The 5 R’s of Great Video Research

The 5 Rs of Great Video Research - Insight Platforms

Like many in our industry, I’m really excited about the potential of video to better understand people by observing their needs, attitudes and behaviour (rather than just asking questions).

Over the last 2 years at Join the Dots we’ve had a lot of success in three areas of video-based research:

  • Collecting video at speed and scale (e.g. survey voxpops and capturing in-the-moment customer experiences)
  • Mobile self-ethnography (e.g. U&As, lifestyle diaries, purchase journeys)
  • And to a slightly lesser extent, using professional filmmakers for high end video production.

There’s been a wave of fantastic technology to help drive forward this push from the likes of voxpopme, Indeemo and Watch Me Think. But to realise all the benefits from this technology, we also need to apply great research thinking, and over a number of trial studies we’ve refined our approach and come up with the 5 R’s of great video research:

  1. Reason
  2. Reflect
  3. Recruit
  4. Ready
  5. Relate


Firstly, challenge both yourself and your client about the reason why you want to collect video. There’s no point doing it just because video is the latest thing or a client stakeholder wants it. We’ve found it helpful to ask a couple of questions ourselves at the proposal stage:

  1. Are we going to use video as a communication tool to help land the insights with more impact, as a data collection tool, or both?
  2. And if we are using video for data collection, what is it going to add or replace in terms of traditional questions? Not everyone likes using video to take part, so it can be counter-productive to replace traditional questioning with videos just for the sake of it – for example with older people, or those who are happy just taking part in surveys.


Think carefully about what you are asking people to do at the research design stage, for example:

  1. How much effort are you expecting people to put in:
    • Will they have to leave the house or do anything in public like film in-store?
    • Will they have to interview others or get someone else to film them, so that you can better observe their actual behaviour?
    • Is the nature of what they are filming sensitive and to what extent is this private behaviour?
    • The reward has obviously then got to be fair and appropriate to what you’re asking them to do, not just the time but also the level of privacy that you are invading
  2. Secondly, think about the different video methods available in relation to what you want to capture. In our experience, a 1 minute vox pop is unlikely to get you any more than a talking head video with someone almost thinking as they speak. This is great for capturing in-moment service experiences and giving your presentation some impact, but if you want more consideration and reflection, then a staged set of tasks over time using mobile diary apps is more appropriate
  3. Finally, a key watchout in this area is very simple: don’t expect someone to do anything you wouldn’t also be prepared to do yourself


We’ve found that you need to invest significantly more time and effort in recruiting people who are going to give great video content. Our tips in this area are common sense really, but can be easily forgotten in the heat of running a project (in amongst all your other projects and managing clients):

  • You need to be open and honest right from the start about what you’re asking them to do, for example how much time you expect the tasks to take and the quality of footage you need
  • You need to build a relationship with people at this early stage, and get to know them a little; particularly if the behaviour you want to study is relatively private
  • Be clear about what happens to their video afterwards – especially if the client is wanting to show it to a wider audience


The next R is about getting people ready for the activity, and putting in some extra effort at this stage can reap strong dividends, whether it be a simple vox pop or a longitudinal diary task. To see the difference a bit of effort made, we ran an A/B test on a survey about breakfasts.

  • With the first group we just issued functional text-based instructions
  • But with the other group, we:
    • Told them early on in the survey that we’d be asking them to record a video
    • When it was time to do the video, first we showed our own
    • It displayed the kind of footage we wanted, the level of detail we expected and some filming tips

This delivered higher participation rates and significantly more and better content.


The fifth and final R is the importance of being able to relate to people throughout the process; from recruitment to briefing, moderation and completion of the tasks, it’s essential to build relationships of trust.

We try to think about it being a relationship between people, and not between a researcher and participant. Because we are asking people to give us a window into their lives, their relationships, their inner thoughts and feelings, their homes. So to earn that right, we must reward them and respect them and ultimately build great relationships with them.


So in summary, whilst it’s great that technology providers are giving us the ability to capture and analyse insights on video like never before, it’s equally important that researchers invest the time, effort and thinking into the design and implementation:

  1. Ensure we are collecting video for the right reasons
  2. Reflect on what we are asking people to do at the design stage and reward them appropriately
  3. Be open and honest at recruitment with what we are asking people to do and our expectations of them
  4. Support people and get them ready to produce great video content throughout the fieldwork period, and
  5. Make sure we build strong relations with our participants so we can get high those quality contributions

Because ultimately, it’s the researcher and how they use the technology that makes the difference between open-end responses simply being turned from text into video, and truly great video content.

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