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HCD’s MaxImplicit™: Understanding Consumer Need-Gaps

This past week I had the opportunity to guest lecture for Dr. Boryana Dimitrova’s New Product Development course at the Lebow Business School of Drexel University. It’s always a fun experience for me to guest lecture. First of all, our field of applied consumer neuroscience (aka “neuromarketing) is relatively new. Not many students are familiar with the idea, so when they hear about neuromarketing, it’s always very exciting to see their reactions. For the few that have heard of this field of study, it’s always good to set the record straight on the difference between the pseudoscience, neuromarketing, neuro-hype and doing real thoughtful applied consumer neuroscience to provide real answers for real questions. (see blog post

In preparing for this lecture it seemed a good time to write a blog post on how we help our clients identify innovation opportunities and consumer need-gaps (or areas where the consumers’ needs or expectations are not yet being met).

We typically like to approach the questions of innovation opportunities for our clients in two different ways:

  1. Top-down approach: this is focused on the consumer’s needs/routines/behaviors. Better understanding the consumer’s experience with your product can help to identify the need gaps and innovation opportunities by creating consumer technical models, a consumer-centric approach. This approach is typically larger scale research and involves three phases (exploration – exploring the consumers needs/behaviors; prioritization – uncover what needs and behaviors are most important and missing for the product; validation – creating proof of principle).

  2. Bottom-up approach: this is focused on the product’s performance. By understanding how the different elements of the product affect the consumer we can help clients improve products. This can involve an exploration of the sensory elements (fragrance, colors, sounds, etc.) or the functional elements of the product (product ease of use, etc.).

One of the methodologies that can be used in both of these approaches is something we call the “MaxImplicit™ ” method. This is our combination of powerful tools from both traditional market research and psychological research that we use to help our clients better understand their consumer with “both eyes open” as we like to say. By using both traditional and psychological methods we can see two sides of the consumer experience: the cognitive (what they say) and the non-conscious (what they mean). In the top-down approach, this methodology can be a means of prioritizing what is most important to the consumer (via traditional methodologies) and understanding how the consumer really views the client brand or product (via psychological methodologies). In the bottom-up approach, this can be a way of testing design elements and attributes to check for missing elements or missed design marks. Very much in the way Kahneman described in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, we believe that both the System 1 and System 2 pieces of decision making are important in understanding the consumer.

The precise approach to using MaxImplicit, whether top-down or bottom-up, is two-fold: prioritization measures (traditional market research) and implicit measures (psychological). But the approach is also customizable, as different techniques may be used to accomplish these goals for different situations (type of product, types of attributes, type of consumer, etc.). As with all of the methodologies used at HCD, we like to remain methodologically agnostic so that we can adapt to any type of research situation while ensuring that we are using the right tool to answer our client’s questions completely and accurately.


By being able to capture what is most important to the consumer AND how they really see the product or brand, we can then identify need gaps and innovation opportunities.

If you’d like more information, please feel free to contact us!

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