The secret to packaging testing : mixing rational response with implicit reaction

It’s not what you say, but the way that you say it.

According to statistics quoted on the internet a larger supermarket will stock some 40,000 product lines, but the average household will only buy 300-400 different products over the course of a year, and on average will buy only around 40 products per trip.

Our own research reveals that during a weekly grocery shop the average shopper spends only around 30 minutes in-store deciding what to buy – the rest of the time is spent finding a parking space, a trolley that doesn’t have a mind of its own, and queuing at the tills to pay for everything.

So do the maths: 30 minutes to narrow down 40,000 product lines to the 40 we want to buy – shoppers will ignore or reject 20 products every second, or over 1,300 products every minute.

Now think how we research packaging changes.

For those of you who have either attended or watched focus groups, a new pack is dissected over the course of a 1½ hour session, or if we’re validating its performance among a larger number of people the interview might last up to 20minutes.

Can you really expect to get a realistic response when your approach to testing packaging changes is so far removed from reality?


At Marketing Sciences we’ve been integrating consumer’s explicit or rational responses to packaging, with the power of their implicit reactions, giving our clients a much clearer understanding of the effectiveness of their pack, and a clearer direction as to how to optimise it.

Objective measurement of shelf impact using findability exercises or measuring the speed and accuracy of navigating ranges can both help us understand how design can help or hinder the shopper’s task. Eyetracking can add a further layer of understanding, giving your design team much clearer direction as to how to improve your pack.

We’re also using consumer neuroscience techniques through Walnut Unlimited, our neuroscience consultancy, to understand more about the sub-conscious emotional reactions to brands and their packs.

We shared examples of what we do to a packed audience at the Packaging Innovations 2015 show, and my colleague Andy will talk in more detail about our neuro techniques in his blog, coming soon.

Some people would see the statistics I’ve quoted above and say that the answer is that to ditch the focus group, or stop asking consumers what they think of a new pack. I disagree.

On their own the implicit and neuroscience techniques don’t tell us the complete story. I believe the future lies in integrating the explicit/rational responses (using qual and quant techniques), together with the power of their implicit reactions.

Anyone can ask a consumer what they think of a pack, but not everyone has the experience to understand what they really mean.

Supermarket Shopping

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Chris Peach
01962 842211
Article date - 26/02/2015
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Welcome to Walnut Unlimited: The human understanding agency.

Marketing Sciences Unlimited has evolved into Walnut Unlimited: The human understanding agency. At the heart of our proposition is a single concept – human understanding –underpinned with no-nonsense science to generate purposeful insights.

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