Marketers are constantly trying to determine what goes on in the mind of consumers when they consider purchase decisions, view advertisements, and so on. Packages, brand names, ads, and commercials are commonly researched in an attempt to improve their likelihood of success. Surveys, focus groups, in-depth discussions, and a variety of other methods have been employed to find the "holy grail" of research that will provide insight into consumer's minds. Recently some companies have turned to mind probing through less traditional methods, including hypnosis and "archetype research."
Take DaimlerChrysler, for example. In searching for a "breakthrough" car, the company shunned traditional marketing research techniques and instead employed an unconventional approach known as archetype research. With billions of dollars of investments on the line, Chrysler recently shifted the bulk of its research to this methodology, which was developed by a French-born medical anthropologist, G. Clotaire Rapaille, whose previous work involved working with autistic children. To gain insights from deep inside consumers' minds, Rapaille conducted three-hour focus group sessions, in which—with lights dimmed and mood music in the background—consumers were asked to look at a prototype of the newly designed PT Cruiser and to go far back into their childhood to discuss what emotions were evoked, as well as to write stories about their feelings. After the sessions, Rapaille and a team of Chrysler employees read the stories, looking for what they refer to as "reptilian hot buttons," or nuggets of revealing emotions. According to Rapaille, remembering a new concept is dependent upon associating it with an emotion, and the more emotions evoked, the greater the likelihood of recall. The process led to significant design changes that resulted in a less-than-traditional-looking car that won an award as North America's Car of the Year.
Actually, Chrysler was not the first to employ archetype research. Archetype research has also been applied to the naming of SUVs. What comes to your mind when you hear Bronco, Cherokee, Wrangler, Blazer, Yukon, Navigator, or Denali? What about Tahoe, Explorer, Range Rover, or Bravada? As SUVs are increasingly adopted by women (men are going for trucks), it is important to convey some image of the vehicles that meets the target market's needs—conscious or subconscious. According to archetype research, these SUV names conjure up the wilderness, ruggedness, and the new frontier. To women, the size and safety of these vehicles are what they need to compete in this "less than civilized" environment. Does it work? No other product class has seen greater growth over the last 10 years.
But don't think that it's only the auto companies that want to know what's in your head. The list of subscribers to archetype research includes AT&T, Boeing, GE, Lego, Kellogg, and Samsonite, just to name a few. At least 10 years prior to Chrysler's use of the technique, Procter & Gamble employed Rapaille to determine that aroma sells more coffee than taste because of the emotional ties to home. The Folger's coffee ad in which a young soldier returns home and brews a pot of coffee that causes his sleeping mother to wake up and sense that he has returned is a direct result of that research. General Motors has also used this research methodology.
In an equally unconventional approach, California wine maker Domain Chandon and its ad agency D'Arcy
Masius Benton & Bowles of Los Angeles conducted focus groups of hypnotized consumers. In the groups, participants were asked to discuss their experiences and feelings about the first time they drank champagne and/or sparkling wine. According to Chandon and D'Arcy, traditional focus groups lead to "surface" discussions whereas drinking champagne involves more of an "inside"-driven and emotional response. By hypnotizing the participants, they felt they could get behind the barriers set up in conscious minds. The approach apparently worked; as noted by Diane Dreyer, senior VP at D'Arcy, some participants revealed romantic and sexual experiences that "I'm sure they wouldn't share in the waking state." The input from the groups was used in the development of a new advertising campaign that featured a sexual and passionate appeal, as well as a new logo. Essentially, the research led to a whole new positioning for the brand, with ads placed on billboards and in travel and epicurean magazines, as well as a move into e-commerce.
In his book Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, retail consultant Paco Underhill attempts to explain why consumers buy. With a degree in Chinese history, Underhill shifted his emphasis to environmental psychology and, like Rapaille, found the consulting world much more lucrative. Equating the modern-day shopper with the "hunter-gatherer" mentality of the past, he sees men as shopping because of an obsession with a single item. Women, on the other hand, look upon shopping as a social occasion that provides a sense of liberation. At the mall they can escape their husbands and families, exercise their judgments, and see and be seen. Is this what women did in the caveman days?
Traditional or not, millions of dollars are now being invested in previously unheard-of techniques. Billions more are riding on the results. Are you willing to take the risk?
Sources: Phil Patton, "Car Shrinks" Fortune, March 18,2002, pp. 187-190; Alice Z.Cuneo, "Domain Chandon Looks beyond the Celebrations," Advertising Age, July 19,1999, p. 9; Abigail Goldman, "Expert Offers Retailers Glimpse into Shoppers' Minds," Los Angeles Times, June 3,1999, p. C5; Jeffrey Ball, "But How Does It Make You Feel?" The Wall Street Journal, May 3,1999, p. Bl.
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