The Right Sensory Mix: Targeting Consumer Product Development Scientifically (Book Review)

On August 1, 2013
rightHave you ever thought that genetics and neuroendocrinology can be applied in consumer behavior research? Professor Diana Derval (President and RD of DervalResearch – global market research firm specializing in human perception and behavior; Chair of the Board of Directors of the Better Immune System Foundation; Professor of Marketing and Innovation at the University of Wales MBA/Robert Kennedy College; teaches Sensory Science at ESSEC Paris-Singapore Business School and at the University Leonard de Vinci) uses these concepts in order to understand and predict consumer’s attitudes, preferences and behavior and explains it in her book “The Right Sensory Mix: Targeting Consumer Product Development Scientifically” (published by Springer in 2010).
This is one of the four best marketing books in 2011, according to the American Marketing Associationdiana-derval Foundation, as it was nominated for the Berry-AMA Book Prize – annually award that recognizes books whose innovative ideas have had significant impact on marketing and related fields. In 220 pages, the book offers tools for tailoring the right sensory mix of color, shape, taste, smell, texture and sound when designing new products, but also for fine-tuning the positioning and product range for every local market. Diana Derval is also the inventor of Hormonal Quotient™, a concept explained in this book.
Many companies fail to acknowledge and analyze disparities observed among customers and simply put them down to culture or emotion. New neuroendocrinological research proves that consumers have a different biological perception of the same stimulus. Their preferences, behavior, and decisions are strongly influenced by the hundreds of millions of sensors monitoring their body and brain. People with more taste buds are for example sensitive to bitterness and are more likely to drink their coffee with sugar or milk, or to drink tea.
The book promises much, with chapters on detecting profitable markets, predicting consumer behavior, identifying the right sensory mix and increasing the innovation hit rate. Some of the aspects are written in an anecdotal language, and although the conclusions rely on science, some of them are oversimplified generalizations.
Recent breakthroughs in human sensory perception and neurosciences offer endless opportunities in the field of product development. The first chapter (“Coming to our Senses”) shows how to easily generate groundbreaking insights with a more scientific approach and the critical role of consumers’ senses is analyzed through the study of Coke Zero and Red Bull, and the secrets of taste are revealed.
The second chapter (“Detecting Profitable Markets”) show how to detect profitable markets through the Nintendo Wii and DS revolution. The secrets of sound perception are unveiled with the example of Shazam and Dutch Railways (NS). We learn how to leverage sensory knowledge in order to identify profitable markets, in the context of emerging countries, or disruptive innovations.
Third chapter (“Predicting Consumers’ Behavior”) studies the predictive power of hormones with the Hormonal Quotient™. The biological mechanisms between sensory stimuli and consumers’ behavior are clarified with the success stories of Häagen Dazs. It further explores the world of smell, and the multisensory perception inspired by examples of daily life and the Sofitel Amsterdam The Grand case.
Next chapter (“The Right Sensory Mix”) shows us how to deliver the right sensory mix for each target customer. We dig into the intriguing world of touch and texture with La Favorite, and participate in the launch of new personal care services. We learn to design the perfect consumer experience, following the example of And a framework will be given to effectively evaluate consumers’ sensory profile and propose the winning sensory mix.
Last chapter (“Increasing the Innovation Hit Rate”) shows how business benefits from decisions based on scientific observations and gives guidelines on how to successfully implement this research method within the company and increase the innovation hit rate. Practical recommendations and business advice are shared by champion companies like Bjorn Borg. The chapter also shares some eye-opening breakthroughs with Carl Zeiss Vision. The author then shows us how to plan success by including trends and technologies in product development roadmaps and organizing teams effectively.
If you ever asked yourself questions like:

  • Why do some people drink black coffee and others stick to tea?
  • Why do some people prefer competitors’ products?
  • Why do we sell less in this country?
  • Which customers would like my product and why?
  • Why do some brands become overnight successes even when consumer panels dislike their taste?

… then this is the book that answers them. If you are interested in marketing strategies derived from science, or if you need to advertise and push new products to the market, this will be a great read.

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