CPGmatters: Kraft Foods Develops ‘Emotional Profiling’ to Help Guide Marketing Efforts

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Aug 22, 2011
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Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the monthly e-zine, CPGmatters.

If a shopper strolls down the cookie aisle and then stops to ponder purchasing Keebler Elves or Nabisco Oreos, what finally makes her decide for one over the other? Is it just a matter of brand equity? Packaging? Pricing? Icing color?

To answer those questions, Kraft Foods has been developing a sophisticated new science of "emotional profiling" over the last three years to provide actionable answers both for the CPG giant and its retailer partners.

"The theory behind emotional design is uncovering the difference between ‘liking’ something and ‘preferring’ it," Melissa Knorr, principal scientist for Kraft Foods Research, Development & Quality, told CPGmatters. "The idea is fairly basic. Even if an individual likes two different products, they may still prefer one over the other.

"We’re trying to figure out that difference or gap so that we can make the best possible products that consumers will truly prefer. Knowing what exactly our consumers prefer also helps us better communicate those attributes and, in turn, can help guide our marketing efforts."

Food has always affected the way human beings feel based on personal experiences, family, tradition and culture, Ms. Knorr explained. But today, traditional research tools may not be enough to capture the implications of emotion on food shopping. That’s because, in part, consumers are increasingly worldly thanks to more travel, a proliferation of ethnic and artisanal foods, an explosion of new products in general, and other factors. These same factors also help explain why two identical-looking products could achieve the same score in acceptability tests, but perform wildly differently in the marketplace.

"We were doing some testing on a new formula for an established product," Ms. Knorr said. It was a reformulation for an iconic brand, modifying a functional attribute with the idea of expanding the product’s usage and contemporizing it. The results of consumer acceptability and ‘liking’ tests conducted at a central location suggested we had a parity product, so we were feeling good about it. But we wanted to get insights beyond liking, so we did some qualitative home tests and emotional profiling over four days and looked at the consumption experience and realized we might have a problem."

Indeed, after ascribing emotional differences to the products, the researchers found that flavor, texture and mouth-feel experiences with the new product weren’t as satisfying as with the old one, based on consumers’ emotional responses.

The new product’s "failure to make the right emotional connection was driven by changes in ‘unmeasured’ sensory attributes," Ms. Knorr explained. Once those emotional attributes were identified, "the product was restored to a more enhanced experience, similar to the original."

Discussion Questions: What value do you put on emotional profiling and other qualitative research techniques for brand research? What other techniques determine the difference between “like” and “preference?”

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10 Comments on "CPGmatters: Kraft Foods Develops ‘Emotional Profiling’ to Help Guide Marketing Efforts"


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David Biernbaum
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

Emotional profiling has value if the marketers resist the temptation to over-generalize consumers into groups. Consumer goods purchases are influenced by dozens, if not hundreds of dynamics, many which are more individual than we marketers would like to admit.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

I must be missing something. Have we just re-packaged what used to be standard in-home usage tests following a reformulation into something called emotional profiling? Is this due to the 1990s trend to forget everything we ever knew about shoppers and now, in the 2010s, we’re reviving those skills?

Lisa Bradner
Guest
Lisa Bradner
9 years 8 months ago
Like psychographic segmentation, ethnographic research and other research techniques before it, emotional profiling sounds as though it’s working to unpack the difference between what consumers will say they do because it sounds rational and logical and the action they actually take. Understanding various decision drivers of consumer behavior both left brain and right brain is critical to increasing success rates for new product launches, packaging changes and for fighting off private label. There’s not enough here to understand the techniques Kraft is using (and I’m sure they’re proprietary at this point) but I think the issue of ’emotional connection’ is an interesting one. Understanding where and when consumers connect to a CPG brand emotionally matters–what matters even more is understanding with whom and when a brand can alter that emotional relationship positively or negatively. Social media has uncovered a lot of emotional attachment to brands one might have previously classified as “low involvement.” To build on that attachment or create it in others, CPGs need to understand the building blocks of that attachment and where… Read more »
Anne Howe
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

I like some of the sensory cues research that can help identify why certain smells can influence preference. For example, why PineSol is preferred as an indicator of clean within certain segments, versus bleach, versus lemon. All indicate clean but which one creates preference that results in sales? As marketers, we need to dive deeper into preference, since price premium doesn’t indicate much of anything to shoppers anymore.

