Moments of Truth, and How to Make Them Matter More

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January 22, 2019

by Andrew Wardlaw


The ‘consumer journey’ is often talked about but rarely understood in relation to the human senses. And yet, unlocking a specific sensory attribute can hold the key to creating something powerful, as Andrew Wardlaw and Alice Barker discovered working in the World Foods aisle.

At a recent marketing conference, one of the speakers sought to flatter his audience by suggesting that the people in the room were the authority on how consumers experience their brands. Some hours later, one very brave brand manager stood up and said that, in all honesty, he didn’t have such vivid insight. He wasn’t even sure whether his brand experience was particularly cohesive either. There followed a collective sigh of relief as fellow marketeers acknowledged that they weren’t alone.

Most pack and product research still investigates out of context – in halls, online and with people literally wired up to machines. What is less common, is research that accesses the linear human experience at each successive real-world moment of truth.

As a direct response, Sensory Science at MMR has been innovating hard to take the clever stuff out of the lab. We want our clients to deliver innovation that sticks and we believe that the human senses has a key role to play.

So, when a European client approached us to help create a premium range in the world foods aisle, we asserted the need to go beyond liking and work out how the proposition could be more meaningfully distinctive across the entire consumer journey – starting with what happens in store.

To meet the brief, we developed an entirely new qualitative approach that we now call ‘Sensory Moments.’ Our proposal promised to inform on which sensory cues were required at each moment of truth to create a highly motivating and seamless human experience. In short, we wanted to find the golden thread.

We began by working with people who were attuned to the sensory aspects of the category. Ordinary in every way, except for a wonderful ability to notice the little things - and then use pithy and insightful language to explain. We captured what mattered across the ‘path to purchase’ and in home.

By following people through their purchase, preparation and consumption experience, we were able to identify a specific but very motivating sensory cue that could be used to power every aspect of execution. We had found the golden thread!

As we gathered a detailed understanding of each touch-point, we were able to inform and align brand and pack communications, pack structures, substrates and semiotics as well as guiding the sensory construction of the product itself to communicate the same message. The result was one meaningfully distinctive sensory attribute informing and powering multiple touch-points.

Rarely have we seen a client so excited by the power of something so nuanced.

Our experience in the world foods aisle has once again illustrated how the tiniest sensory detail can make all the difference. The Sensory Moments approach not only intersects and decodes moments of human interaction, but in the innovation game, it helps brand teams unite around a tangible sensory dynamic, thereby promoting greater synchronicity for the consumer.


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