What is a Market Research Scrapbook and How Can it be Used?

Annette Smith

Pitch It: The Business Case for Customer Salience

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Emily James

    Once upon a time a time, scrapbooking was redolent of sitting with a pair of scissors, a pot of glue and some coloured paper and cutting and pasting magazine images, post cards and concert tickets. In fact, ‘offline’ scrapbooking is a major industry with retailers like Hobbycraft devoting significant shelf space to the accoutrements of the process by which enthusiasts document and record their own and their families’ lives.

    However, now the online scrapbooking and image sharing age is well-and-truly upon us with an explosion in online user submitted imagery. Since late 2013, Twitter has been showing images in tweets but in 2015 Instagram overtook Twitter in terms of the number of global users whilst Pinterest has doubled the size of it user base in the UK. Snapchat is allowing its users to send ephemeral, self-destructing visual messages where a picture does say a thousand words (or at least 140 characters!).

    In terms of research, scrapbooking can be a powerful tool because it allows participants to build up a collection of visual ‘ideas’ for discussion and to use as stimulus in follow-on activities. Pinterest itself can be a useful tool for market researchers but dedicated marketing research scrapbooks are particularly effective for topics relating to lifestyle, which is a good fit with many market research projects.

    Individual or Collaborative?

    Scrapbooks can be:

    1. Individual - in these, participants all create their own personal visual boards. Researchers can comment and probe further with these.
    2. Collaborative - in these, users are able to post pictures to a pool where they can comment on and question each other’s images and thus create a discussion.

    Individual scrapbooks are useful when you may have a topic which may feel too personal for users to wish to share photos with other participants, or where you want participants to build up a certain number of images themselves without being affected by other users’ input.

    They can also be used as projective techniques, for example asking participants to collate images that they associate with a particular concept, mood or product. You can then probe deeper to ask them why they have these associations and look for interesting commonalities across and differences between the images.

    However, individual scrapbooks do mean that you can’t benefit from insights emerging from image-based discussions between participants that you may get with group scrapbooks.

    Collaborative group scrapbooks allow participants to collate images on a particular topic, for example, what’s in their kitchen store cupboard, their bathroom cabinet or even on their Christmas trees! The latter is a good example of how group scrapbooking can also be used as a tool to enhance community cohesion and engagement. You could also ask respondents to collaborate to build up a set images relating to what they feel are the must-have features of a particular product, or service or to compare similar products across the market.


    Another application of market research scrapbooks is to showcase a product range or feature set to elicit customer comments. Here, rather than asking participants to upload their own images, the researcher uploads a series of images for participants to comment on. The advantage of this over question board focus groups or similar tools is that scrapbooks give participants the opportunity to see an overview of the complete collection of images pinned to the board.

    You can then ask participants to comment directly on the images, products etc., to critique or question them or even to invent product descriptions. Further, you could ask participants to add their own images which may show features which are lacking in the range of images you have uploaded for them to view or examples of what not to do!

    Taking it Further

    Scrapbooks can be an ideal pre-task for a live chat focus group or question board focus group. By asking participants to build up a pool of images and comment on and ask questions about them you can get them into the mind-set required to then discuss the topic in more detail. For example, if you were discussing requirements for a range of children’s wear with mums of young children, getting the participants to compile a scrapbook of what they’ve seen elsewhere – including what they love and what they’re not so keen on – can help to them identify the key requirements for a children’s range and more able to discuss that in the focus group.

    Further, you can also use the collected images during the course of the online focus group as stimulus to prompt and draw out participants during the group, or even compile several images for them to comment on using a smartboard.


    Market research scrapbooks are a god-send when it comes to reporting. Stakeholders love to have a visual representation of and insight into their customers’ lives and the images you collect and discussion of them really bring your report to life as well as adding literal colour and interest. If you are intending to do this it is worth establishing up-front with participants how the images they submit will be used, especially if they are likely to upload their own images of their homes, families etc. Similarly, if participants are uploading images which they do not have copyright to and which you want to include in the report, this limits the scope for distribution of the report. Further, it is worth clarifying with all stakeholders the limits of distribution of the report and associated images.

    Have you successfully used scrapbooking as part of a research project? What are your experiences? What about the challenges? And what features would you really like to see in market research scrapbooks tools in the future? Let us know in the comments below.

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