How Psycho-Sensory Research Techniques Yield Richer Insights

by | Jan 25, 2016 | Uncategorized

Identifying Emotional, Self-Expressive and Image-Based Brand Perceptions

Guten Morgen, buon giorno, bonjour, good day and, I suppose, yo – just a handful of the various greetings I’ve used along the many roads I’ve traveled over the past few years as a part of the Six Degrees team.

psycho-sensory research techniquesIn fact, I’m writing this particular blog post from a warm cafe in Berlin, sheltered from the damp gray winter cold, an hour prior to the next round of interviews on a large multinational project.

The increasing frequency of projects like this one indicate the powerful and perhaps growing need, from Philadelphia to Rome to Japan, for research that unlocks deeply seated aspects of brand perceptions that differentiate each from its competition, regardless of culture.

In fact, the past two multinational pharma projects that I’ve been a part of were born from nearly identical requests:

“How can we better understand and portray our brand beyond the functional benefits it provides?”

Of course, physicians will tell you that the course of treatment that they choose is solely based upon some rational calculus, but scratch the surface a bit – maybe more than a bit – below that routinized exterior, and you’ll find brand perceptions and loyalties that betray the very human frailties and biases and sublime intuitions that drive our decision-making.

Psycho-Sensory Research Techniques-3But how do you successfully move beyond “function” to something richer while navigating vastly different cultures, language barriers, etc.?

As a general rule, direct questions to physicians will lead to rather direct responses about the functional benefits of treatment options, like efficacy or safety.

Their responses will echo their training and experience, and when put in front of a one-way mirror or across the table from a colleague, this tendency is amplified. After all, isn’t it just as simple as prescribing the “best” one?

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So then, let’s talk about psycho-sensory research techniques and how they can open a new doorway to more productive conversations.

Psycho-Sensory Research Techniques

A variety of techniques exist to help move beyond direct questioning of interviewees, which range from biometrics to facial recognition software to projective techniques we often use to help uncover differentiation opportunities based on a brand’s unique emotional, personality, heritage and self-expressive benefits.

Here are a few steps our team at Six Degrees has found that work well to elevate a research project from basic findings to much richer emotional insights.

1) Do your homework

This is not simply asking the client to share information on their clinical trials, studies and past reports that you glance through.

Do you own secondary research, read investor commentary and lay press reports. Assess the similarities and differences in how the client and their competitors portray their brands online and in print.

What you should walk away with: what do they know about their brand and its competitors, and what are their goals for their brand.

That’s the knowledge gap this research needs to fill.

2) Break down the word walls

We then work to craft a research approach that allows us to break down the walls and misinterpretations that mere language confines us to.

Whether it is the perfectly customized visual and sensory galleries (e.g., a gallery of animal images to capture a brand’s emotion and personality, automotive brands to capture heritage and self-expressive benefits, etc.), or questions that employ analogy and metaphor to inspire an entirely different way of thinking about a brand, we optimize an approach that will resonate with physicians regardless of culture or language.

3) Introduce one or two effective exercises

One of my favorite psycho-sensory research techniques and exercises from the current project – which is also one of the simplest – asks respondents to choose a celebrity, living or dead, who best captures how they think of a brand.

As expected, physician selections have varied widely by culture – from German politicians to French music icons to American sports figures – but the underlying reasoning for their selections is remarkably consistent, betraying very common themes that lie below the physician’s function-first reflex.

This very simple question has given physicians license to explore the novel parallels (e.g., in personality, staying power, controversies, etc.) of a product they utilize daily with how they conceive of someone very far removed from their everyday life – for better or for worse.

4) Leverage local partners

One other aspect of international work that is absolutely essential to the success of these large-scale in-person projects is partnering with competent international recruiting firms and strong local facilities.

Regardless of how good the discussion guide or stimuli to be shared, it can all be torpedoed by poor recruiting, a poorly run facility, a subpar moderator, or a real-time translator who has not prepared for a jargon-heavy discussion. And in the case of our current set of interviews here in Berlin, it is clear that the opposite is true as well.

Not only is the facility beautiful and state-of-the-art, but the support staff – including a very well-prepared translator – is incredibly professional and responsive.

But most notably, they provided us with a tremendous German moderator who not only has years of experience in this disease space but also has familiarity and facility with psycho-sensory techniques. His professionalism and ability to build rapport with the physicians has brought out the very best in the interviews and is a highlight of the project.

It is more than rewarding for me to watch the physicians here, as I have across the five other markets, engage deeply with the stimuli that we created and customized for this project – leading to a clear and consistent picture of brand perceptions that extend well beyond the functional benefits of the product.

Which reminds me – my currywurst is getting cold and the next set of interviews is right around the corner … auf Wiedersehen!


Ready to learn how psycho-sensory research techniques can help you build a stronger brand? Contact us today.

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Six Degrees
Six Degrees uses psycho-sensory tools and techniques to build more successful national and global brands. Brands are rooted in human perception. And our psycho-sensory approach is designed to identify deeper and richer insights from human perception and then develop brand communications that change suboptimal perceptions or reinforce the right perceptions. More than 80 percent of the information humans process is nonverbal, making it essential that brands manage the sensory signals they send out. Our people are passionate branding experts wielding powerful psycho-sensory tools to build stronger and more successful brands across the globe.

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