Collecting a random survey group to test products and offer unbiased feedback is one of the bedrock systems of marketing. Whether this method means dragging a clipboard outside for street polling or years of formal data collection, one thing is for certain: As technology advances, so do survey methods. But how advanced is too advanced? And when does surveying cross the line between enlightening and overblown?
Well-known soup brand Campbell’s recently conducted extensive surveying to test how a remodel of their iconic logo would go over with consumers. Understandably, tweaking a design that’s been used for more than one hundred years is not a decision that the brand would want to take lightly. But they didn’t just ask what people thought of different images. Rather, they hooked participants up to monitors that would gauge their biological responses as they viewed various soup cans. This process is known as neuromarketing.
Campbell’s decided to use this tactic rather than polling or verbal surveying to avoid the discrepancies that traditionally exist between what people say they like and their actual buying habits. Executives decided not to rely on consumers to accurately report what they liked. Instead, they based their decisions on pure physical responsiveness such as pupil dilation, heart rate, sweating, breathing and posture. Scientists and specialists monitored participants as they went on simulated shopping experiences and browsed the aisles for soup. Campbell’s new soup can design is based on these results. For example, if survey members salivated over a soup can displaying a bigger bowl of soup, that bowl would now be on the label. This testing took place over the course of two years.
It would probably take a lot of surveying to determine if this sort of investigation is considered worthwhile in the conventional world of marketing. But one thing is certain: Most businesses cannot afford to dabble in the same kind of pricey testing as Campbell’s.
A more realistic option with time-tested results is a focus group, which can be arranged by a marketing agency such as Mad 4 Marketing. Unlike the Campbell’s technique–which cuts consumer opinion right out of the picture as if it’s out of style–a focus group really explores what select candidates think and feel about brands, services and products. Unlike a poll, which can be out-of-context and impersonal, focus groups go more in-depth as participants familiarize with the topic at hand. And rather than cutting a broad swath of random survey participants, a focus group can be tailored to really reflect a company’s audience. If you’re selling women’s sneakers, for example, you’d collect a group of athletically inclined females who regularly shop for gear, as well as those who have expressed an interest in becoming more active. Naturally, the process of choosing participants would be based on previously collected data and demographical information that would also be used in all future marketing endeavors for that campaign.
Overall, focus group testing is shorter and simpler than neuromarketing—plus, it’s a much more cost-effective research method. And despite what Campbell’s seems to think, asking people what they want and letting them provide thoughtful and voluntary responses is still a viable technique when it comes to marketing.