Question Marks - edited

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ISSUES SOLVED

How can my brand fulfil its promise?

That’s a big question and the answer depends on your strategic objectives.

If you are going to make significant investment in brand building or rebuilding, you first need to have a clear picture of the market and where your brand sits in it.

Where are the threats to your success? Compare your performance against key competitors, both from the consumer viewpoint and with objective product profiling, and combine these to segment the market on a consumer-by-consumer basis.

From this you will know:
– which sectors your product serves and why
– which brands compete with it and why
– who appreciates your products
– why it motivates them and the things about it that turn other people off.

You will have a clear SWOT for your product in its market and an action plan of how to support it in its position or move it to stronger ground.

Which variants will give me the strongest range?

It can be tough to evaluate the potential of a range. Look at the varieties individually and you risk overestimating, look at them together and you can underestimate.

PPL is able to take the results of a simple rank and sort of possible lines and identify the combination which holds widest appeal. With repertoire buying so widespread, our approach to range selection is able to tell you how much you’ll lose if a key variant is not stocked.

For existing ranges, the model is calibrated against the current products before the potential of additions is determined.

At the concept stage, we’re also able to use the same approach to prioritise development resources and investigate the power of alternative descriptors. Such findings can also be combined with product evaluation to find out if performance changes the optimum combination.

How can I communicate my brands benefits to drive trial and loyalty?

We would recommend combining sensory product description, which identifies the characteristics of the product, with qualitative feedback to find out how to express these characteristics in a way that will motivate consumers.

Our Case Study Better labelling to help motivate purchase shows an example of how this works on a market scale, but this technique can be applied equally well to new and existing brands to generate motivating words and images that are grounded in the product and credible for the brand.

What price will maximise profit?

Investigation of price expectations and sensitivity will help you find the best pricing strategy for your product.

Our Case Study Identifying optimum price… shows the potential to increase penetration with a lower price and finds the price that will maximise revenue.

How can I improve the product experience to maximise loyalty?

No amount of advertising or image-building can compensate for a disappointing experience with a product. You can maximise repeat purchases by optimising your formulation.

Our product optimisation service, speeds your route to delivering a great product experience.

One client estimated that he saved a third of the time and half the cost compared to a traditional research programme. Imagine what that meant for the major manufacturer who used our product optimisation approach to rationalise the many formulations of an international product.

PPL’s approach is to combine sensory profiling with consumer assessment to provide clear direction on how to make a better product. The model identifies and sizes market segments so you can develop the best product for a particular target group or for broad appeal.

Can I claim to be the creamiest?

If you are the creamiest (or softest or any other product characteristic you choose) evidence collected from a sensory evaluation conducted by a panel of expert tasters is accepted legally as proof of your claim.

You can also use sensory evaluation to legally challenge claims made by your competitors.

Tests that we have conducted have led to competitor claims being withdrawn.

Can I change the formulation without alienating core buyers?

Depending on the objective of the change, this could be a one- or two-stage process. If you are value engineering, changing ingredients or processes and aiming to match your existing formulation, then a sensory profile is the place to start.

Our expert tasters are trained to detect subtle differences between products – if they can’t tell them apart, then you can rest assured that consumers won’t either and you’re safe to make the change. If there is a difference, then you need to know what consumers make of the change.

Our Case Study Quick-fire evidence to support recipe superiority details a case where our client needed fast feedback from consumers with results he could rely on.

What do consumers need?

Behaviour based research is the key to identifying the triggers and barriers to purchase or consumption.

An event centred U&A study is the starting point for investigating consumer use of and attitudes to categories, brands and products.

The best quality information is gained by focusing on specific recent uses.

Demand models can link need states with occasions and identify the ability of each product to deliver at that moment to understand:
– when do consumers use your product?
– why do they reject it for that?
– what is chosen instead?

And so identify how to maximise the product’s ability to meet consumer needs.

What are consumers actually doing with my product?

Information reported from recent uses will often be enough to tell you what people are doing with your product and why.

However, sometimes the only way to know what’s really going on out there is to be the proverbial fly on the wall.

Specially trained observers investigate the true behaviour of consumers and evaluate how well it stacks up against stated behaviour.

Observation is unobtrusive and non-judgemental, but specific behaviours can be probed to aid interpretation.

How can I drive choice in a crowded market?

How can I quantify consumer perceptions within my category management process? Conjoint allows real world behaviour to be simulated and the drivers of choice identified by indirect assessment of the relative importance to consumers of product and brand attributes.

By clustering respondents on these ‘utilities’, the size and nature of consumer segments with different priorities can be evaluated.

Our Case Study Choice-based conjoint to identify most appropriate product offering and price structure provides an example of how we have used this methodology for other clients.

RESEARCH METHODS

What methods do you use to collect the information?

