Sensory qual has long been close to our heart and prompted by our recent new joiners with qual and sensory research experience, it’s not surprising that there’s been even more talk than usual about sensory qual in the Direction First office. As you may already know, Direction First has a strong sensory research heritage and has actively promoted multi-mode approaches including bringing sensory (quant) and Qual research together to generate added value for clients.
One thing we’ve noticed is the apparent absence of sensory qual in client timelines – perhaps due to time pressures. We would argue that its absence is often felt keenest in the void it leaves when it’s not included and that sensory qual can be a critical step for many different types of projects – with the potential to save on budget and timely testing in the long run.
Considering also the current trend towards leveraging the whole consumption experience and understanding consumption within its context for competitive advantage, the opportunities to use sensory qual to get a more complete understanding of the sensory experience are ever more pertinent.
For example, you’ve got your customer insights and are developing a product to fit these needs... but do you really know enough about the sensory cues that it needs to deliver to so you can go straight into developing a concept and products/prototype? Or maybe you have your concept and are at the product development stage – can you confidently take products tested internally into consumer taste testing without taking some time to talk to your target consumers and finding out the dos and don’ts for the product spec to ensure it matches up to the consumer’s expectations from the concept?
Sensory qual is a relatively fast and inexpensive way in which we can bring the consumer into the business at this time to help keep your concept and product innovation and development tight, effective and efficient.
Sensory qual can be a useful investigative and insights tool, relevant in answering many objectives, such as:
- Increasing understanding of the consumer perspective of sensory features – not just what they are but how they fit together, their cues and what they mean to the consumer, in the consumer’s own words and within a relevant context – to understand the whole experience
- Verbatim matching to technical terms; connecting R&D with consumers and understanding how consumers describe their perceptions and emotions relating to products
- Co-creating with consumers; understanding which sensory features you simply cannot mess with from the product, concept or even brand perspective – i.e. what the customer sees as the critical sensory features, or hygiene factors so to speak – and quite how far the sensory boundaries can be pushed before an acceptable sensory profile becomes unacceptable (or is no longer fulfilling concept expectations)
- Tackling questions of ‘why’ and ‘how’ to reach parts that sensory quant research doesn’t
- Helping with fast prototyping to understand which products to take forward into quantitative research
Our sensory qual can also provide the opportunity to bring together several teams from the client end that may otherwise be consigned to different stages of the innovation or development process, which in turn can smooth and shorten this process, whilst building team work and collaboration within the business on the project.
In this increasingly competitive environment, it is increasingly important to deliver to consumer needs and expectations – and sensory qual can give you a clear read on the features the product needs to deliver on, as well as its sensory claims and messages, as a way to find emotive and motivating messages for communications.
In summary, three reasons we believe why you should consider sensory qual:
- To bring the consumer into the picture earlier and more comprehensively by co-creating with them instead of guessing what they want to ‘see/taste/touch/smell/hear’
- To increase the likelihood of a successful product launch
- To save time and money in the longer term
Our sensory qual is not ‘out of a box’
At Direction First we see ourselves as problem solvers – share with us your business and research problems and we’ll work with you to deliver what you need within the practical limitations that you face.
Please contact Ange if you would like to discuss further ....
A recent project took the Direction First field team on a 14 day road trip between three states and two countries completing more than 500 taste tests. The first night in Adelaide, wandering the streets, we stumbled across a Peking duck restaurant. Not sure if it was because we were so hungry after a long day or the actual quality of the meal, the team decided on a challenge....which city of the 4 to be visited would provide the best Peking Duck Meal?
The fieldwork in Adelaide went without a glitch, the laptops, partitions and containers all arrived from Sydney on time and were waiting in the room. The products had been delivered a few days before and placed into refrigerators and regularly checked, with temperatures recorded...this afforded us time for our first meal and thus commenced the Great Peking Duck adventures.
The challenge was on, Adelaide first, we ate at the Fortune Duck and rated this one an exciting 8.5, the stand out of this meal was the careful attention with all the sides. But we need to be careful as we knew there was an order effect here, it was the first meal!
With the first leg completed it was time to board the plane and prepare for another few days in field.
After completing another two days in Auckland, it was time for more Peking duck. Unfortunately, this time the Peking Duck was harder to locate than running the field work itself! We found ourselves wandering the streets, asking in stores, staring at menu’s in hungry expectation. About to give up on Auckland, we spotted glimmering light in the distance shining on hanging ducks! Hooray! Famished, the meal was silent with the odd purr and mmm. Another successful dinner, but was it better? We rated this one a solid 8, eating at Golden Emperor the standout was the amount of crispy skin.
The next leg took us across Australia to the West Coast and the sparkling mining boom town of Perth for another day of preparation, temperature checking and consumers. We had to make sure this room was just like all the other rooms, keeping everything consistent. Then at the end of the day, it was time to find Peking duck! We ate at the Good Fortune Roast Duck House and the stand out here was size of the serves. Our rating was still a high 7 ½ however it was let down by only doing the one course. The strange thing was whilst the names were the same, the dishes were very different, thank goodness our field work was not like this!
Finally we headed home to Sydney, more field work and more Peking Duck! We headed to China Town and ate at the East Ocean Restaurant, rated this one an 8, it was amazing due to its presentation.
And of course the question on every ones lips, which city has the best Peking Duck? Well we haven’t tested every state (and we would love to increase the sample size)......but at this stage it’s Adelaide by a feather...
We often get asked about running tests for advertising claims substantiation.
Frequently clients are keen to get a “quick and dirty” response that they can use in advertising claims as they hope that a clear claim will give them the upper hand in the market. However if you are going to make a claim, it’s important that you make a claim that you can defend, so be prepared to have you claims tested by your competitor..
In order to advertise claims about product performance, liking, superiority or equality, companies need information to support them. Some claims may be substantiated by instrumental measures or clinical trials, but some characteristics cannot be measured and therefore supported in this way. In that case, sensory research is required, be it by consumers or a panel in order to provide the signals and information necessary to communicate that your product “is liked as much as product A”, “has an all day lasting fragrance”, “is preferred over the leading brand”, etc.
Each of your claims should be designed to provide either a highlight of a particular product feature or proof of its similar or superior performance against a competitor product. Things to carefully consider are sample size, selection of benchmark, sampling of products, test design and data analyses.
It is important to know in advance what you want to claim, what is changing in your product, on its own or versus a benchmark, how you are going to prove that change or particular trait, and design your research based on that. Running a consumer or product performance test and seeing what you can claim about your product afterwards from that research will not work.
You need to start with the proposition you wish to claim and in conjunction with your legal department and your research partner, work from this point. When taking this approach, we would strongly advise thinking carefully through the alternative options you have to making a claim about your product that will differentiate your product , working just from a functional claims basis is not always a sustainable market proposition.
Next month we will go into more detail about the kinds of claims you can consider.