Exploring the senses:
our approach to understanding sensory experience

Written by Victoria Duckworth

We often need to understand how products perform sensorially, and really get to the bottom of how different attributes are decoded.  We have explored the world of ‘clean’, ‘softness’, ‘freshness’ to name just a few. These are ‘fat’ attributes that we must unpick to ensure product formulations deliver to consumer expectation. Let’s take an example, consumers can describe a piece of clothing as soft, but what does soft actually mean? What does soft look, feel, smell, sound, taste like? When delving deeper, we uncover that softness is about a silky, smooth feel, something that is gentle, light & airy, with a flowy movement and some bounce, it is about being comfortable & moulding to skin.

The key challenge…

This type of research involves describing and communicating intangible elements which can be difficult for consumers to articulate. We often need to push consumers to describe their sensory experience beyond the obvious.


How do we ensure success?

    1. Get the right consumers

    It is crucial to ensure we recruit articulate and creative consumers.

    Our screening processes is the way in which we guarantee the quality of response and willingness of respondent. We screen this in a numbers of ways from the type of jobs & hobbies they have to answering questions in an imaginative way


2. Enabling those consumers

  • An immersive approach; allowing consumers to draw examples and inspirations across categories. Pre-tasking can work well here to help ground consumers and give them some thinking time
  • Dipping into our creative toolbox; leveraging a bank of visual imagery, pre-made texture/sensory boards, and many projective techniques


3. Handling stimulus

  • Avoiding stimulus overload.
    When researching taste & fragrance, our senses have a limit, trialling too many can lead to a void consumer response
  • Controlling order effect.
    Rotating the stimulus is key to ensure we get a clean read and reduce transference
  • Sensory cleansing.
    Taking place after each product trial e.g. smelling coffee beans, drinking lime cordial

Quality research procedures lead to quality research outputs. The way we handle the research process coupled with our multi-method approaches allow us to provide debriefs full of richness; including visuals, language & analogies as a way to bring to the senses to life.

For each sensory aspect, we strive to uncover the standard of excellence & the standard of failure to equip are client teams with as much direction going forwards.