Global or Local: Do global tools always provide local insights?

Mar 31 2016

As the StoryWorks Visual Think cards have been developed and used over the past two years, one of the most common questions from clients and collaborators is about the cross-cultural suitability of a set of standard images. Is it important to have locally adapted stimulus to capture local cultural insights?


TapestryWorks have found in other work that the cultural “background” of images does not fundamentally change the ideas that are communicated or the choices that people make between different cards, but it certainly helps them to correctly identify the relevant emotion more quickly and accurately. After all, emotions are human universals, and while the relative importance of different goals does change from culture to culture, the need for all of them at different time does not.

In fact, in qualitative work, we often find that images from a range of cultures can trigger and inspire deeper cultural insights, through understanding the different ways in which some images are chosen and interpreted. However, when using images in quantitative research, it becomes very important to understand the likely meaning that an image unlocks.

That doesn’t mean that images should be as specific as possible. There is an important balance between images that are too ambiguous to have a consistent meaning across cultures and those which are too specific and therefore often interpreted far too literally. A small amount of metaphor can go a long way … So there is always a balance to strike.

TapestryWorks have now developed sets of cards designed for African, Western and Asian cultures as well as for work with young children. Having a large pool of images helps us to design bespoke card sets for each study, not just to reflect the specificities of particular cultures, but also to reflect the realities of the specific business challenge and human behaviour that we want to understand. For example, it makes sense to use different cards to understand the differences between how men perceive male beauty and women perceive female beauty.

Our latest set are specifically designed for work in Asia (see below).

If you would like to know more about how you can use imagery to understand the emotions that drive your customers behaviour, please get in touch. We would love to talk with you.

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