Now, anyone who has ever sat for any business presentation would surely be familiar with the iceberg.

We have seen it in many shapes and forms and is often used to establish the depths of the human unconscious (for marketers) or ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ (other disciplines).

However, today we look at it from a Research Practitioner’s viewpoint.

Credit – Idea 2022 (Only used here as reference)

The Iceberg Model

Developed by Anthropologist Edward T. Hall in the 70s, it helps explain the cultural codes that prevail in society.

Things that we see (visible) and aspects which need to be unearthed or unraveled (invisible).

The visible part is the way we live and interact everyday (What we do).

And the invisible the deeper motivations, beliefs, values, mindsets(Why do do it).

And this image outlines the right ‘Approach to Research’.


Step 1. Observe how the category and consumer behaves

(Qualitative or Quantitative Discovery)

Here the idea is to look at all the visible signs,

– behaviors, choices, rules of thumb, lifestyles, language, stying, interactions etc.

The idea is to report on ‘What there is’ (The reality as we see it)

Step 2. Uncover deeper human motivations and influences

(Qualitative Discovery)

The idea here is to understand from a psychological sense ‘The Why’

The world of habits, feelings, desires, fears, drives, needs, wants etc.

– (Status, security, intimacy, scarcity, companionship etc.)

What drives, motivates or influences the way a consumer behaves or thinks

The focus here is the individual, who is representative of the group

Step 3. Look at the broader ‘Cultural Truths’

(Thinking that needs to be done behind the scenes)

The idea here is to look at a larger ‘Philosophical truth’

– What is considered right versus wrong

– ‘What should be vs. What is’

The idea is to possibly identify and define the underlying group mindset, that encourages and justifies or discourages and vilifies the behavior.

“What is making the behavior, style, lifestyle in question mainstream or pushing it underground”.

The Real Job of a research partner is to help with surfacing and uncovering this link,

– Which is where we find insights and narratives that help build powerful brands.


– Visiting a bank today time consuming, process heavy, robotic and not enjoyable (rather stressful for normal people)

– Banking feels cold, unequal, intimidating and impersonal (I feel used)

– Banks and businesses are driven by profits only (evils of Capitalism)

Once this link is clear, it could be used to build a powerful narrative for the brand that is rooted in a consumer need and solves for a cultural tension.

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