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Blind And Branded Product Testing Can Tell Completely Different Stories.

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August 5, 2014

Everyone knows the importance of branding.  A great brand sells products. A great brand builds trust and loyalty.  A great brand stands for something and maintains a following by those who share the same views.  Yes, the power of branding is amazing! It even has the ability to change your taste perception of a product.

At ACCE, we conduct both blind and branded tests.  Product developers are often interested in blind tests since consumer opinion is based solely on product attributes – taste, texture, aroma, and sometimes appearance in situations where the appearance doesn’t reveal the brand.  The results are not biased by branding, so clear direction is obtained for revising a formulation.  On the other hand, Marketing is often more interested in the branded testing.  They want to understand how the product performs in context.  How does the product and brand compare to the competition?  After all, when is a product ever tasted in the real world without the brand association?  The choice of blind or branded testing must be made on a project to project basis based on the primary objectives of the research.  However, in either case, you may be missing out on some key information.  Test blind, and miss the opportunity to understand brand influence.  Test branded, and you can never be 100% sure that performance is based on the actual product or if it’s biased by brand. 

The ultimate study design would include both blind and branded testing.  In a Central Location Test (CLT), consumer would taste the products blind on day one, then come back on day two to taste the same products branded.  The differences in results can be astonishing and really do highlight the power of a brand! The following examples demonstrate some of the interesting scenarios we see on a regular basis:

Your product wins blind and branded

This is the best case scenario.  Companies with strong brands who protect their product with regular product testing and continuous improvement often enjoy these results.  The product is strong, the brand is strong, and you can be confident about maintaining your leading position in the marketplace.

Your product wins blind, but loses branded

This is the scenario often observed with small companies who work hard at developing a product to taste the ‘best’ but are too new to have a strong brand loyalty up against globally recognized brands.  We often recommend further advertising to build brand equity.  Of course, a legal claim could help if you want to communicate superiority of taste with the goal of stealing market share.

Your product loses blind, but wins branded

This less common, but not unheard of scenario is usually observed amongst larger companies.  Companies can get comfortable with their product’s leading position in the marketplace, resulting in competitive consumer testing taking a back seat while the competition develops a stronger formula. Many will argue that the branded result is what’s important and a win branded means things are okay.  However, you risk losing customers who taste the competitor.  Brand loyalty is a strong force, but the power of a superior sensory experience offered by a competitor can be dangerous!

Protecting your product should include testing blind to understand the product and testing branded to understand brand strength against the competition.  Without both, you seldom have the complete picture.  For your next product testing project, consider a brand then branded methodology and get the most out of your research investment!

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