Getting scrappy with data and unexpected research methods



Summer 2019

“Research” is a word often associated with rigid methodologies, big price tags, slow timelines, and unactionable reports that no one will read.

We don’t like that kind of research. Research should inform and inspire. Sometimes you have to ignore traditional research rules to get those outcomes.

For Mountain Hardwear, we had a short timeframe to become experts in the outdoor industry—particularly on the climbing community. Without a formal research budget, we got scrappy with data we could access.

We spent hours bouldering and learning from climbers, understanding the jargon and climbing’s unique mental-physical link. We developed a hunch to explore the cerebral element more than just the physicality of the sport.

A 200 person survey—recruited from friends and family—validated our hunch. We didn’t ask straightforward questions about perceptions of climbing and their brand preferences. We used a psychology experiment called Metaphor Elicitation instead.

Respondents (ranging from technical climbers to casual climbers, and non-climbers) had to select 2 images they most associated with climbing. Regardless of their climbing experience, +80% chose the same two photos: a chess board and legos, noting the mental dexterity and problem-solving needed to successfully reach the top of a climb.

Our initial hunch had legs. It inspired us to run with a strategic point of view that would help Mountain Hardwear to stand out from other outdoor brands by embracing the creativity of climbing. It just took getting scrappy with our research.