Phil Rubin
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

The work Kraft is doing looking for the emotional levels that customers have with (their) brands is at the essence of what true customer loyalty is about: connecting customers with brands in a way that goes beyond transactional and gets into the emotional dimension.

Preference, especially when it is driven by emotion rather than a more tangible offer like points/rewards/coupons, is how marketers, and especially brand managers, need to think about loyalty.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

How consumers make purchase decisions is the holy grail of marketing. If we could gain this information just by asking them, we would still be satisfied with focus groups and written surveys.

There is something in our core as human beings that is not only hard for researchers to pinpoint, but is elusive for the person to identify within themselves.

How often have you stood in the grocery aisle and made a snap decision to select one product over another with little rational support for that decision?

I don’t understand the way this particular discipline is being executed, but it is directed towards an area of human behavior that holds great potential.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

Ever since Eve took the forbidden fruit, consumers have made choices, and retailers have asked why did they choose – or not choose – THAT item…this sounds like version xxx.0 of that quandary.

Armen Najarian
Guest
Armen Najarian
9 years 8 months ago

There is significant value in qualitative research techniques like emotional profiling. As marketers, the levers we can control and measure — like price, merchandising display, and assortment — do correlate to the “first moment of truth” buying decision mom or dad makes at the shelf.

But it’s sometimes the things we can’t control or predict that ultimately drive decisions and preferences. How will a consumer’s network of friends gravitate to a brand? What influence will that have over the individual shopper? How does seasonality or daypart affect the individual shopper’s preference? What about broader world events?

Emotional profiling is a greenfield discipline that is really part art, part science. Great to see Kraft and other organizations putting resources behind this research.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
9 years 8 months ago

I’m unaware of a variety of Keebler cookies called “Elves,” but they’ve got 14 varieties according to their website. And I like ’em all, along with all the varieties of Nabisco Oreos. I am a genuine Cookie Monster, and if faced with choosing between Keebler and Nabisco, I’d buy both. It’s more fun that way. I am emotionally connected to cookie consumption and to fun.

But, I have difficulty describing dissatisfaction with a product’s “flavor, texture and mouth-feel” as “emotional differences” in order to validate a theory that consumer choices of food products are partly driven by emotion. This is not to dispute that emotion is involved — I like Ginger Snaps and Vanilla Wafers because they were positive parts of my childhood — but “flavor, texture and mouth-feel” are physical, not emotional. They were “unmeasured sensory attributes,” but sensory just the same.

Jonathan Asher
Guest
Jonathan Asher
9 years 8 months ago
This approach regarding evaluating products is very interesting and mirrors what can happen when testing packaging. Shoppers will often report that packaging makes little difference in their brand choice, but it’s been long known that, in the absence of any other differences, alternative packaging approaches can result in vast differences in purchasing. In fact, it’s even been shown that the same product will be evaluated differently in taste tests if presented in different packages. Our approach to evaluating package design, perfected over the past 40 years, goes well beyond asking shoppers what they think (although we do include that measurement) and includes monitoring shopping behavior (what they do) and bio-sensory measures such as PRS Eye-Tracking to document what they actually see and more recently, neuroscience measures to gauge how they feel when looking at package elements. These bio-sensory measures provide very rich diagnostic input – helping to explain the whys that underlie the behavior we witness. Armed with these additional insights, we are in an even better position to suggest how designs can be enhanced… Read more »
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