Here is another case study in our irregular series looking at the realities associated with the J.P. Morgan quote, ‘people do things for two reasons: a good reason and a real reason.’ Our focus is on a recent project looking at the candle market. Our start point was an attempt to try and understand an apparent discrepancy: why do some mass-produced, big brand, candles sell for a significantly higher price than others?
By way of example, one of the three candle brands illustrated in Figure 1 typically retails for about double the price of the other two. It is also rarely if ever seen on ‘special offer’, whereas the other two often find themselves in a series of margin-stripping two-for-one or bulk purchase heavy discounting arms races.
When it comes to trying to understand why three products, each with ostensibly the same tangible performance as one another, should have such different sales characteristics, we increasingly revert to using our Pansensic ‘science of intangibles’ capability. The purpose of these tools, especially as presented in this kind of published article, is not necessarily to provide the definitive insight for marketing candles, but rather to provide some initial clues and insights into potential solution directions.
Most organizations understand the importance of soliciting feedback and listening to the ‘voice of the customer’, unfortunately very few know how to get to the unspoken nuances. Partly because they use methods and techniques that aren’t adequate for the job at hand, but also, often more seriously, because when we are trying to elicit ‘real reason’ information from people it is often unpleasant, difficult, insulting, or just plain embarrassing to talk about. The internet, meanwhile, has lead to an explosion of valuable online customer comments which, although there are still inevitable biases, at least the interviewer-bias part has been removed. Pansensics is about scraping, analysing and making sense of these data sources, recognizing that it is still necessary to ‘read between the lines’ in terms of extracting the unspoken truths coming from our limbic brains rather than the bias that emerges from the rationalizing pre-frontal cortex.
The approach involves finding and scraping customer narrative from internet forums and blogs, which represent real customer experiences, opinions, views, likes, dislikes and emotions. We can then compare the analysis of customer narrative with the analysis of the website and other promotional materials of the organizations providing products designed to serve those customers. Any differences between these two sets of input then represent opportunities to improve communications. Or, more specifically in this case, to hopefully help us to understand the answer to our candle pricing conundrum.
For this case study we scraped a multitude of online resources:
For consumers and candle aficionados:
For the providers:
For the three companies, we also transcribed TV advertisement scripts in order to add that input to the scrape.
When scraping these kinds of online or scripted sources, Pansensics is designed to identify and then map the intangible disconnect between the customer and the communication material. It does so by comparing the narrative using various combinations of a variety of sensor tools, some of which have now benefited from over 12 years of validation:
- Psychological/psychosocial profiling tools, designed to access the pre-rational, real reason people do things.
- A. Mental gears: Identifies the (Gravesian) mindset of the cohort
- B. Jupiter: Connects to the deep, root metaphors people use
- C. Archetype: Identifies the archetypal traits based on life’s journey
- D. Champion: Identifies the vital companions of life and business
- Sentiment analysis
- A. Emotional range: Picks out the extremes of emotional content
- B. Emotional state: Identifies the emotional state of the narrative
- Systems opportunity tools
- A. Opportunity: Identifies opportunities to improve innovate and meet customer needs
- B. Universal Ontology: A 72 point systems model for complex system problem solving
What follows are the results from the most significant of the analyses we conducted:
A) Mental Gears
Any readers familiar with any of our TrenDNA work will know that the thinking style patterns uncovered by psychologist Clare Graves forms a central element of the ‘DNA’ of market trends and consumer behaviour drivers. Consequently it was one of the first scraping tools we built.
Figure 2 illustrates the results of the main comparisons gleaned through the data scrape: which Mental Gears is company literature connecting to versus the Mental Gear levels of consumers. The profile at the top of the figure provides the profile of consumers, while the profiles at the bottom show the results from the company literature analysis. In simple terms, what the figure tells us is that consumers are strongly in the ‘Order’ mode of thinking when candles are the topic of conversation. Both the Yankee and Glade communications seem to do a pretty good job of matching their messaging to this mindset. Airwick communications, on the other hand, offer a narrative that is much more in tune with the ‘Scientific’ mode of thinking – i.e. very likely the mindset of the Marketing team that constructed the copy.
If we were going to try and make a judgement as to which of the three candle manufacturers was selling at the high price, based on this analysis alone, we would very likely conclude that it was not AirWick.
For the other two companies, the advantage is less clear. Glade do a better job of connecting to the Holarchy mindset. Neither particularly pick up on the Feudal consumer, but then again, this is an often very difficult group to sell to given their strong desire to not be told what to do. The consistent best way to get a Feudal person (think small child in their ‘terrible-twos’ period) is to get them out of the Feudal mode and into their earlier Tribal mode. In which case, Yankee would appear to be right on the money.
