Dr Eamon Fulcher
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in-cosmetics formulation summit
In its fourth year, the in-cosmetics Formulation Summit is an education-focused convention, that captures the strongest trends driving the industry.
This year it included a number of leading international experts for the benefit of R&D professionals, senior formulators, and decision makers from cosmetics brands, manufacturers and ingredient suppliers.
Dr Eamon Fulcher talked about how the brain rapidly evaluates all that we see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. Faces are a special case, because a significant proportion of the brain is dedicated to face recognition, hence we can recognise faces with incredible accuracy, distinguish between subtle variations in facial expression, and evaluate them very quickly on an array of important attributes. One of these is attractiveness. Evolutionary psychologists have argued that our biological imperative is to protect and propagate our genes. We can do this through reproduction and by searching for a healthy mate. This is important because our genes are more likely to survive if we partner with a healthy mate. Beauty becomes a proxy for health. The use of make-up to try to make oneself look more beautiful has been going on for at least seven thousand years, and can be traced back to the Egyptians and the ancient Greeks.
More recently, psychologists have established that the more beautiful a person is (or appears to be) the more likely they are to be perceived more positively on an array of desirable attributes, such as emotionally secure, sociable, interesting, confident, organised, popular, and intelligent (to name just a few). This is termed the halo effect, and works even when we see the same person with and without make-up. Even though we know they are the same person (and we know that personal attributes are pretty much stable), we can’t help but attribute these positive features to them when they appear more attractive. Even babies have been shown to prefer more attractive faces. It’s not surprising then that most of us would like to be perceived as attractive by most or at least some people! These ideas can help explain why the cosmetics industry is so huge.
One problem for cosmetic scientists is that sooner or later they will need to do some consumer testing on their beauty products. Here they meet the truth gap – people don’t always tell you how they truly feel (they may want just to please you or they may want to hide how they feel), people can’t always say how they feel (they can’t easily put into words how they feel or their feelings may be in their subconscious), and they don’t always do what they say they are going to do (like signing up for the gym on the 1st of January and never going again!). If one’s market research is based only on what consumers verbally tell us (subjective reports), then we are not going to get a true picture of the likely success of our products.
One way to circumvent this problem is to use a more objective method, and one that does not rely on asking questions to obtain explicit responses. Implicit reaction time tests offer a valuable tool to accompany traditional quantitative surveys. Implicit reaction time tests can detect the associations that consumers have with brand names, product endorsers, cosmetics packaging, new formulations, fragrances, and more.
During the talk, Eamon demonstrated how implicit testing, coupled with neural network technology (a form of artificial intelligence or deep learning), can help model consumer perception of the brand or product (or any formula or proposition). Hence one can build a neural network model of the brand or product. A model that represents how consumers perceive and feel. This can yield insights that really help identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for the stimulus being tested, and in relation to other formulations and those of competitors.
Our Research for ITV Published
Our research for ITV revealed how positive younger viewers (Bright Young Things) are to adverts on view-on-demand TV. Ads were perceived as trusted, relevant, and high quality.
Download the pdf from itvmedia.co.uk
Dr Eamon Fulcher
Featured picture by Jens Kreuter @jenskreuter
How do respondents feel after taking an implicit reaction time survey?
We always like to finish a survey by asking respondents their experiences of taking a test. These are the themes that come from their responses.
1. Fun and engaging
“Fun to do”, “send me more”, “loved it”, “excellent”, “entertaining and friendly”, “a good experience”, “cool and enjoyable”, “interactive, “innovative”, “unique”, “a nice twist”, “like playing a game”, “aroused my curiosity”.
When respondents find a survey inetresting and engaging, they are more likely to offer their true feelings.
2. Better than taditional surveys
“Not too wordy”, “less overwhelming and tiring”, “better than most surveys”, “better than multiple-choice questions”, “doesn’t beat about the bush”, “not too long”, “unlike open-ended questions, which are hard”.
Traditional surveys can be very lengthy and demanding, and hence less engaging.
3. I don’t understand how it works
“I didn’t understand the purpose”, “I don’t understand what it does”, “what was the point?”.
When respondents can’t work out exactly what you are asking, they have no incentive or opportunity to fake their responses.
4. It was quick
“It was very fast”, “not too long”, “reasonable length”, “easy to do”, “not difficult”, “short and sweet”, “more like this please”.
Implicit reaction time tests are quick and easy to do. This makes them easier to recruit respondents than lengthier, traditional surveys.
Getting insights from data – getting to the “why?”
When you ask consumers about your products, make sure you are using the correct research method.
You may have read about the now famous story of Herman Miller’s Aeron office chair. He developed the chair through the cycle of development, market research, more development, more market research, and so on. Finally, deciding on the design we see now. His research focussed on asking consumers two questions (1) please rate the chair on comfort and (2) please rate the chair on aesthetics. His plan was to use the design which received the highest ratings on both. The trouble was that any design he created got very low ratings on both, even though in his mind he thought he had designed the perfect office chair. Notwithstanding this poor consumer feedback, he went to market…and it became the top selling office chair!
The moral of the story? When you ask someone to rate something new, if it is not simple and obvious or they really can’t verbalise how they feel, they will say they don’t like it. Often consumers will choose the least sophisticated option when they are forced to say why they like it.
The psychologist Tim Wilson has carried out a lot of research showing that when people say they actually like something they often make up a story – an explanation that has no resemblance to reality (in a typical experiment it is the manipulation that determined the liking rather than the story the participant made up). Infact, Tim Wilson has shown that people actually have very poor insights into their own inner worlds – he argues that we are strangers to ourselves.
Consumer Insights – Beyond Liking
To yield more effective consumer insights, we need to go beyond what is immediately visible and dig deeper. We need to examine why the consumer is doing what they are doing in their own world. Insights that are fresh, true, targeted and actionable are those we need to develop.
Split Second’s Implicit research methods go beyond liking. They seek to ask why a consumer prefers this brand, product, or packaging rather than that brand, product or packaging. It can tell us why and how one piece of advertising creative will work on one target audience but not another demographic. Split second’s implicit conusmer testing is able to characterise the feelings the consumer has towards the products, going much deeper than simple liking and disliking. The method is very consumer focussed and bypasses those biases that can influence verbal responses. Split second’s implicit tests are very difficult to fake, hence they provide a pure read-out of consumers’ feelings.
New product development should be cyclical: design the concept, test the market, design the prototype, test the market, develop several design options and test the market. Before implicit technology, this was a slow process, but now with the aid of our IMPRESS platform this product development cycle becomes a reality. We can turn around results in 48 hours, so your development team can get on with the business of optimising the product.
Dr Eamon Fulcher