In “Who Put the Flouwah in my Chowdah?” The Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein explores two of my favorite topics: regional northeastern cuisine and consumer behavior. Steven uses his early childhood memories to reflect on why consumers like inferior products, including thick-and-goopy New England clam chowder (which has no basis in historical recipe tradition).
Authentic clam broth-based chowdah has all but disappeared from popular dining establishments because diners have been conditioned to prefer the thicker, and seemingly heartier, version. And this points out one of the biggest challenges for market research: how to you identify changing tastes and new opportunities? How can we avoid just confirming consumers’ preference for the products that they already know?
Many years ago we wrote a whitepaper on using qualitative research techniques for new product development, and ethnography, ZMET, and laddering are all still used to try to get beyond the consumers’ obvious responses. More recently we added more high-tech options, outlining how companies reveal hidden purchase drivers using emotional, sensory, and natural observation techniques.
The research techniques outlined in the whitepapers above can help you get beyond the average consumer’s biases, but one of the best bets we’ve found for improving innovation is to think differently about which consumers you engage in the process in the first place. Identifying and engaging progressive users in your new product development process is a terrific way to source new and different product ideas that will resonate in the market.
What do you think? How does your organization address consumer conformity to get to those truly new insights? Tell us about it in the comments section below.