asking overly contrived questions and expecting people to respond enthusiastically to very dry stimulus. It's no surprise that we end up wondering why their answers are not enlightening or fail to provide any new understanding as to who they are as people and how they relate to the subject matter.

These limitations prompted us to explore how we could use emotion to elicit emotion. For people to be fully immersed in what they feel, we need to create a setting where their guard is down and their instinctive thoughts and feelings are more readily exhibited without an engaged, cognitive filter. We've found that qualitative researchers can create this lower-stress, engaging atmosphere through the creative influence of improvisational comedy.

The Power of Improv in Healthcare Market Research
Laughter is a nonverbal, universal communicator. Of the six universal emotions, it has been shown to be the most easily recognizable across cultures as an indicator of happiness, and can open the doors to personal disclosure and express instinctive response in a way that may surprise even the respondents themselves.


The stimulus of improvisational comedy can create an environment where custom qualitative research enables people to connect with themselves and others and respond to what they are seeing and hearing at an emotional level. This, in turn, enables qualitative researchers to probe deeper into feelings without the associated trappings of traditional qualitative research.

One way this can be achieved is by using improv performers to act out a number of scenes relating to a specific aspect of the subject matter and then examine with participants what they connected within these scenes. Doing this exercise over a period of a couple of hours enables researchers to build rapport between improv performers and participants and explore areas in increasing depth and focus.

The success we see in working with improv actors resides fundamentally in the creation of a safe environment in which people feel they can be free to express their thoughts and emotions in a heartfelt and visceral way, often with highly personal characterizations. The atmosphere created by the actors is highly stimulating and emotive, encouraging people to respond in emotional ways. Through improv, it’s immediately  clear what makes them laugh, but what we really need to understand is what is it about these people and their lives that created the empathy from which this response is generated. To do this, we ask them to tell us stories about their own lives prompted by the improvisation that they have just seen.

Using improv in custom qualitative research provides a powerful platform. It —

  • Enables consumers to rapidly engage at a deeply emotional level on any subject matter.
  • Leads to personal stories and emotional territories that, in turn, can stimulate brand and communications development.
  • Rapidly delivers holistic results and next steps because actions are built around the real-time use of a multidisciplinary team with all agendas addressed concurrently.

Leave a comment

More than one Google Analytics scripts are registered. Please verify your pages and templates.