Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mmm, mmm, soup shopping

Last week, The Wall Street Journal ran “The Emotional Quotient of Soup Shopping,” an interesting behind-the-scenes piece on Campbell’s redesigned soup labels. Campbell, in an effort to connect with customers (and boost sales), uses new neuromarketing techniques to measure physiological reactions to their marketing. A few years back, the company uncovered the idea that customers’ reported reactions to ads bore little relationship to actual soup sales. Campbell is hoping that biometric tools measuring factors like perspiration and heart rate, combined with deep interviews, will more accurately measure the effectiveness of the company’s package design and advertising. Based on this new research, Campbell will hold onto the iconic red and white label for its three biggest sellers, but other varieties will feature “larger, more vibrant pictures of soup.”

We’re a little skeptical about the benefits of neuromarketing research alone, since it measures emotional intensity without content or context. However, Campbell’s is onto something here. By combining biometric data with carefully crafted deep in-store interviews and store observations, they have been able to zero in on how customers really perceive their cans. As Campbell and other companies are increasingly realizing, there is no substitute for in-store research and moment of truth observation, questioning, and analysis. After all, when asked why they eat more soup or not, people tend to “say they don't think of it,” according to Doug Conant, Campbell's chief executive.

Other methods, like focus groups and surveys can also provide valuable information, but they often need to rely on the shoppers’ unreliable short-term memory or their projection of future behavior and intent. When companies rely too heavily on focus groups and survey data and neglect to closely observe how shoppers interact with their designs in the store, like Tropicana did with their short-lived redesign, they run the risk of damaging their brand and alienating consumers—or simply half solving the same question year in and year out.

What do you think--will customers respond to Campbell's well researched redesign? Or will they clamor for a return to the familiar red and white label?
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