As sensory brand, pack and product partners, we work with clients to
really bring consumers into the development process – whether for NPD or
renovation. For an offer to truly succeed in market, the brand, pack and
product must work together holistically – it’s something that goes beyond a traditional liking measure. It
is therefore essential that key brand equities are perfectly aligned across all
We call this sensory branding.
Our aim as a research partner is to aid
decision-making that allows FMCG companies to develop winning ideas, working at
the intersection of brand, pack and product – our heartland. Although we are highly
experienced in providing insight to guide this journey, we knew that the best
way to truly recognize the benefits, challenges and obstacles of product
innovation through sensory led consumer research would be to put ourselves in our
So, in April 2017 our UK teams were tasked to go ‘client-side’ in order
for them to experience what it really means to develop a new product using
sensory branding principles.
Sensory Branding Challenge, 9 teams were drawn from every discipline around the
business – insight, data processing, programming, operations, stats and HR. Each member was allocated a role; Consumer
Insights, Marketing and Branding, Product/Packaging Development, Trade Sales
and Finance. Half of the teams received a brief for a soft drink, whilst the
other half were tasked with developing a new snacking product. The groups were
provided with information on target demographics, occasions, emotional and
functional equities and health/lifestyle attitudes, and were instructed to develop
a brand positioning, product and pack to fit. They had MMR’s qualitative and
quantitative toolkit at their disposal, and were also encouraged to make use of
our sensory teams and panels. The biggest challenge – they had to do it all in
a matter of weeks.
With a small budget
allocated to each team to cover expenses such as ingredients, packaging
materials and travel to food and drink events, the challenge required team
members to take initiative and be resourceful.
One of the logistical challenges of the tight 2-week timeframe was the effective
division of workload across different offices and schedules, as well as
organizing meetings to communicate ideas. A recurring theme in team members’
feedback highlights the importance of communication and delegation, as issues
arose when this was lacking. Whilst working across different departments and
even geographical locations had its complications, it brought home the
realities of real world product innovation and provided our team members with a
greater awareness of the real limitations that organisations face in the bigger
picture of their work with us.
Despite this challenge, the chance to work across different areas and with
different people than usual has created quite a buzz here, driving appreciation
and understanding of the different roles and relationships within the company. Recognising
the diverse skills that team members bring to the table has been a valuable
exercise as not only can we learn from each other, but we can take full
advantage of this range of skills to maximise the impact of all our client deliverables.
Coached throughout the process by MMR’s Global CEO Mat Lintern and UK Managing
Director Judith Henderson, the teams demonstrated genuine enthusiasm, professionalism and real creative flair.
of the challenge was an exhibition booth detailing the team’s journey from
concept to final output and a 5 minute live pitch to a panel comprising Mat
Lintern, Judith Henderson, and MMR clients Karen Poole (Paddy’s Bathroom),
Aileen Bentall (Ferrero) and Jake Schneider (Pladis).
Although an important
means of depicting the story (and a chance to give out tasty nibbles!), it was
emphasised from the outset that the winning team would deliver on the principles of sensory branding - whereby brand equities are physically embedded as sensory attributes across product and pack.
panel were thoroughly impressed and deemed all the ideas to have commercial
The teams that
really stood out, both in the opinions of the judging panel and a ballot box
vote, were those whose ideas were not only distinctive but had clearly understood
the consumer need, finding an ownable ‘space’ with a compelling proposition
that had both purpose and meaning.
certainly evident in the winning team, who fulfilled all judging panel criteria
with solid grounding, great execution, clear trade story (particularly
leveraging contemporary trends), effective teamwork and compelling delivery.
Aside from highlighting
the importance of teamwork and communication, the challenge has left us with
several take-outs which will undoubtedly benefit the way we approach and view
our project work and client communications.
creating a winning product idea is not easy.
iterative process, with elements adapted and refined after research and
feedback, which can often be frustrating. To create a successful product, all
sensory elements must align, which is not as straightforward as it seems. Now
that we have tried this for ourselves, we believe that we are even better
placed to help our clients realize the potential of effective sensory branding in
driving NPD success.
concepts evolve and nurturing them into the team’s own brand inevitably created
a sense of personal attachment, described by team members as a conflicting
feeling. Although it did inspire enthusiasm and dedication to product
development and brand promise, negative findings were taken harder and more personally
than anticipated. In this way, increased sensitivity to the challenges that
face our clients will allow us to empathize with, and be responsive to, their
constraints - ultimately fostering a stronger relationship and superior
On behalf of
everyone at MMR, a massive thank you and congratulations goes out to each and every person who go stuck in. The buzz on the
day was electric, and everyone was impressed by the sheer amount of work
that had been put into the concepts, booths and pitches, despite the very tight
timeframe. They all had the potential to be winning products, and the judges
faced extremely tough deliberation. We look forward to similar company training
events in the future, which will continue to reveal the exceptional talent and
creativity of the people who work at MMR.
We've got a number of takeouts from our Sensory Branding Challenge - find out more as we get them online...