by | Mar 27, 2018

Risk & Reward: Alienation Testing

Changing a product for any reason entails risk that current users will feel alienated and reject the new product.  Risk vs benefit questions are “Will current users notice?” and “How will users react?”

Companies must weigh the potential business risks of change against benefits such as quality improvement, cost reduction, or regulatory or ingredient issues. Alienation testing engages with current users to quantify the risk they may alter their purchase behaviors in response to the proposed changes.

InsightsNow takes a unique behavioral approach in assessing this risk to predict how and why current users will react to a proposed product change. This includes a diverse array of situations where product changes are “blind” or accompanied by marketing communications.  We may survey consumers in a central location, home use or extended home use environment.

“Coming out with clean label products without alienating brand fans is a major challenge for most food companies.” —Noel E. Anderson, Ph.D, CFS, IFT Fellow

What to Do?

First, determine how much alienation you are willing to accept, if any.

From the research identify …

    • how much alienation would result from making the product change
    • if the alienation cause can be addressed with additional R&D efforts,
    • or if the change is simply not recommended for the brand.

Alienation testing gives you the vital information you need to make business and product decisions.

Ensure that you don’t lose current users when doing a product change or update, and plan a strategy to tip the balance positive.

How Alientation Testing Works

Identifying Alienation

The percentage of people who would be alienated can be calculated by identifying the number of people who:

Sensory Trade-offs

Quantify the sensory trade-offs for a proposed change.

  • Is the new product detected as different from current?
  • Does the new product create penalties that reduce liking or preference?
  • Do benefits overcome penalties leading to a change in purchase behavior?

The Reactions

Analysis through alienation testing looks at when a brand makes a product change, and there are several ways in which the brand’s franchise may respond to that change. Essentially, there are four possible reactions:

  • Unaware/Indifferent: Members of this group fail to detect the change, or are unaware or indifferent to it.
  • Contented: These consumers detect and prefer the product change.
  • Vulnerable: These prefer the current product, but will remain brand loyal and keep buying in spite of the change.
  • Alienated: Members of this reactionary group are aware of change, prefer the current product, and in turn will reduce or discontinue product use as a result.
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