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