Archive for October, 2016

Finding Familiar Among the Foreign: Strengthening the Connection Between Customers and New Products

Posted on: October 25th, 2016 by doyle

From the desk of Carole Schmidt, Doyle Research Associates


Every product developer or brand manager’s worst nightmare is that the innovations they launch don’t move a muscle and, instead, “collect dust” whether on the real or virtual sales shelf.  Many of these products didn’t start out that way.

At the Institute of Food Technologists’ show this past summer, algae generated considerable attention as an important new ingredient, bountiful and cheap. Imagine the possibilities, they say! Envision the cool new foods! Try these algae cubes…here’s a delicious algae milk…wait until you taste these algae tubes, a cool new snack. As experienced researchers, we instantly recognized the cautious enthusiasm among fellow innovators at the show, also prospective shoppers/buyers. “Oh yeah, this is amazing,” they stated loudly for colleagues to hear, “I’d buy this for sure.”

Don’t get me wrong here. I am passionate about innovation. I salivate over being part of the fuzzy front end and new-to-the-world product development. But as a skilled observer of human behaviors, I find myself warning that while new for the sake of “innovation” may generate excitement, excitement alone does not generate sales.

So what’s a product developer to do? To succeed with new—the foreign—among shoppers/buyers, there also needs to be the familiar. What this means is that when you have an innovative proposition, there need to be elements of familiarity to help the shopper/customer know, for example, how to use the product, understand why to buy the product, or grasp when to use the product. Take that same algae and blend it into a smoothie, and now, hmmmm, that’s not so weird, is it?

A great example is the new savory Greek yogurts (cucumber, olive oil, mint and basil, anyone?).  I project we will see these products in mainstream consumers’ refrigerators. While the savory flavor profiles are certainly new to, and unexpected in, this category (the foreign), the billion-dollar Greek yogurt industry is already wildly popular with consumers as a healthier, protein-centric food (the familiar). This combination peaks consumers’ interest while simultaneously instilling intuitive confidence to try these new entries, half the challenge of a new product launch. Even the emerging recreational marijuana industry recognizes this behavior as proprietors in recreationally-legal marijuana states are introducing novices to pot via familiar gummi and jelly bean edibles to make that trial hurdle more palatable, literally and figuratively!

The foreign, but familiar principle even applies, in this hot election season, to a segment of voters feeling disenfranchised because of the perceived loss of a conventional value system amongst rapid changes in technology, modern families, the gender identity spectrum, a global economy, etc. These voters favor candidates that promise a return to the familiar “good old days,” the “way it was,” gaining comfort and confidence in familiar themes and values.

Familiar gives comfort to shoppers/buyers. It helps them connect emotionally with your product, whether it’s via form, flavor, or use/application.  This principle works in reverse, too. When you launch familiar, e.g., a new chip, you need foreign to stand out, attract attention, and move the purchase needle. How about those sriracha potato chips!

So when introducing new-to-the-world products, or even trying to distinguish your brand in a sea of competitors, consider the foreign, yet familiar principle to help your target customer relate to or connect with your product entries.

Qualitative Research: Can it Produce System 1 Thinking?

Posted on: October 10th, 2016 by doyle

From the desk of Kathy Doylesub-con-mind

Multiple times in recent months, I have been told by clients that they are being advised to forego conducting focus groups because they elicit rational, logical responses – System 2 thinking – rather than tapping into subconscious, emotional responses of System 1 thinking*. These methods include facial coding, biometrics, eye tracking, EEG’s, etc.   However, while Doyle Research has experience with some of these methods, I’d like to go out on a limb and argue that qualitative research, when done well, can actually produce System 1 thinking.

The issue we face is that most traditional research methods ARE tapping into System 2 thinking. We are asking questions, and waiting for answers (“look at this, and tell me what you think”).   What we get are rational, considered, thoughtful responses.   But that is only a portion of what really drives human behavior.  So we need qualitative approaches executed by trained moderators that can tap into System 1 thinking in order to better understand the subconscious influencers and drivers of human behavior.

Here are four ideas to consider:

  • Incorporate projective techniques.    An easy “add” to a focus group session, projective techniques are designed to get below surface responses to uncover subconscious attitudes, feelings and behaviors.    Just one example is the use of picture sorts. Respondents are given a series of pictures totally unrelated to the topic at hand (perhaps scenery or animals for a CPG category) and asked to select the picture that best fits their feelings about a brand, a product, an experience, a situation.  They have to step out of their System 2 thinking in order to do the exercise and emotional, subconscious thoughts are the result.
  • Incorporate an observational component, so that you can observe discrepancies in behavior between what someone says they do vs. what you observe.     A classic example that actually came from a laundry care project many years ago:  as respondents were sorting their laundry during an in-home interview they would say “I sort my clothes into whites and darks”.   But time after time, respondents would generate 5 or 6 different piles that did not appear to fall into either a “white” OR a “dark” pile.  What you are seeing are behaviors that are automatic and, sometimes, totally subconscious. By discussing what we had observed, more nuanced answered were elicited.
  • Capture behaviors over time, in a short-term community, or using mobile ethnography.    An example: we recently followed new moms for a month to understand how feeding decisions were made.  They used their smart phones to complete a guided audio and video diary, sharing their thoughts and experiences as a new mother.     They were not aware that understanding their feeding decisions was our end goal; we wanted to observe the context, influencers (medical personnel, literature, family, employers) and emotions that went into their decision.
  • Capture “In the moment” behaviors using mobile technology.   Example:  mobile intercepts with panel members whose location services are on, and who enter a geo-fenced location. This allows us to capture respondents’ reactions to an experience, as it takes place, and while respondents are literally in- the-moment.

It is our responsibility, as qualitative researchers, to continually seek ways to get below surface responses and gain insights that are grounded in consumers’ actual behaviors rather than their reported ones, and more likely to uncover a more complete story than techniques that rely solely on System 2 processing.

*Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.