Research methods are changing

15 October 2010

TOKYO: Brand owners including L'Oréal, Nestlé and SABMiller are utilising innovative market research techniques, in a bid to enhance their understanding of consumers across the globe.

In one example of this trend in action, cosmetics giant L'Oréal has begun filming how Chinese volunteers use conditioner at home, to supplement findings from labs replicating such an environment.

Efforts elsewhere have demonstrated South Korean females regularly stock up on at least 25 beauty products, measured against between 20 and 25 in Japan and doubling totals recorded by the US and Europe.

Further insights showed Japanese women typically add over 50 coats of mascara at one time, a figure five to ten times greater than the amount employed among their Europe counterparts.

"It all starts with observation," Patricia Pineau, communication directors at L'Oréal's research arm, told the Financial Times.

"Observing is necessary to decode exactly what [consumers] are trying to get and what they are attracted to. Sometimes it is the gesture that will reveal something that they really want to gain."

Results of these schemes have encompassed making Lancôme Génifique Youth Activating Concentrate with a unique texture in Japan, where L'Oréal's lip gloss is also lighter, reflecting national preferences.

A nuanced approach gave the French firm deeper knowledge of more irregular activities practised by Japanese women, like removing tiny hairs around the face and neck to ensure make-up looked its best.

Nestlé, the food group, has similarly attempted to construct a true picture of widespread habits in India by ensuring it sees how customers actually use products.

Having noticed many Indian shoppers added extra vegetables to instant noodles when cooking, the company began following this route at source.

"It really is an eye-opener for most of the teams, because they get a real life understanding," said Chandan Mukherji, head of consumer insights, Nestlé India.

In Peru, the Swiss multinational allowed the general public to choose an extension for its Besos de Moza snack brand, and the winning option, flavoured with local fruit lucuma, sold 56m units last year.

"The feedback was amazing," said Carlos Velasco, head of Nestlé's Peruvian arm.

SABMiller, the brewer, also adopted a differentiated strategy in the same country, where drinking rituals have been profoundly shaped by events of the recent past.

"There's a dearth of pubs in the country," said Rob Priday, managing director of SABMiller's Peruvian unit.

"In the terrorist years, people did not go out and now it is over, there are not enough pubs for on-premises drinking."

As such, in Peru - and in Colombia - SAB Miller has partnered with small businesses and opened outlets selling beer next to football pitches, as well as sites offering virtual golf and card tables.

The company has also seen that in-depth analysis does not always yield the expected outcome, as its Red premium drink aimed at women turned out to be very popular among men.

"Traditional research concentrated on the 'what'. Now we are trying to establish the 'why'," Simon Stewart, marketing director at beverages manufacturer Britvic, concluded.

"We are not asking what they think about products and ideas but focusing on what makes them tick."

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff