Re-Engineering Technology

It's hard -- perhaps impossible -- for consumers to tell you in so many words what they really want in a new product. It's all too abstract. Vague. Overwhelming. But, critics that we all inherently are, it's far less difficult to identify what's right, wrong and different about any brand we're even reasonably familiar with. With the right technique and a little nudging, consumers can benchmark competitive brands and recognize need gaps by identifying perceived deficiencies in the existing technology and physical attributes of competitive options.

Pushed further, end-users can even help concept teams spot opportunities to create new needs -- or "invisible gaps" -- by revealing ways to heighten the importance of lower priority needs currently perceived to be adequately satisfied.

Presuming consumers use a linear, rational / economic process to analyze a cognitive purchase decision and evaluate a pragmatic product performance, the concept development team can discover and quantify the importance of product attributes and brand values. Similarly the extent of satisfaction with each attribute or brand value can also be quantified and the relationship between importance and satisfaction can be mapped. Exploration of perceived product differentiation between benchmarked brands adds a third dimension to the perceptual mapping process and further defines opportunity parameters.

Working with paradigms modeling perceived deficiencies in current product attributes and / or brand image, the concept development team looks for "fill-the-gap" ways to build a variety of better mousetraps. In the final step it's up to rodent-besieged homemakers to choose -- on a scale of 1-5 -- the mousetrap they'd be willing to spend their money on.

The tool uses a Repertory Grid technique -- similar to the first phase of Voice of the Consumer -- to isolate the important product attributes, functions, benefits and brand imagery encompassed by key brands within the defined product category. Participants are shown three brands and asked in what way two are similar and the third different. The comparative benchmarking generates an extensive list of brand characteristics.

Ultimately a multi-dimensional scaling technique is used to plot the importance of the most frequently identified characteristics as well as perceived degree of satisfaction and exclusivity relative to the respondent's brand-bought-most often. The resulting grids map existing need gaps and suggest opportunities to create yet unrecognized need gaps.

The tool has been used to identify shortcomings women perceive in alcoholic beverages and identified the concept for the first varietal wine designed and positioned to appeal to women: Heublein's Blossom Hill. It produced Purina entries into premium and price sectors -- Prime and Complete -- and validated the potential for O.N.E. and Pro-Plan.

The process has obvious application in technology, durables and OTC. It could have identified the breakthrough "big idea" for Chrysler's Minivan. Motorola's Tango Two-Way Pager. J&J's Tylenol Extended Care. Arm&Hammer's PeroxiCare. The commonality? Success was driven by the consumers rational analysis of his / her pragmatic needs and an objective appraisal of the technological limitations of existing competitive options available within the marketplace.

return to new product development tools menu
return to main tools page

homesite mapcompanyservicesexperiencecommentarycontact

copyright © 2002 Polaris Marketing All Rights Reserved