The Yarnell Difference

Through years of experience, Yarnell has developed a unique design framework for marketing research we call Decision Dynamics. Part art, part science, this “window into the why” – a wider gateway to understanding how consumers choose technology products and solutions – provides an insightful foundation for product positioning, concept testing, brand management and developing solutions to other marketing challenges.

We ask the right people the right questions to identify the values and rules that govern decisions and understand the context in which the decisions are decisions.

Our Approach Qualitative Design Principles

Our Approach: Decision Dynamics

Our Decision Dynamics approach incorporates much of what we’ve learned in more than 30 years of conducting marketing research projects for global technology clients. With our Decision Dynamics approach we have effectively addressed a range of recurring marketing issues – especially new product and services development, positioning, branding, and naming.

Concept Tests

Our approach to new product concept testing is based on three principles: Environment, Presentation, and Evaluation.


The existing IT environment influences and provides the context for a respondent’s reaction to a new product concept. And since respondents in different computing environments often react differently, a background environment discussion is a critical part of every focus group or interview.


Focus groups and interviews are disruptive, intrusive, and artificial. Respondents are presented with a product concept description – often about novel products or emerging technologies – and asked to do in a few minutes what could take weeks or months: make informed assessments that will guide engineers, developers, and marketers in bringing a product to market.

The requirements can vary wildly, based on whether the concept describes a second-generation product or an emerging technology. It’s critical to present concepts in a manner that will elicit reliable feedback.
Depending on the features being tested, we may include descriptions of competitive technologies to provide a context, present pricing information in relative terms, and provide usage scenarios that help respondents understand innovative technologies.

Technology Environment Scenarios™

We use Technology Environment Scenarios to evoke customer reactions to new products. Respondents are presented with well-defined environments (scenarios) that include descriptions of new technologies, then asked to project themselves into the environments.

By taking their behavior as a benchmark, we can distinguish what respondents say they think they will do from what they are likely to do when confronted with new products and technologies.


There are many approaches to evaluating concept positioning. In consumer marketing, the desired positioning is often referred to as the “unique selling proposition,” and marketing communications based on it are “single-minded.” But authority relationships make decision making more complex in organizations and families – so they must be taken into account.

Justification Analysis

Few people in a company make decisions that don’t have to be justified. But a decisionmaker may find a particular choice compelling for reasons other than what he explains to others.

When positioning a product or service, it’s important to be sensitive to both points of view: the IT manager’s personal motivations as well as the socially acceptable reasons for his actions.

Concept Image Maps

Brands are a psychological network of associations with varied components, affective relationships, and density. In branding research, we often use “Concept Image Maps” – a cognitive elicitation technique – to help reveal these networks. When appropriate, we also use traditional projective techniques (e.g., ‘Obituaries’).

Qualitative Design Principles

Irrespective of the method we recommend or the techniques we employ, talking with the right people is imperative to achieve productive results. We place a premium on rigorous screening, and our field director partner ensures quality control.

We work closely with clients to understand their business objectives and use the appropriate research methods and techniques.

Research Design Principles

The research design principles we have developed over the years address a variety of types of projects. Please contact us to learn how we may apply them for your research needs.

Usage Studies

  • Rather than imposing a typology, we ask users to provide their own product categories.
  • Respondents provide their own narrative for the use of the product. Often we use scenarios to direct their focus.
  • Where appropriate, we provide respondents with cameras to record their product usage and the environment/context in which it occurs.
  • We probe wants/needs and pain points with particular attention to uncovering latent issues.

New Product Concept Tests

  • Decision making occurs in a specific context or frame of reference: the competition.
  • To ensure reliable concept tests, novel and innovative features must be explained, especially for naïve buyers.
  • One way we solve the problem of “technology being too new to evaluate” is with Technology Environment Scenarios™.
  • Private assessments always precede open discussion.

Feature Prioritization Studies

  • The description of the features must be clear to reduce ambiguity.
  • It’s important to present and explain new or novel features or capabilities, but not discuss why the respondent should care about them.
  • If respondents don’t see an ultimate benefit the moderator can reveal it. (E.g., “What if I told you that feature X produces benefit Y?”). If the benefit is significant, a communication challenge has been revealed.
  • Having respondents indicate their feature preference is insufficient. We need to open the “window into the why.”
  • Private assessments always precede open discussion.

Product Positioning Studies

  • It is important to distinguish between what appeals and convinces the target vs. how the target will explain his decision to others.
  • The frame of reference (e.g., category in which competing) is key in developing and testing positioning statements.
  • Brand provides key context for evaluating positioning statements.
  • Respondents need to assess positioning statements privately before discussing them openly.
  • We recommend no more than 5 clearly different positionings.

Purchase Process Studies

  • We prefer individual depth interviews to focus groups to understand the purchase process and provide a single narrative of the decision.
  • We ask the respondent to provide a step-by-step reconstruction of a recent purchase/selection decision: who-what-when-where-how-why.
  • It is important to understand how the decision maker frames the problem; we let the respondent describe the process rather than impose a set of fixed stages.
  • Rule following reasons for choice are often under-appreciated compared to goal following reasons.

Message & Copy Test Studies

  • It’s important to distinguish between copy points (images, videos, etc.) that appeal to and convince the target vs. those he will use to explain his decision to others.
  • We strive to capture respondent reactions both while they view the copy and afterward, when they have a more holistic retrospective.


When clients need projects that entail both qualitative and quantitative components, we deliver total ‘best of breed’ expertise by collaborating with world-class quantitative companies.