Biometrics & Cognitive Neuroscience
Attribute Elicitation Task (AET)
Fresh Squeezed Ideas - Canada

When seeking to assess the attributes that make an ideal product or service, we often provide people with a pre-determined list (either quantitatively or qualitatively) that may or may not include attributes that respondents deem important. But how can you possibly think of everything that will be important to consumers? You can’t! So let them do it for you.

The biggest brand challenge is knowing what customers actually value in your product or service. We took a validated interview technique that originated in clinical psychology and adapted it for use in market research. The task leverages the comparative nature by which our human brain make decisions. The outcome is understanding what attributes are actually important to consumers, and how the product of interest delivers on them. Something that every client and market researcher always wants to know!

Development Stage: Growth Mode
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People organize their experiences with the world into conceptual classifications that can be differentiated and described using 'attributes' of those classifications. Going beyond the typical 'just ask' model, this is an implicit measure to get at the relevant attributes by simply asking respondents to compare triads of products (or brands), and tell us what make two similar and the third different. This allows us to bypass the usual biases that are present when we directly ask people what is important to them, and leverage the real-life comparative nature of human decision making processes.

The greatest current need in market research is to overcome the 'say-do gap', where consumers tell us one thing, then go and do something completely different. Methods brought over from psychology and the behavioral sciences arm us with principles that we can apply to overcome this gap.  Our Attribute Elicitation Task (AET) adapts a validated psychological interview method to ensure that we understand what is actually important to consumers when evaluating a brand or product.

We have not come across this tool offered by any other market research company.  As a result, the clients with whom we have shared it with all found it to be very unique, and a powerful method for approaching even the toughest business questions. We have applied it on over 10 projects and 10 separate clients in the past 6 months, across both consumer packaged goods and healthcare industries.  The tool is scalable in that we are able to deploy it large scale over a proprietary digital platform, but also on a smaller scale during in-person focus groups or via telephone interviews. 

We used the AET with a client who was looking to revitalize the instant coffee category.  This is a category that is notorious for the 'say-do gap', where everybody says they want a dark, bold, strong coffee, however, most people prefer a light, sweet, weak coffee when it comes to the taste. The AET allowed us to understand the perceptions that people had of instant coffee relative to other types of coffee. What we uncovered was that attributes related to social perceptions around coffee came up very often, and especially more so when instant coffee was part of the triad.  So although people told us in a series of qualitative open ended questions that they don’t like instant coffee because of the taste, what we actually learned from conducting the AET is that people don’t like instant coffee because it isn't cool! As a result, our recommendations were focused on improving the social aspect and acceptability of instant coffee, vs improving taste which we know wouldn't have worked.

We present respondents with a triad (3 examples) of products. Next, we ask them what makes two similar and the third different.  Repeated multiple times, we are able to obtain the full set of attributes that are important to participants. We then ask them to rank how the product of interest is delivering on those attributes, and include the competitors too. This effective market research technique is able to:

  • Quickly generate a large number of product or brand attributes that are useful in comparing different products or brands
  • Elicit differentiating attributes in the respondents’ vocabulary rather than the researcher’s vocabulary
  • Identify attributes that are important to the respondents rather than the researcher
  • Provide a structured process for eliciting qualitative feedback
It is a fun and engaging interview method that allows brands to engage with consumers in a meaningful way.
Author
Rajwant Sandhu
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