Positioning Powdered Alcohol

In case you missed it, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau catapulted powdered alcohol into the news when it approved Palcohol‘s powdered vodka, rum and other powdered cocktail versions to be marketed in the United States. Afterwards, the bureau reversed their decision and said it was in error. Whether powdered alcohol will be hitting store shelves anytime soon is unclear, however Palcohol’s website claims they hope for it to be available in the fall of 2014.

But just who would purchase powdered alcohol? Mark Phillips, the man behind Palcohol has stated that he created powdered alcohol because he leads such an active lifestyle hiking, camping, biking, kayaking and he wanted to enjoy a cocktail afterwards without having to lug a bottle of alcohol and mixers around with him.

It’s been reported that a cached version of the Palcohol website had previously contained provocative language while they tried to figure out how to market their new product. And, if you visit their website now, they’ve definitely toned down all the edgy ways Palcohol could be used and instead are focusing on ways other industries could use their product. Clearly they are still trying to figure everything out, but maybe marketing towards a younger, more active lifestyle is the way to go? We recently conducted an Alcoholic Beverage study and found that 51% of Millennials try a new alcoholic beverage 6 times a year or more (compared to only 15%-20% among older generations). We also found that at least half of Millennials pay particular attention to whether drinks are a good value, have moderate alcohol content, is sweet and light-tasting, is sophisticated and would not cause hangovers/headaches.

I’ll guess we’ll have to wait and see if powdered alcohol will be making it to market in the near future and how Palcohol decides to move forward with their positioning.

For more information on our Alcoholic Beverage study, click here.

What Do You Do With Your Unwanted or Expired Medications?

Did you know that April 26 is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day?  The DEA is working with local law enforcement agencies to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications. They previously held this event on October 26th and collected 647,211 pounds (324 tons) of unwanted or expired medications.

BuzzBack recently sponsored a type 2 diabetes study last year with both patients and physicians.  Physicians indicated that they must focus on patient compliance with patients.  Other studies we have done for clients also indicate a patient compliance problem, mainly around “if I feel better and no longer have symptoms, I don’t have to finish my medicine.”  This poor patient compliance results in many expired medicine sitting in people’s medicine cabinets and drawers.

Flushing your pills down the toilet can affect the environment and throwing pills away may end up in the wrong hands, so disposing of these meds this way is a win/win situation.

Local law enforcement agencies are sponsoring drop offs throughout the country.  Follow this link to enter your zip code and find sites in your area where you can drop off your old medications. Turn in your unused or expired medications at a safe disposal site and save the environment and help avoid abuse of these expired medications.


Who Is Naming Your Product?

I just read an article on the My Private Brand blog about Food Lion’s contest to have customers name flavors of their private label sodas. While I applaud the idea of engaging customers with a contest, I worry that they can sometimes minimize the important role consumer insights play in evaluating the name nominees.

Crowd sourcing is an exciting jumping off point for idea generation – and a wonderful way to use social media to engage a brand’s community of fans. However, whether it’s the brand name, a sub-line, or an individual item, names can and do mean a lot to consumers. Key questions that consumer insights bring to consideration are name likes and dislikes, purchase intent, uniqueness, memorability, and brand fit. But perhaps most important is learning about the emotional and imagery connections a name generates. It’s through these subliminal discoveries that companies can create meaningful, lasting connections between their brands and the consumers.

With so many products on the shelf these days, names, if not done well, are easily forgettable. As market research professionals, it’s our job to remind clients that naming shouldn’t be taken lightly. Someone once said, “Words have meaning, and names have power.” That’s a lot of power – and faith – riding on the wisdom of the crowd.

Gluten-Free Trend: Fading Fast or Built to Last?

In our sneak peek back in February, we asked: is going against the grain an enduring health trend, or will another development in health and nutrition soon take its place? According to our study this food fad is here to stay. And a trip through the grocery store confirms that it’s not going to slow down any time soon.