The choice of method all depends on what information you need.

Typical methods are via a panel of screened and trained expert tasters for product profiles or, for consumer feedback, via interviews with individuals.

Consumer opinion can be collected in-home, at central locations (including licensed venues) and online.

What types of research do you conduct?

Our areas of expertise cover anything related to products. Rather than employing a single technique or set of testing criteria, we always adopt the strategy that best satisfies the requirements of the task at hand.

From start to finish, your needs drive the research design and focus the analysis and communication of the results.

A wide range of methods are applied, as appropriate, from quick answers to straightforward questions and to more advanced techniques, such as multivariate segmentation and conjoint analysis, when deeper insight is required.

This list will give you an idea of our types of research, but it’s not exhaustive so do contact us to find out how we’d tackle your brief.

– Concept development and screening
– Sensory profiling
– Product testing
– Session testing
– Concept Product testing
– Product benchmarking
– Optimisation modelling
– Price positioning
– Pack design
– Choice modelling
– Observation
– Attitudinal segmentation
– Econometric modelling
– Interactive conjoint

How does sensory profiling work?

Sensory profiling provides an objective description of a product based on its sensory characteristics. It can be used:

– to assess the impact of recipe changes
– to monitor competitor activity
– for monitoring product variability
– in the development of new products
– as a basis for modelling consumer acceptability.

The process is conducted by a panel of screened and trained expert tasters (typically representing the top 10% of the population). Led by an experienced moderator, they identify all the characteristics which can be used to describe the products, and then rationalise and agree the terms.

Once the sensory attributes have been agreed, the tasters score the products on each attribute several times to ensure results are valid and repeatable.

CAPABILITIES

How quickly can I have results?

We knew you’d ask that!

Clearly it depends on what you need. Provision of results can be from a matter of days upwards.

Rest assured, whatever your requirements, we will get you your results as quickly as possible and will always meet agreed deadlines.

Can you co-ordinate an international project?

We help our clients meet their research needs at local, regional or global levels. In addition to work in the UK, we have extensive experience of international and multi-country projects.

For international research, we work with a network of tried and trusted research partners across the globe, or we are also happy to work with particular agencies with which you have experience.

We have successfully conducted a wide range of international and multi-country projects working with local agencies in many countries across the world.

We are an ideal choice as an international co-ordinator for these and other countries because we have considerable experience of the careful controls and supervision that international research, in particular, requires.

Do you have you experience in my market sector?

We are specialists in the food and drink markets and have many clients in the consumer and household product sectors too.

We have the skills and expertise to research any product area from inception to successful completion.

Some of the categories we know particularly well are:
– Alcoholic drinks
– Baby and Infant care
– Confectionery
– Food: fresh, frozen and ambient
– Hot beverages
– Household products
– Laundry care
– Oral care
– OTC pharmaceutical
– Paper products
– Personal care
– Retail
– Soft drinks

My product has a low penetration target market – can you research it without it costing the earth?

Any sample that’s hard to find is going to cost slightly more to research, no matter how you go about it. However we will always find the most efficient sample design and take an approach to recruitment which keeps the costs as low as possible.

We’ve recruited a wide variety of consumer groups and sub-groups in a range of countries (see ‘Can you co-ordinate an international project?’), some easy and others more difficult to find, including:

– Household shoppers
– Impulse buyers
– Parents and kids
– Youth market
– Grey market
– Low penetration buyer groups
– Experimentalists
– Attitude defined groups

Who do you work for?

Since our launch in 1995, we have built up an extensive portfolio of research projects for researchers, marketers and product developers across a wide range of brands, companies, categories and industries.

Most of our clients are well-known household names: some are smaller, independent manufacturers; others are flavour houses and brand development agencies.

Independent evaluation shows we are close to the top of the table for client satisfaction and retention.

As we develop our relationship with each client, we accumulate knowledge of their business. This means that you get even more value from us, the more you work with us.

LOGISTICS

My product needs careful preparation – can you ensure it will be served to exact standards?

Absolutely! We could tell you incredible tales of the bizarre product preparation rituals we have conducted.

Seriously though, the success or failure of many projects hinges on the way in which the product is handled.

We’ve successfully overcome some very challenging logistics and it all comes down to attention to detail and getting it all set up properly.

We try out the preparation, serving and monitoring protocol in advance and make sure there is enough resource available to carry this out in the test environment.

I need competitor products – can you source them for me?

No problem! If your project requires competitor products (or needs your own product to come from the supply chain) we will arrange product purchase.

Appropriate sourcing criteria will be agreed, nationwide for benchmarking, with a particular best before date or batch number (avoiding packs with promotional offers and flashes, etc. if the test is branded).

Product quality is maintained with strict carriage and storage conditions.

Repacking or blinding (debranding) is also possible for most products, if required.