In four previous articles, I’ve discussed that for attitude research to be meaningful and effective, it should follow a distinct path. Foremost is to determine which basic customer and prospect NEEDS must be addressed for companies and brands to even have a chance to survive.
Beyond that, research should be looked to for determining consumer WANTS, WISHES and DESIRES. The ones that launch companies and brands into dreamed about sales and profits.
But lastly, there is the issue of EMOTION.
Studying and understanding EMOTION is difficult for attitude researchers because emotion is irrational and not easily expressed. Ask consumers how they feel about Starbuck’s and they’ll mostly talk product variety, good taste and convenience. But the emotion of walking into a Starbuck’s is a big part of their success.
Do consumers really care that Miller Lite outpoints Bud Lite in taste tests or do they gravitate to one brand over another as a result of the emotion portrayed in advertising? Would Motorola or Nokia create the same emotion if they were introducing a new multi-purpose cell phone as is Apple with IPhone? Why the strong emotional attachment to Google and not to Yahoo?
For attitude research to be the force it should, it is essential to understand the connection between what consumers say about companies and brands and how they feel about them. More to the point, it essential to understand whether focusing on more rational consumer needs, wants and wishes will optimize sales and profits or if EMOTIONAL approaches would prove more effective.
Fortunately there many new experimental research models that show promise in helping marketers understand EMOTION. Ethnographic studies, research into the language of emotion and brands, recall focus groups, overtime behavior studies, observational studies and consumers as creative sources. These and others hold promise.
So, the final challenge for research is two-fold. First it is one for professional researchers and then one for management.
Researchers must be more forceful in seeking out new techniques for studying and understanding the role EMOTION plays in the ultimate success of their brands. They must find new research approaches that better explain how emotion contributes to consumer behavior. They must be better able to predict success or failure because of the role consumer emotion often plays in purchasing decisions.
And management must insist that researchers experiment with new and different techniques in coming to grips with EMOTION. Most importantly, they must allocate funds for non-traditional research approaches and must be patient in not expecting too much too soon.
A great deal has happened to the research industry since Ernst Ditcher founded The Institute for Motivation Research in the 1940s. We’ve learned how to measure awareness, image and attitudes. We have a good handle on psychographic research and conjoint approaches. We have dozens upon dozen of research techniques that can be used for advertising, concept testing and new product development. We do a good job when it comes to explaining consumer NEEDS, WANTS, WISHES and DESIRES and determining where more attention should be focused.
In the end, though, we lack the tools for explaining EMOTION, and role it plays in the success of our companies and brands. Perhaps the very nature of the human condition will ultimately prevent such understanding. But until then, the challenge for research eminently clear.