I just spent a week in London watching consumers plunge their hands into warm mashed potatoes, cuddle a plush teddy bear, and try on fur-lined gloves.
These stimuli played a critical role in a recent qualitative research project KS&R conducted to support a personal care product manufacturer in developing a new product. They are looking to bring to market a new concept that will deliver an "ultra luxurious" experience, but aren't sure how consumers will interpret it or connect to it.
Many products in the health and beauty aids category have at their core the idea of "a hip friend". The tricky part is to come up with the emotional nuances of that relationship in order to create a compelling and meaningful connection with consumers (i.e., "sassy young sister" or "trusted big sister"). It makes a real difference in the success or failure of a new product.
And that is what qualitative research excels at -- making distinctions about attributes and characteristics. Consumers can decide for themselves what "ultra luxurious" should stand for / look like, and how this compares to other products in the category.
In order to speed the product development process, and ensure it moves in the right direction, we decided to involve consumers in the earliest stage rather than asking an agency to develop specific design / packaging concepts. And to break the rationalist mindset, we asked respondents to actually feel and experience "ultra luxury" using a wide variety of stimuli.
A "mood board" is another type of stimuli employed in this research. Not to be confused with collages, a mood board is a large board (physical or virtual) covered with a collection of images intended to evoke a certain feeling, lifestyle, or ambiance. Mood boards are designed solely to create an emotional impact /environment – in this case, "ultra luxurious". They are popular with graphic / web designers, and interior/fashion designers who use them to communicate a "theme" to clients.
In market research they are a highly effective tool for exploring consumers' perceptions of a product or brand, and have been referred to as "rapid emotional prototyping".
Try incorporating these types of stimuli into your next qualitative project. They can produce striking, intuitive insights that cannot be generated any other way.
All the best,