At Nielsen, we believe that innovation plays a role within every successful company. From label redesign to flavor extensions to the unveiling of a new brand initiative, innovation comes in many forms. But what really matters is that companies innovate to continue moving forward. For marketers, successful innovation is a balancing act. As their companies evolve, marketers must stay attuned to changing consumer sentiments while ensuring that new products and services stay true to their brands.
But staying true to the brand isn’t as easy as it seems. That’s because over time, our brains develop a network of brand associations made up of familiar logos, jingles, characters and other creative assets, that are built and strengthened by advertising. When marketers introduce new and innovative concepts to consumers, they hope to reinforce and grow their brand network in consumer’s minds—but if not done carefully, they can disrupt how we process the traditional themes we’ve grown to know and trust.
So how can marketers find out if their innovation is effectively extending the brand? It’s not as simple as asking your target consumers, “What do you think?” While there’s much to learn through surveys and focus groups, the insights needed to analyze innovation’s effect on brand networks can only be gained by understanding the behavior and brain processing that happens below conscious awareness.
This need for deeper insights was the focus of a presentation at the recent lleX Behavior Conference in Chicago. Dr. Sarah Yu, Client Service & Neuroscience Director at Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience presented along with Kathryn Grater, Senior Leader Research Innovation & Behavioral Science at Kimberly Clark. In front of an audience of forward-thinking researchers and marketers, they discussed the importance of using consumer neuroscience technologies to identify the meaningful influences on consumer behavior that help grow brands through innovation.
Sarah pointed out that there are some things that consumers simply can’t articulate, such as behaviors that are grounded in emotion, memory and habitual drivers – often the very associations that make up those important brand networks. And as a result, brands can’t always rely on consumers to provide accurate, substantive answers about their behavior (what they did, why they did it and what they’ll do in the future). Kathryn added “It is our job as marketers to protect our brand’s network of associations—grow it, reinforce it, make it top of mind for our consumers. And truly understanding nonconscious drivers of behavior is the only way we’ll ever have a chance to affect those meaningful behavior changes.”This highlights how Nielsen recently helped Kimberly-Clark when they sought to engage a new generation of consumers with innovation on their iconic facial tissue brand, Kleenex.
Using Nielsen’s integrated consumer neuroscience technologies, including EEG, facial coding and eye tracking, we tested several upcoming TV spots that highlighted the innovative product extension for the brand.
The results revealed which assets created the highest brand resonance with viewers and where the brand had strayed too far from their existing network of associations—and in fact, lifted a competitive brand. “Being able to measure resonance of a brand as it is represented in the brain is critically important for any brand who wants to understand their equity network over time and understand how new innovation builds, or hurts, that network” said Sarah.
Armed with insights from Nielsen neuroscience tools, Kimberly-Clark was able to make critical changes to the ad to increase its effectiveness and strengthen its brand recognition. Following these changes, the brand team felt confident introducing the new product and expanding the Kleenex brand family. Through collaboration with Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience, Kimberly-Clark has successfully launched three important brand innovations that have helped Kleenex evolve to meet the needs of its consumers.
As brands continue to innovate within increasingly competitive marketplaces, they need modern research and marketing tools to be successful. “In the past five to 10 years,” Kathryn said, “we have shifted the way we think, talk, and act, especially in relation to how we design our consumer research practices.” Now that’s innovation.
Pictured above: Dr. Sarah Yu, Client Service & Neuroscience Director at Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience, right, presented along with Kathryn Grater, Senior Leader Research Innovation & Behavioral Science at Kimberly Clark, left.