Sensory research must uncover more than just the top layer of decision making – we need to cut deep into the five dimensions of sensory in order to reveal the consumer’s experience. Our team of sensory experts challenged traditional research methods by revealing the benefits of fusing multiple methods of fragrance research to guide effective product development.
The introduction of applied consumer neuroscience in consumer product research is relatively new, so we set out to determine the value of incorporating neuroscientifc measurements. We used HCD’s HedonicsPlus methodology to compare four different tropical plug-in scented air fresheners. We used eight airflow-controlled booths to eliminate cross contamination. Not only were we able to test cognitive reactions by product likeability and fragrance intensity, but we also measured physiological responses from electrodes placed on the face (facial EMG), hand (Galvanic Skin Response) and wrist (heart rate variability).
The cognitive measures found all fragrances scored similarly for overall liking, which is no surprise as that’s often a problem in product testing. The emotional profiles from the explicit measures did result in more insight, but most of the products were rated as happy and refreshed. In comparison, the nuero-physiological procedures showed us that by layering up the cognitive findings with subconscious data, we can uncover a much deeper understanding of emotional resonance. At a subconscious level, positive and negative arousal changed with longer exposure to the fragrances. For example, one of the scents evolved over time, becoming more approachable and signaling that this product would perform well over longer exposure in an in-use environment.
The results from this first study were clear – the product experience is much more than just a hedonic experience, there is also an emotional and functional experience that must be considered. The deeper level reveals differences in experience that consumers may not be aware of or able to articulate, but that will still influence their overall perception of the product and determine what actually drives purchase.
Evaluating candle fragrances
In another recent study, published in HAPPI, we used our latest sensory research methodology to understand consumer touch points in experiencing candle fragrances. We set out to compare the benefits of testing candles in cold versus burn mode. The cold mode replicates the point of purchase, but burn mode helps evaluate repeat purchase. Traditionally, testing a candle in burn mode has always been a challenge for candle fragrance research for lack of a safe and consistent environment. Fortunately our qPOD (Portable Olfactive Evaluation Devices) platform accurately evaluates the consumer experience in burn mode. We replicated the ‘in-use’ experience in the same room, using two fruit candle fragrances and two candy sweet fruity (Gourmand) fragrances, each placed in separate qPODs. We discovered that the words associated with each fragrance were similar in cold and burn mode, but consumers liked the more complex, full-bodied fragrances dramatically more in burn mode. We also found that consumers were more likely to purchase the fragrances tested in burn mode. The fruit scents even had a more pronounced personality in burn mode. Although we did find the insight from testing in both modes to be complementary, it was clear that testing in burn mode can be fundamental for understanding repeat purchase and strategic decision making.
The two studies provided evidence to support using multiple methods of product research to obtain a much deeper understanding of fragrance product development, far beyond traditional methods.