Unexpected Consumer Insights Revealed in Kline’s New Research

Kline & Company's new KlinePulse: Consumer Insights of Personal Care Innovation USA 2010 research found that consumers’ attitudes toward innovation aren’t what conventional wisdom has been dictating. The surprising results, according to Kline, may counter what product marketers and manufactures have long believed about their audience.

Respondents offered thoughts on products they would like to see, such as: “If I had an opportunity to talk to an executive of a personal care company, I would tell them that I wish they would invent something that would make my kids want to brush their teeth,” and “…a skin care product that is a combination of Neosporin, Clearasil, and covering makeup.”

Kline's conclusion is that U.S. consumers know an innovative product (in their definition of innovative) when they see one. However, innovation is not foremost in all consumers’ minds. Analysis of the differences between various age and ethnic groups showed interesting differences between the importance of innovation. Some consumers said innovation must be balanced with stability and reliability.

The methodology for the report is based on complexity science combined with cognitive sciences and cultural anthropology. The approach combines open-ended indirect questioning techniques with three other types of questions. It provided respondents an opportunity to share stories of their own experiences with products and also suggest their own ideas for products they’d like to use.

After the user responded to the open-ended question, he or she was asked a series of other questions about that response, which added layers of meaning to the original contents of the story. By quantifying the raw data based on specific value metrics, the results defined consumers’ engagement with products in specific contexts to reveal some unexpected results.

The research also uncovered differences between consumers’ current perception of the industry and desired reality. For example, a great disconnect was found between what traits consumers wish the companies that make their personal care products have and what they perceive companies to actually be like now. Consumers envision their product ideas being made by innovative, creative companies that are environmentally and socially responsible, but from the experience they perceive the companies that make the products they use as lacking the sustainable practices.

Another benefit of the unique methodology used, according to researchers, is the ability to test certain question types for accuracy. In some of the analysis appeared contradictions or more than one possible interpretation. What appeared to be found as true in the multiple choice questions was disproved in the other question forms. These contradictions did not indicate a flaw in the analysis or design but, on the contrary, are signs that either weak signals (emerging trends) or areas that need further examination are being uncovered.

In addition, KlinePulse: Consumer Insights of Personal Care Innovation USA 2010 provides a benchmark of relative innovation between brands, uncovers the nuances of consumer perspectives on personal care innovation and reveals the complex, underlying attitudes, behaviors and experiences that drive purchase decisions.

Additional discussion on consumer insights will be available in GCI magazine's associate editor Abby Penning's March 2011 feature, both online and in print.

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