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Connecting With Consumers: Making Claims (Part 2 in a blog series)

This is part 2 in a blog series covering how we use consumer research to improve consumer products and communications.

In this series we will be discussing different methodologies and their applications including: traditional, psychological and neuro based research, claims communications and substantiation, packaging applications, user experience (UX) research, branding, etc.  

When making product claims, there are two important factors to consider:

  1. How to substantiate your product claim

  2. How to communicate your product claim

How To Substantiate Your Product Claim

You know all those claims you hear in TV commercials?

“9 out of 10 doctors agree…”

“Tastes better than the top competitor…”

Well, believe it or not, the product company has to be able to back up every word that they say. According to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), under the law, claims in advertisements must be truthful, cannot be deceptive or unfair, and must be evidence-based. Companies making claims must show proof that their claim is true (especially health related products like drugs, dietary supplements, contact lenses, etc.).

So how to can you substantiate your claim?

Traditional consumer tests can help substantiate claims by providing answers such as whether people like one product more than a competitor (think the Pepsi Challenge – where participants were asked to blindly taste Coke and Pepsi and report which they liked better). In the case of the Pepsi Challenge, this was a taste test. Other types of traditional sensory tests (taste, smell, touch, sound, feel) can all be performed to show that consumers prefer one product over the other.

Other types of consumer tests may be more clinical in nature. For example, a clinical study may be used to show real improvements on skin after applying a lotion. Or participants may apply sunscreen to their arm and place it in a whirlpool to prove that it can last in water for at least 2 hours.

You can also use more sensitive measures, such as applied consumer neuroscience, to investigate more subtle differences and emotional effects.

Whatever methodology is used, the research results must be provided to the FTC and be statistically and scientifically sound.  This means no exaggerations or falsehoods can be claimed unless it is scientifically proven and that proof needs to be performed properly.

For example, if you want to prove that your yogurt tastes better than a competitor, but test your yogurt (a blended fruit yogurt) against another yogurt (fruit on the bottom, unblended) in an unfair manner (not presented in same way – blended vs unblended), then you are not being entirely truthful and your claim can be rejected.

How to Communicate Your Claim

Perhaps just as important as developing valid claims is finding the best way to communicate those claims. Real estate on packaging is a valuable and precious commodity. There is no wasted space. Each graphic and communication must have an explicit purpose.

Further, time in a commercial is also a valuable and precious commodity. Within only 30 seconds, the advertisement must make its point in a meaningful, factual and engaging way.

Package testing, shelf testing, and ad testing can all help determine the effectiveness of the communications that are being used.

In traditional research, liking scales, fit to concept questions, brand recall, and purchase intent can all be examined using surveys to assess the effectiveness of the communication.

However, we often recommend the addition of applied consumer neuroscience measures to truly examine the effectiveness of the communication. By adding the use of eye tracking, we are able to ensure that the consumers really see the communication. And then by assessing their engagement, emotional response and arousal levels via physiological or psychological measures, we are able to ensure that that communication is effective and engaging. But more importantly, we can use this information to provide actionable insights for our clients. For example, recommending moving communications to different locations on a package to achieve meaningful branding moments. Or changing the branding moments in commercials to ensure optimal brand recall and messaging.

But even further, we can use applied consumer neuroscience to ensure that the messaging fits to the brand or concept to help create a cohesive marketing communication.

By taking these extra steps, we can help clients build an optimized communication that gives consumers a reason to believe in their product. Because it’s not always what you say, but how you say it (or show it).



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