Monday, June 18, 2007

Measuring Love

I read recently that someone looked into 100 women’s purses. The reason? To get consumer insights. Now, that’s more like it. One of the things that I find constantly amazing is people who ask me how do you measure love? My answer is, intuitively, the same way you decide to give love or accept it. So here’s some love measurement ideas based around the spirit of the purse quest I have just mentioned. Here’s a few questions you can ask:

  • What things do you own that you always have a spare of. (I’m not talking automobile tires here but that extra pack of soap powder or the spare can of soda in case things run out).
  • Can you think of anything you purchase that would make you very upset if it ran out?
  • What do you pack in your suitcase when you go on holiday?
  • What things are always in your car that were not there when you purchased it?
  • What do you always carry with you?
  • What three things would your children fight for the hardest if you said you were going to remove them from their bedroom?
That’s how you measure love. Keep it personal, keep it focused on daily life and make it fun.


Susan956 said...

Wait for it..wait for it.. I WILL advocate the exception(s) to the rules as I often do :)

A few years ago after the Canberra fires I posed a question on a museum listserv I belonged to:
"If you were only able to rescue three of your museum items what would they be? Order from most important to be rescued down (just in case the fire overtakes you)"

This really piqued the interest of several curators and was insightful in other directions e.g. museums that housed hugely heavy or large items argued they may only be able to rescue one and thus focused on that 'one' (this related to folks at steam train/aeroplane museums and the like).

One of the curators took the idea and amended it for a museum display asking many of their "friends of" to nominate the one item they would rescue if a fire or flood loomed and then displayed their choice with a narrative piece (Susan loves narrative). I suggested removing photos from the choice array as many would default to that.

In looking through Kevin's questions I always carry my asthma spray and water no matter where I am. But that's nothing to do with love, it's about feeling secure.

The 'love' would kick in re items that would run out or that I generally have spare of. Mineral water is a big one for me (and a certain brand).

I really like the purse idea and consider it an insightful modality..HOWEVER.. I will always look for or be naturally prodded by the exceptions...

So, in this day and age and given relative crime rates in certain suburbs, many women I know don't carry what they 'love', they carry what is functionally necessary (and yes, there may be overlaps).

'What is necessary' may be as important as love of course and for the individual may even have greater value (depending on whether sentimentality is attached to 'love').

In 2006 a well known removals company broke 80% of my household belongings. I could deal with the washing machine, dryer, fridge, dining table and many other items being broken BUT an old cedar mirror pulled off an old wardrobe with scour marks across it's surface almost broke my heart. 'Time' in itself attaches us to items and I think of the craftsman a 100 years ago who made it.


When people ask how can love be measured that is a quantitative question and not qualitative. There are various responses. The one I just offered e.g. It can't be as such because it is a quality. One can only give broader ratings etc.

But that may become a little dry...

One can look at the person with a benign eye and pose. "Why do you wear blue ties?" or "Why do you wear red shoes?"

One can enquire, "How do you measure the love you have for your mother, father, child...?"

Or, one can get Zen and ask:

What sound does love make?
and walk away slowly looking guru like.


Kempton said...

Hi Kevin,

All lady readers out there please be advised, as a man, I am about to "insert foot into my mouth" by commenting on what you carry in your purses. Oh, man, (oops, lady), am I crazy or what?

I love the idea of looking into 100 women's purses to get consumer insights (and as a documentarian, also a small pieces of their soul, the idea of who they are as a person and their stories). To me, it is a great first step but it will be a lost if we just look at a snap shot of these purses by looking at them once. If I were doing the study, I would be looking at the same group of 100 purses periodically, possibly every month, or three months, etc.

I want to see what are they "using"/"consuming". I am a lazy bump, I would just take out my digital camera and take a picture of everything (along side a ruler or something, and possibly put them on scales and weight them) to capture how fast are things being consumed or items being changed. An example will be having lipsticks extended in full so that the pictures will capture "how much" it has been used. Here is a thought experiment, if she carries three lipsticks of three brands/colours, the speed of the consumption tells me important information about these three brands/colours. And I think the makers of these lipsticks may find it interesting to know.

Kevin, sorry to have my feeble attempt to redesign the experiment you mentioned. I guess I am not contend, and I want to play with the experiment a little. I never give up a good chance to redesign something to make it more interesting.

Oh, and here is an "insert foot into my mouth" comment. I think some women carry things in their purses for security, those items have nothing to do with love. They feel the need to have them in the purse "just in case". In fact, I will go deeper (i.e. foot deep inside my mouth), the women just think that they need those things but they actually don't. And I can probably slowly removing items one by one without them noticing the change. Disclaimer: To save my life, these observations were _not_ based on my better half's purse. Oh man, I am very dead. (smile)

Now, the first question "What things do you own that you always have a spare of." may be view as a love question. But it can be easily _answered_ in the mindset of a _security question_. It is the "feeling secure" as mentioned by Susan.

Now, I feel obliged to tell this one more story, basically to give credit. How do you tell what colours do a group of grade school kids love? Or what your kids love? Well, you can ask them directly -- What colours do you like? And you will get a set of answers. But there is a much better way. I have learned from the insightful Jerry Hirshberg, founding director of Nissan Design International, that asking questions may give you less reliable answers than simply opening up their Crayola crayons or coloured pencils and _see_ what colours have been used the most. And those are the colours that group of kids like and may be a safe bet for used to make their chairs or paint the rooms.

