September 14, 2006
- by Robert E. Stevens, GENESIS II (The Second Beginning) E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the years I have written a number of Views on the differences associated with the two areas of research, Product and Brand Testing. Last week in a press release for Harry Beckwith's new book, "You: A Field Guide to Selling Yourself," he presents a very good picture of the differences between Product and Brand Testing. The following is an excerpt from the press release.
"I can discuss the Empiricists with affection. I was one until the mid-1980s. Brands could not matter, I thought, because they are too intangible, amorphous, and illogical. Then came a series of conversion events.
The first was the Pepsi Challenge. These commercials demonstrated that people preferred Pepsi to Coke -- by a significant margin. The problem for Pepsi, however, was that this preference did not matter. People still bought Coke.
Then Coke decided that Pepsi was right: Pepsi did taste better. What if we make Coke taste better? Wouldn't we increase our market share?
The result, of course, was a fiasco: New Coke. Taste testers loved it. But in real life, people did not just prefer Old Coke. They demanded it.
The story doesn't end there. Recently, Read Montague, the Director of the Human Neuroimaging Lab at Baylor College of Medicine, decided to repeat the Pepsi Challenge -- with a twist. Montague performed the challenge while scanning the brain activity of the testers. Once again, more tasters preferred Pepsi. Their ventral putamens, one of the brain's reward centers, especially loved Pepsi; they responded five times stronger than the ventral putamens of Coke lovers.
Then Montague added another twist. He told the subjects which brands they were tasting. Now, the subjects overwhelmingly preferred Coke. And their brains acted differently, too. Their medial prefrontal cortexes, the portion of our brains strongly involved in our sense of self, fired at intense rates. Coke, it apppears, strongly links to our sense of self. Not Coke taste, but Coke the very idea: Coke the brand."
If you are not involved in both Product and Brand Research, you only have part of the picture. Both perspectives can yield dramatically different but accurate results. If there is ever a lesson to be learned in the world of Consumer Research, I believe this is one of the most important lessons. That is, the environment under which your data are collected can have a profound effect on the results.