Getting Emotional – exploring the value of new research methods David Howlett, Strategic Planning Director – NMR Research Worldwide & Brandphonics

At the Marketing Week Live! event on 30th June, David Howlett spoke about the need for and value of new research methods that go beyond measuring consumers’ ‘liking’ of brands.  As David pointed out, respondents who say they like a brand or even that they are likely to buy it, do not necessarily go on to do so.  We like lots of brands we don’t buy and buy lots of brands we don’t necessarily like.

Research therefore meeds to look beyond whether a consumer likes a brand and pay more attention to conceptualisation – how the mind derives liking, emotionality and functionality from the initial perception of a brand or message.  Each of these three factors influence purchase choice, so each needs to be fully understood.

For example, on a traditional measurement of liking for a soft drink (taste testing), Red Bull would never have made it out of the initial testing stage.  Despite this, Red Bull have built a strong brand by communicating the product’s functionality through their marketing.

Often, sensory factors can create an emotional response to a brand – the familiar and distinctive smell of Savlon creates associations of hygiene and even memories of childhood for many consumers.  The lemon smell of cleaning products communicates cleanliness and freshness.  Again, these emotional connections can be missed when consumers are asked to score brands on liking alone (or if they do influence liking, this connection can be easily missed)

So, if more sophisticated research methods are needed, how can this be achieved?

David went on to describe how research groups had been asked to rank a lexicon of terms such as ‘powerful’, ‘comforting’, ‘masculine’, ‘youthful’ and so on for a range of dark chocolate brands.  The same group then took part in a blind taste test and scored each of the chocolate tasted in the same way.  This allowed the researchers to compare respondents’ taste perception to their brand perception for each brand.

The results were interesting.  While Bourneville was the most liked brand on traditional methods, it was the lowest seller of those tested.  For the first time, this methodology shed some light on this.

When respondents scored the brand, they ranked strong, masculine terms most highly, while in blind taste tests, softer terms such as ‘comforting’ and ‘sophisticated’ came out most strongly.  The brand promise was far removed from the reality of the brand experience.

While this example focuses on taste, the same process can be applied to other elements of a brand equally easily.  When Tropicana changed their packaging, the disapproval from customers and resulting decrease in sales forced a re-think and a return to the traditional packaging, at considerable cost.  In this case, the ranking of terms for the old packaging matched very well with those of a blind taste test, but perception of the new packaging differed significantly. This could potentially explain why the new packaging proved so unpopular with consumers.

This method of considering consistency of brand communications and reflecting brand experience in all communications highlights the need to consider wider factors than just liking in researching consumers’ relationships with brands, and forces us to think more deeply about consumer-brand relationships.

And what did I think of the session?

I liked it.

 

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