Sensory research provides essential information for developing products that meet the interests and preferences of the target market segment. It allows marketers to optimize a product’s features in order to meet consumer needs and boost sales. Consumers like products that meet their expectations and interests. Thus, product development that is based on sensory research increases product ‘likeability’, which translates into more sales. Sensory research refers to a form of marketing research that quantifies consumer’s reactions (sensory experiences) to an external stimulus (product) (Burns & Bush, 2010). Sensory analysis helps marketers to understand the impact of product features on the customers and manipulate them to meet predicted consumer tastes and preferences in order to increase sales.
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M&D Research intends to conduct a sensory research to determine opportunities for the growth the Trojan condom brand in the US market. Trojan markets popular condom brands. However, barriers, such as fearless attitude towards STDs among the at-risk groups, limit condom use in this market. Therefore, the aim of M&D’s sensory research is to unravel the consumer beliefs that affect the use of condom products in order to inform new product development and marketing. This paper reviews the questionnaire that used in M&D research to determine its capacity to collect sensory data to guide the development of Trojan brand products.
Variables to be Measured
M&D research seeks to understand the sensory stimulus of customers by examining “hedonic aspects of product liking” that drive product consumption (Kotler, 1999). Thus, M&D research will attempt to measure variables (sensory qualities) associated with ‘liking’ or sensory stimulus. It will measure ‘product liking’ variables such as scent/fragrance, appearance (visual), and auditory attributes (brand name). Analysis of the data collected can give statistically significant information about consumer expectations, which would guide product development.
Appropriateness of the Questions
The questions in the questionnaire focus on the attributes of the product (Trojan brand) that influence ‘product liking’. They probe on aspects of ‘attribute’ liking and intensity, which will help define the variables measured in the study, including scent, appearance, auditory attributes. Thus, the questions are relevant to the measurements of the research. However, the open-ended questions used may not give desired feedback about ‘likes and dislikes’ as most customers provide ambiguous responses.
Phrasing of the Questions
The questionnaire contains structured questions based on a nominal rank of the consumers’ preferences. Good survey questions must be well phrased so that respondents can understand and interpret them correctly (Lindstrom, 2005). In M&D In-Store Fragrance Test Questionnaire, most of the questions clear to the respondents. The questions on ethnicity/race, age, and ‘fragranced’ products, among others, give a range of options (nominal order). This eliminates ambiguity, as it makes it easier for the respondent to select the appropriate category or option. In this questionnaire, the use of words such as “specifically”, “why”, and “how”, among others, at the beginning of the questions allows the interview to probe specific points that are crucial for the sensory research.
Moreover, the wording of most of the questions is not too direct as to elicit negative emotions on the part of the respondent. The analyst uses less direct questions to probe the respondent’s views without eliciting negative emotions. Additionally, the analyst avoids difficult terminologies to avoid confusing the respondent. The options in each question are clear and explicit. However, the phrasing of some questions is too direct or personal, which may be disturbing for the participants. An example is “specifically, during what times of the year would you use or give products in sample ESG?”
In a funnel questioning technique, the interviewer begins with general or closed questions before probing the answers given by the respondent (Lindstrom, 2005). The technique helps the interview to find more details about a particular point. In M&D’s questionnaire, the analyst begins with general questions before narrowing down to specific details of interest in the research. For instance, each fragrance description section begins with a more general question about the respondent’s ‘fragrance like or dislike’ before delving into specific fragrance attributes and respondent’s consumption behavior. In addition, the leading question about the time of the year the respondent uses or gives a certain fragrance is followed by a probe of the specific seasons. Thus, the analyst has used the funnel technique to probe the customer’s responses.
Overall, question placement in the questionnaire is excellent. The analyst begins with easy descriptive opening questions before asking sensitive ones. According to Lindstrom (2005), this approach helps build a good rapport with the participant. In this questionnaire, sensitive questions that touch on the respondent’s consumption behavior are placed near the end of each section. However, there are some instances of order bias in the questionnaire. Question B1 asks the respondent whether he/she has a family member working in Limited Brands divisions. On the other hand, question B2 focuses on the respondent. Ideally, leading questions should primarily focus on the respondent before extending to other parties.
The Accuracy of the Questions
The questionnaire uses more structured questions and few open-ended ones. It involves a few dichotomous questions (Yes/No) and several nominal and ordinal ones. The rank ordering avoids confusion as it accurately depicts the respondents’ choices. The questions focus on various aspects of the respondent’s subjective liking of the fragrances. The questions seek to find out the respondents’ perceptions regarding the various fragrances.
The analyst uses structured questions to find out the respondent’s attitudes towards the fragrances and open-ended questions to probe their ‘likes or dislikes’ about the fragrances. The structured questions are accurate in the sense that they explore the key attributes related to consumer product liking. However, the open-ended questions, which the analyst uses to find out the fragrance ‘likes or dislikes’, may not accurately identify the key “drivers of liking”, as not all consumers will give meaningful responses.
The objective of M&D’s study was to conduct a sensory market research that would identify growth opportunities for Trojan’s condom brands in the US market. The questionnaire covers of four major fragrance categories: EMG, ECV, ETW, and ESG. This layout clearly captures the important sensory attributes that influence product liking among consumers. However, the ‘liking space’ is limited. The analyst should include other aspects of ‘sensory liking’ such as color in order to create a complete product profile.
The questionnaire avoids vague and complex terminology in the wording of the questions. Most questions use clear and simple language, which makes them easy to understand. However, the wording of some questions makes them unclear. An example is ‘how much do you agree or disagree with this statement: “this fragrance is a fragrance for me?” The phrasing is objectionable and unclear, as it does not ask whether the respondent is personally satisfied with the fragrance.
The use of ‘leading’ questions helps the interviewer to guide the respondent “to his/her way of thinking” (Armstrong & Kotler, 2000). The analyst does not the use many leading questions. The questions give several options to the respondents. Only O and P are leading questions in the questionnaire because they give respondents two options (Yes/No). Most of the questions are clear and unambiguous. However, a few questions are ambiguous. For example the question “what specifically about the name Malibu do you find appealing or unappealing” is ambiguous because it does not specify whether Malibu is a brand, a place, or a building.
Moreover, question 14 is double-barreled, as it means the respondent likes either the fragrance or the advert. Some questions are based on pre-defined assumptions. For example, in question 4 (for all the four fragrances), the analyst assumes that the respondent is familiar with the fragrance. Some questions also tax the respondent’s memory. Examples include questions 10-12, which ask the respondent about the fragrance that is appropriate for a particular season and age group. A respondent would have to be familiar with weather patterns and age-specific preferences to answer this question.
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The instructions advise the interviewer on how to sample the respondents (target population). They also specify on the inclusion criteria (women entering or shopping at a store). However, the instructions do not specify on the amount of time to be allocated for each question. Respondents normally need more time to respond to open-ended questions. Moreover, the instructions do not inform the interviewer to observe and record non-verbal cues during the interview session. The inclusion of instructions on the average duration to be spent on each question can improve the interviewing process.
‘Pretesting’ the Questionnaire
The questionnaire can be pre-tested through a pilot test involving a few respondents (women shoppers) drawn from the target population. This will help identify errors related to ambiguity of words or question structure. Appropriate changes can then be made to improve the interviewing and data collection processes.
Armstrong, G. & Kotler, P. (2000). Marketing: An introduction. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Web.
Burns, A. & Bush, R. (2013). Marketing Research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Web.
Kotler, P. (1999). Principles of Marketing. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Web.
Lindstrom, M. (2005). Broad sensory branding. Journal of Product & Brand Management, 14(2), 84 – 87. Web.