By Rupert Blackwell, September 2022

A decade ago this week I was working on a project for a car brand, evaluating an after-sales service programme it had launched the year before. I don’t really remember the details of the project: probably it was looking at what owners knew and thought about the initiative, what improvements could be made; the usual. What I do remember, though, which is why I know it was exactly ten years ago, is that the fieldwork coincided with the London Olympics.

The response to the initiative, particularly at an emotional level, was borderline ecstatic: a complete game-changer; unique in the market; a demonstration that the car brand was truly on the side of owners and really cared, and so on. The groups were also a doddle to run: participants were relaxed, chatty and, importantly, highly engaged, which was quite striking because, well, we were talking about an after-sales service programme.

I always wondered whether some of this was down to the positive national mood of the time, with the good feelings generated by Olympics spilling over into the groups. We did a follow-up study later that year in November – looking at some improvements we’d suggested in the first project – and the response to the scheme, though still pretty good, was nothing like as positive, so perhaps the Olympic spirit had been an unconscious factor originally.

It would be an interesting idea to test.

Does the wider national mood affect participants’ attitudes and behaviour in qualitative research?

Now would be good for the gloomy mood stage, given what’s going on in the country and the wider world. But God knows when you’d do the positive mood comparative stage. Maybe in September when there’s a new prime minister safely installed…