Now, my idea of taking pictures of the purses items used by ladies and capturing their speed of use is just, to me, a variation of Jerry's insights.

I hope I don't sound boring as I can tell my comments are getting rather long on interesting posts.

Best Regards,

P.S. For those that cares, I highly recommend Jerry Hirshberg's 1999 book
The Creative Priority : Putting Innovation to Work in Your Business. A classic and full of insights and it is not about car designs. It is about your business in general.

News on Jerry's retirement:

Anonymous said...

Kevin - another question - about what you love - where do you go, do or retire to when you are stressed or need comfort? For me its a drive with the top down - taking the plane out for a sort flight - relaxing with family with a good movie and cup of tea.

Great questions - great insights - be well - Rich

Susan956 said...


Did you know that certain schooling systems will NOT allow children to have access to (therefore use) certain crayon/pencil colours? Does knowing this impact upon your proposed study? :)

Now Kempton, as to the woman purse thing (the term 'man purse' does nothing for me and kicks off all manner of 'bad' images in my grey cells *grin*), how would you tell the usage of say..tampons. I can guarantee that most women who have a menstruation cycle will have a tampon in their purse. How would you know usage on that if one is simply swapped for another? Same for panty liners? I have to grin again as this is a slightly naughty question. If the brand changed then you would probably see a different shape, colour stripe or similar and maybe in this case knowing usage wouldn't be terribly important.

Oh, and, is the woman one who will lend her lipstick to friends while out? Or, has a little girl (or boy!) who has delved into her bag and played with her makeup?

Ain't devil's advocacy grand :)

Pictorial images in research can be extremely important and valuable. We may tend to think mostly of either scientific or ethnographic research images (from neutrons to Margaret Mead) and yet both still and moving image claim quite a place these days in fields such as autoethnography (that I completed my PhD in). In this modality paintings, poetry et al claim appropriate positions as research expressions.

Back to your photo images of the purse contents..many people have slips of paper with phone numbers, a brief private/personal would you address the person's concern about privacy and the privacy of others vis taking a snap? (By the way, I'm not being that mean as university ethics committees run people by just such issues and there are ways to respond to all the issues I raised without necessarily being about to account 100% for all).

I DO like the concept of longevity studies and think they have much to lend certain understandings. I should empty out my bag (not purse) and tell you the contents and you could rorscharch the same.

Oh, and is 'purse' different than 'bag'? My purse contains cards, a two bank books (one current and one old) and a ton of receipts and nothing else at all. My handbag is different. Mind you, all those receipts are my socio economic status, what I regularly buy, a little about my health perhaps (e.g. receipt for an asthma spray) and so on.


Susan956 said...

anonymous...You didn't ask me however, although I suspect it's beginning to shift a little..I tend to seek comfort either through hopping into a warm bed and reading an Agatha Christie or similar or watching a DVD like Darling Buds of May or something soft, warm, loving and soothing that doesn't ask much of my brain and is 'oh so gentle' in theme.

I'm scared of plane flight so the concept of taking a flight it anathema..arrgghhh! :)

Susan956 said...

"is" anathema..


Two thoughts came to mind today. One was about friendship and 'measuring' this. As my earlier comments allude, measurement is problematic if one is purely looking for quantifiable parameters however, words are what we make them of course and how we contexualise and deal with words shape shifts meaning.

I have friends back in the rural area I lived in. I had to request a favour last night and they came to the party. Meeting my request will certainly inconvenience one of them and although I have done all I can to minimise this, no doubt life as he would like it for a number of hours won't happen in order to help me out. A shift for him will mean a potential adjustment for his wife and family. I am extremely grateful because their willingness means MY life conditions will improve.

So, coming to the party even in the face of inconvenience is a real act of friendship to me. I am also reminded too of willingness/reluctance to ask for help. I know some folks who would not want to risk or who would be afraid of a 'no' and so wouldn't ask.

Friendship therefore is such a field of exchange.


Re the purse. I was also reminded today of measuring love by the actual purse itself. On various lifestyle or craft/art forums I have been involved with, individual women talk passionately about a particular purse or bag and what they intend to do in order to purchase the same. Some save over a couple of months, some try to do extra jobs in order to pay for the item. Some try to make a close alternative themselves! I saw, for example, a lovely item made recently which was almost an exact copy of a purse selling for US$150.

What people are prepared to do for love or to 'have' the item of their adoration is also an interesting topic.

These issues dovetail marketing I believe.

Kempton said...

Hi Susan,

I am sure Kevin, our kind host here, won't say it but I feel our discussion is getting lengthy and better taken off line than taking up space at Kevin's blog. May be you can email me directly if you like. My email address is displayed at my blog.

Kevin, thanks for letting us chat here once in a while.


Susan956 said...


Is it not as feasible that Kevin is pleased to see a different layer of life emerging here?

I would, gently, recommend you allow Kevin to speak up if he has a problem. If he didn't want responses he wouldn't have an option here to leave the same OR there would be some 'rule' list set up to set a word length parameter et al. I don't observe any such list.

I for one am aware that others are enjoying the dialogue (they have sent me messages to say this) so, I would let the flow happen. Certainly others may join in and I'd welcome that.