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For decades, consumer product manufacturers have used research such as focus groups to test new products and marketing campaigns to help ensure that they resonate. And much of the time, those traditional techniques have been effective. But the Internet has added a new twist to consumer research, one that makes it easier for people to voice their opinions to the world. More and more, consumer goods firms are finding that listening to what customers are saying on message boards and dedicated Web sites can yield even more insight to what people think.
Earlier this year, Tropicana -- the leading juice brand in the United States -- undertook a rebranding of its ubiquitous packaging. Gone was the graphic of an orange with a straw in it, a clear symbol that the juice inside the carton was fresh, and in was a more abstract graphic of a glass of OJ. No doubt, Tropicana took all of the traditional steps for testing the new packaging and rolled it out across the nation. But consumers who saw the new packaging in stores reacted strongly: they didn’t like it. And they weren’t shy about contacting the company or posting comments about it on the Internet.
Tropicana quickly relented and reverted to the previous packaging. A senior executive said, “What we didn’t get was the passion this very loyal, small group of consumers have. That didn’t come out in the research.” Tropicana listened to what its customers were saying and shifted course.
This is but one example of how companies are increasingly learning more about their customers by tuning into unprompted consumer expression, or “listening.” In an age where delivering what your customers want is more important than ever, companies in a range of industries are pairing listening with more traditional forms of research that are based on asking.