PARSIPPANY, N.J. — Attention personal care product marketers and manufacturers: Consumers' attitude toward innovation is not what conventional wisdom has been dictating, and there are differences between their current perception of the industry and desired reality. That's according to the findings of Kline & Co.'s new report that leverages a unique form of emerging research methodology.
"If I had an opportunity to talk to an executive of a personal care company, I would tell them that I wish they would invent something that would make my kids want to brush their teeth," or "a skin care product that is a combination of Neosporin, Clearasil and covering makeup," wrote some respondents from the new research conducted by the worldwide consulting and research firm.
Kline's new report, "KlinePulse: Consumer Insights of Personal Care Innovation USA 2010," leveraged a unique form of emerging research methodology to quantify qualitative results. The methodology is based on complexity science, combined with cognitive sciences and cultural anthropology. The approach combined open-ended indirect questioning techniques with three other types of questions. It provided respondents with an opportunity to share stories of their own experiences with products and also suggest their own ideas for products they'd like to use.
After the user responded to the open-ended question, he or she was asked a series of other questions about that response, which added layers of meaning to the original contents of the story. By quantifying the raw data based on specific value metrics, the results defined consumers' engagement with products in specific contexts to reveal some unexpected results, according to the research firm.
So, what is innovation to consumers in the United States? Consumers know an innovative product (in their definition of innovative) when they see one. However, innovation is not foremost in all consumers' minds. Analysis of the differences between various age and ethnic groups showed differences between the importance of innovation. Some consumers said innovation must be balanced with stability and reliability, according to Kline.
The research also uncovered differences between consumers' current perception of the industry and desired reality. For example, a great disconnect was found between what traits consumers wish the companies that make their personal care products have, and what they perceive companies to actually be like now. Consumers envision their product ideas being made by innovative, creative companies that are environmentally and socially responsible, but from their experience, they perceive the companies that make the products they use as lacking the sustainable practices, according to Kline.
Another benefit of the methodology used is the ability to test certain question types for accuracy. In some of the analysis appeared contradictions or more than one possible interpretation. What appeared to be found as true in the multiple choice questions was disproved in the other question forms. These contradictions did not indicate a flaw in the analysis or design, but are signs that either emerging trends or areas that need further examination are being uncovered.