Since most of us are loathe to confront our less-than-rational feelings
we rarely welcome opportunities to confess them to researchers. It's
less ego-deflating for a prospective Neon buyer (Chrysler's 1994
AMA New Product of the Year award-winning subcompact) to channel a
discussion of needs into "practical" issues -- stuff like 34 miles
to the gallon and wider wheel base -- than acknowledge a very personal
desire to appear cute, lovable and approachable. And confess the desire
is somehow satisfied by Neon's wide-eyed head lamps that seem vaguely
reminiscent of a perky cheerleader.
For that reason the tool uses a simple but well-documented psychological
technique to start at the end-point: the recognition of personally
relevant wants/aspirations/life goals that drive purchase decisions
rooted in intuitive logic. Having identified the drivers, it's a matter
of backtracking to identify the tangible product technologies that both
trigger the need and serve as a plausible means to accomplish the desired
More often than most of us suspect, consumers use an intuitive right-brain
process -- they call it "feeling" or "sensing" -- to assess
the personal relevancy of a new product concept. In these situations
the purchase behavior is driven by an intuitive form of logic in which
the ego asks, "what's in this for me?" and roots through abstract
potentialities -- fuzzy issues like life vision, personal goals, aspirations...belief
systems governing behavior, even daydreams or flights of the imagination
-- to find the answer.
In these situations, it's necessary to ferret out the abstract end-benefit.
Then work backwards to identify the tangible product technologies and
pragmatic performance cues that suggest the means by which the product
will accomplish the desired end
The tool uses projective techniques to help respondents sort through stereotyped
images of people to discover a few the respondent "knows" well
enough to predict brand behavior and underlying motivation. Inevitably
the respondent paints a self-portrait of self, psyche, personal values
and motivation. It happens because the alleged subject is the stereotype,
so the ego's off the hook for any non-linear -- or less-than-rationale
-- logic patterns that drive intuitive behavior.
Having identified the abstract motivation, a means-end laddering process
then backtracks the logic chain to identify the tangible product technologies
and pragmatic performance cues that suggest the means by which the product
will accomplish the desired end. For instance Miller, in qualitative depth
interviews, discovered an identity crisis among entry level drinkers:
The self-doubts inherent in the age cohort produced a need for self assurance
-- specifically a need to assert an independence and the worthiness of
one's individuality. This abstract value served as the end-point in
which product attributes and related consequences linked together in an
orderly and logical sequence that proceeded from specific concrete elements
upwards through increasingly abstract and personal levels. Ultimately
the means-end ladder emerged: Beer serves as a social facilitator
--> acts as a "badge" identifying personal values & belief
systems --> leading to social recognition --> creating personal
status --> which ultimately produces a degree of self-assurance.
The perceptual structure linking abstract values to product functionality
represents the strategic springboard from which concept development teams
brainstorm new concepts.
The tool discovered the strategic concept for Red Dog -- Miller's
"beer-with-an-attitude" -- a brand urging entry level drinkers
to "be your own dog" and designed as a badge of independence and
macho non-conformity. Proved to be effective in developing ant and roach
insecticides that protected the fragile ego -- and self esteem -- of Combat's
heavy users: Core city residents of multiple dwelling housing units.
Identified test market concepts for a premium category of cigarettes for
RJR Tobacco smokers threatened by the declasse perceptions of users (Malibu
and Premiere). Spotted the $1billion casual pants opportunity
(khakis/Dockers) for 40 year old Boomers who had outgrown -- physically
and psychologically -- their Levis 501s.
The tool has hi-tech applications to develop PC Notebooks for status-seeking
Road Warriors. Develop user friendly technology to alleviate the technophobic
apprehensions of prospective WWW users of almost any new commercial or
financial service. Establish Apple products to serve as the last bastion
of creativity and non-conformity. Hi-touch applications might include
Neutrogena's Retinol anti-wrinkle cream. KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce.
"Riven", Broderbund's sequel to "Myst." New ways for
Armor All to polish the self-image of 18-28 year old car buffs. The commonality?
The purchase decision for each brand is driven by intuitive -- and primarily
non-linear -- logic patterns in which abstract personal values impacting
the ego will play a predominant role.
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