Figure 3 shows a comparison between AirWick and consumers using the root-metaphor analysis method first described in Reference 1. It too seems to confirm that there is a poor degree of alignment between the metaphors consumers are using and the ones that the AirWick Marketing team are using. If we read the root metaphors at face value, Airwick seems to be tapping in to the transformation metaphor – e.g. from their advertising copy, ‘these candles take your home to a more luxurious place’ – whereas it is almost completely absent from what the candle bloggers are saying. Candle bloggers, on the evidence of the scraped sources at least, are focused on the ‘union’ and ‘inside’ metaphors. Which might best be interpreted to mean that candles are objects that are all about connections, togetherness and ‘being a part of the tribe’. Airwick seems to capture the ‘inside’ aspect of the story (‘designed to infuse your whole room’), but does less well on the dominant ‘Union’ theme.
Figure 4 illustrates the equivalent Jupiter scrape for the Glade and Yankee literature. If we had to choose who the high selling price candle maker was based on this new piece of evidence, the odds are very definitely swung in the favour of Yankee.
One of our more recent additions to the canon of scraping tools, the Archetypes tool is based first and foremost on the work of Allan Hunter and his study or archetypes in literature and the lessons literature seeks to teach us about emotional maturity (Reference 2). Figure 5 plots the results of the various different scrapes:
Again, Yankee seems to achieve the best match between the messages they put out and what consumers are saying, matching both of the top two archetypes that consumers connect to. Both Yankee and AirWick pick up on the high level of ‘Innocence’ that consumers experience when talking about candles. Candles in this innocence sense connect us to our primal, innocent past, homely, comforting, security and warmth. The second highest consumer archetype connection to candles is the ‘Warrior-Lover’ archetype. The most likely connection here being the romantic, joining symbolism that is often attached to candles.
D) Emotional State
This scraping tool is one of the most recent, and also one of the conceptually simplest of the tools. It basically looks for the types of emotional language that people use when they are talking about a given subject. Figure 6 illustrates what is hopefully a self-evident analysis of what emotions candle bloggers are expressing when they write about their candles:
And in Figure 7, what the candle providers are saying:
By a big margin, the main emotion being expressed by candle bloggers is ‘Love’. This emotion is largely absent in the AirWick promotional material, largely being substituted by a message largely connected to ‘Joy’. Currently Airwick attribute 90% of the positive emotional connection to Joy but only 10% to Love. For candle bloggers it is the exact inverse 10% Joy 90% Love. The two emotions are, of course, closely connected to one another. Close but not the same. Yankee seem to understand both the difference and the need to connect better to the ‘Love’ emotion. Here’s their tag-line:
The red-lettering and hand written font is theirs.
Both Airwick and Glade’s communication material focuses on the tangible benefits candles bring to the home, refreshing, changing, creating, renewing, and the joy of relaxing, soothing, luxury, through the sense of smell. Whilst these are undoubtedly “good reasons” to buy candles they are not the real reason people buy them. Neither company, according to the PanSensic analysis reported here, have really understood those ‘reading between the lines’ real reasons. Yankee, on the other hand, either by luck or judgment have achieved a far better match between what can be read between their lines and what consumers have said between theirs.
Perhaps not surprisingly, to answer the pricing question posed at the start of the article, Yankee is the candle that manages to command a price two times that of the other two products investigated during this brief study.
While it is difficult to suggest that the whole reason for their success is the fact that they seem to connect better to the ‘real’ reasons consumers connect to candles, we feel that the clues provided by this brief study are in some way significant. Love and romance can be a delicate personal subject, especially for the coy British. The key to communication materials is connecting to and subtly evoking the emotion of love.
It is not entirely clear that either Glade or Airwick could suddenly start shifting their messaging to better connect to the ‘love’ and ‘union’ themes that have emerged as the two strongest drivers of consumer behavior. Partly because it may be perceived that Yankee already ‘own’ the territory, but also very likely that either organization will be perceived as inauthentic: big organizations and ‘love’ tend not to make for an immediate correlation in the minds of many consumers. But then again that doesn’t or shouldn’t stop them from incorporating images that do a better job of suggesting love and union:
1) Mann, D.L., Howarth, P., ‘Jupiterμ: Closing The Say/Do Gap’, White Paper Series, www.systematic-innovaiton.com
2) Hunter, A.G., ‘Stories We Need to Know: Reading Your Life Path in Literature’, Findhorn Press, 2008.
This article was first published by Darrell Mann and Paul Howarth in an E-Zine on the Systematic Innovation site