Watching the penny drop

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January 21, 2016

by Vicki Hamilton


I’ve worked in the marketing communications team at MMR Research Worldwide for over five years, and part of my role has been working with the research team to help visualise findings so that they’re easily digested by our clients at debrief and beyond. In order to do this well, I’ve had to read a lot of proposals and reports and it’s a fascinating business where I learn new things every day. But I’ve never had the chance to attend a client meeting and see how it unfolds.

Recently however, we partnered with a challenger brand whose execution was letting down a great idea. They wanted to know how they could better leverage their brand equity through the sensory cues given by the pack and the actual product, and in so doing, establish a unique sensory signature that would last.

So far in the project, the sensory landscape for the category has been statistically mapped with MMR’s sensory panel data. This means that the panel have explored every product in the competitive set and detected all the sensory attributes. Those attributes fall into certain territories on the map and those territories range far and wide - some of them surprising for the category.

The brand’s products were overlaid on the map, clearly occupying one territory. But it was when the competitor products were overlaid that opportunities began to reveal themselves and the excitement in the room began to build.  Surrounded by prototypes, and with the brand’s objectives in mind, Consumer and Sensory Scientist, Dr Caroline Withers was able to suggest a desirable territory on the map and advise how one or two of the prototypes could be optimised to work in this area.

This information alone is valuable and workable and could no doubt produce a delicious product or delectable fragrance that sits in the right sensory territory, but the missing piece of the puzzle is brand fit. And how do you make a product taste or smell like the brand?

Cue Stage II.

In the coming weeks, the competitive set will be conceptually profiled using a specially selected category lexicon of emotional, functional and abstract terms. Each product will have a unique profile and by combining that conceptual profile with the sensory data from Stage 1, our team can understand the sensory cues that are driving those conceptualisations. We’ll know if the territory identified above is the right territory for the brand, and if so, we’ll know how to optimise the product accordingly.

For me, it was such a delight to watch our clients eyes light up as questions were answered. She could see clearly why the original execution wasn’t working and she had a clear idea of where to go next and what to expect. I can’t wait to see the outcome of the next stage, and how those learnings will be applied to the packaging piece.

Vicki Hamilton is Associate Director, Marketing Communications at MMR.