C2C a great fit for market researchers

The Honda Fit.
The Honda Fit.

Reggie Williams took many lessons away from his role as team leader on a Close to the Customer project that involved helping Honda plan a redesign of its popular subcompact car, the Fit.

“The Honda project was my first as part of the C2C and I learned that there may not be a clear-cut question from a client,” said Williams, who completed his psychology degree spring term. “Coming up with multiple solutions is helpful, as well as taking into consideration client needs and specifics of the market when coming up with a solution.”

The project involved Honda wanting “to get a feel for Instagram and what people were posting about their Honda Fit,” said Amanda Terhes, director of the C2C. “The exciting part for students was when they asked, ‘how do we do this,’ we said, ‘I don’t know but we’ll figure it out.’”

The student team led by Williams ended up pulling approximately 1,000 Honda Fit photos from Instagram and then categorized them thematically – e.g., by what activity they were being used for.

The themes were used to create topic guides for field research by marketing professor Jim McAlexander in the Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles areas. McAlexander conducted six one-on-one interviews with customers and also did nine triads – a triad is a mini focus group of three people.

McAlexander, whose contacts in the auto industry paved the way for C2C being granted the project, presented the results to Honda. The results are understandably proprietary as Honda prepares to execute the redesign of the Fit in five or six years — in such a way that the four-door, front-wheel-drive vehicle still appeals to current customers and potentially attracts new, first-time Fit owners as well.

Williams’ student team included finance major Chris Koenig and MBA student-to-be Jill Wells, plus a sociology major.

“It’s great to have a team with different backgrounds and diverse perspectives and approaches,” Williams said. “A lot of psychology goes into market research, understanding and eventually trying to influence behavior. Thinking outside of the box but at the same time maintaining structure and providing valid results is fundamental to the art of marketing research. It helped that we had a great staff of professors and our director who allowed us creative control and input while guiding us through the process.”

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