Most sensory claims are about perception and preference. Advertisers and marketers typically use data from sensory research to market existing products or develop new product lines, to support claims such as “perfectly seasoned,” “eliminates tough odors,” “now with better taste”, or “gives you touchable soft hair.”
Generating reliable measures of how consumers feel about a product, or how they feel a product ranks against a competitor, requires advertisers to conduct sensory research using consumer surveys or trained sensory panels. This research can also be useful if a competitor brings a complaint about the advertising to a regulatory agency, or a regulatory agency requires substantiation of consumer perception claims. Being well-prepared with research that supports your sensory claims is therefore critical to the success of your advertising or marketing campaign or product launch.
Types of Sensory Claims
Sensory advertising claims can be broken into comparative and non-comparative claims. Comparative claims are statements that draw comparisons between the product and one or more other brands; they may be further broken down into superiority claims and parity claims. Superiority claims claim that one product is better than the other, while parity claims say that one product is just as good as another. For example, a parity claim regarding a cleaning product would be something like “Our product cleans as well as Brand X,” whereas a superiority claim would be “Our product cleans better than Brand X.” A non-comparative sensory claim makes a statement about the sensory attributes of a product, such as “dry touch” sunscreen.
Comparative and non-comparative claims can also be classified as hedonic or perception claims. Hedonic claims are emotional and subjective, relating to overall liking and preference. “Great taste” or “tasty” are examples of hedonic non-comparative claims, whereas “preferred over Brand X” is a hedonic comparative claim. A perception claim, on the other hand, is related to the perception or the perceived intensity of the product. “Meaty” or “crispy” would be non-comparative perception claims and “more chocolatey” would be a comparative perception claim.
Each of these claim types may be challenged by a regulator or a competitor. To avoid coming before a court or regulatory body–or to set themselves up for success if they do end up in a dispute–advertisers should substantiate sensory claims with reliable, valid, and relevant scientific research.
Sensory Data That Supports Certain Claims
Most sensory claims are substantiated using data derived from consumer surveys, trained sensory panels, and/or laboratory instruments. Consumer data, which is collected from untrained consumers, may be used to support both hedonic and perception claims. Analytical data from trained panelists or laboratory instruments is typically used to support perception claims.
Advertisers can use consumer data to:
- identify (broadly) which sensory attributes to highlight in consumer perception claims for a product.
- substantiate a comparative superiority claim, such as “seven out of ten kids prefer Brand Y to Brand Z.”
- substantiate a claim that the product has been improved in some way, such as “New and improved formula!”
- substantiate a perception claim, such as “Now crispier!”
Unlike consumer data, trained panel data is collected from a panel of people with extensive training in sensory perception of particular product categories. Unlike ordinary consumers, trained panelists are not used to provide preference or liking measures; rather, they can identify and quantify the sensory attributes of a product.
Data obtained from a trained sensory panel could be used to:
- compare a current version to a previous version or to competitors: “Sweeter than brand X.”
- identify sensory attributes, such as sweet, salty, or floral.
- identify and quantify overall differences in products, including specific differences in appearance, aroma, flavor, texture, and mouthfeel, as well as differences in intensity over time.
One of the challenges advertisers and marketers may face, either before or after sensory research is conducted, is how to properly substantiate claims using sensory research. Collecting the data properly is an essential part of conducting reliable sensory claims research that can stand up to a challenge. MMR Strategy Group conducts sensory research that adheres to the Standard Guide for Sensory Claim Substantiation from ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials). If you require sensory claim substantiation, please contact MMR Strategy Group for a consultation.