Since the FDA released their official definition for gluten-free back in August, the gluten free category  has grown exponentially – taking up more and more shelf space in grocery stores, and recently expanding into the restaurant industry. In fact, both Chick-fil-A and Olive Garden recently announced they have changed up their recipes in hopes of catering to the growing ranks of grain-free diners. And supply chain cooperative, SpenDifference recently released findings from their Chain Restaurant Menu Price Tracking Survey that found 55% of the chains surveyed said they currently serve gluten-free food, with 52% planning to add to their gluten-free menu and 7% planning to start.*

Who are these gluten-free consumers and what makes them tick? To learn more, we recently conducted our own gluten-free study that included 100 gluten-free purchasers to find out the why, what, and where behind these consumers. According to our findings, restaurants that are extending their menus to include gluten-free food and beverage options – such as Starbucks, Panera, and Applebee’s – are moving in the right direction, as 8 in 10 agree that eating gluten-free is harder when eating out, yet only 1/3 of these gluten-free purchasers know of a restaurant, bakery, and/or café that offers gluten-free items. To see what else we found, take a look at our gluten-free infographic below.

2014.04 BuzzBack Gluten-Free Infographic




Have an idea for a BuzzPoll? Let us know! Or for more information about our Gluten-Free BuzzPoll, click here.

 * SpenDifference, Chain Restaurant Menu Price Tracking Survey, January 2014, pgs. 2,5 

Combining Glocalization & Sustainability To Attract Consumers

You can’t deny that glocalization is a smart way to attract consumers to your product or brand. McDonalds’ bulgogi and kimchi burgers in Korea makes great use of this technique. Starbucks has also shown this by redesigning their stores with local elements. However, I spotted a company in my own neighborhood putting this to good use and I saw it work on a consumer right before my eyes (full disclosure, the consumer was my husband). They did this, similarly to Starbucks, by sourcing their building materials and some of their products locally, cutting down on their carbon footprint and aiding in sustainability.

The Whole Foods in Brooklyn was a long time in the making (10 years in fact) because it sits next to the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site in the process of being cleaned up by the EPA. This was part of the reason why it took so long; Whole Foods had to clean up before they could build up. But now it’s open and you can tell that they worked hard to captivate the hearts of the local Brooklyn consumer. They used broken Coney Island boardwalk from Super Storm Sandy inside the store, they reused 250,000 bricks from an old Newark, NJ building and they have products that are sourced from over 100 local vendors. These little nuggets of info are shared near the entrance and I have to say, it’s an ingenious way to endear the brand to their local consumers, and that’s exactly what happened to my husband. He seemed somewhat suspicious about their brand ethos before the store opened, but now that it’s open he feels like Whole Foods cares about us and our community (and the Earth).

As the discussion continues over the ever-growing conscious consumer & empowered consumer, will more brands jump on the combined glocalization and sustainability bandwagon? If they want to continue to remain relevant and form, or even deepen that consumer/brand connection, they might want to think about it.

If you want to see more ways in which the Booklyn Whole Foods is aiding in sustainability, check out this video.



Is There Really a Millennial Problem in Market Research?

Last week, as I was reading Kristin’s response  to “A Millennial Problem in Market Research“, I realized I needed to chime in myself. As someone who chose this profession straight from college, I couldn’t agree more that prior to entering into the field I had a limited understanding of what working in this industry entails. My Marketing curriculum was pretty standard and focused on the 4Ps of Marketing and effective Advertising, but little on what happens behind the curtains that help inform these decisions.

But lately, I’ve been noticing more opportunities than before highlighting our industry within the educational sector. A few months ago, I noticed that my alma mater, Boston University had added a Brand Strategy class to its marketing curriculum. And I thought – wow that was definitely not around when I went there! And just last week I had the opportunity to share my day-to-day with a Strategic Market Research class at Georgetown.

These courses offer a practical understanding of common problems that our clients have and how consumer research is used to solve them. It is through courses like this that we as an industry can form relationships and engage students, and help attract quality talent to our industry in the years to come.

HoneyMaid’s Gamble on Love

I, like many other consumers, was touched and impressed by HoneyMaid’s recent viral Love video in response to backlash for its original Wholesome campaign. But of course, as a market researcher, it got me thinking about it all on a professional level, and I have to say, it took my admiration for the brand to another level. The question that came to my mind was “Does an ad always have to be liked by the masses in order to be successful or is it enough to just draw attention to the brand?” Ads that are polarizing are not new. And it takes certain guts for a brand to know on some level that they might tick some people off.

A campaign of this size and scope was probably tested, under typical Go/No Go metrics. So often, we’re asked to field message concepts to find the majority winner. And I would believe that HoneyMaid’s Wholesome concept probably didn’t bowl everyone over. But, in this case, someone at HoneyMaid made the call that the brand didn’t need the absolute majority in order to move forward. What a bold decision when we all know that the prevailing direction is to move forward with the highest number. But how often does one challenge this customary approach as the right course? Sometimes the brand is ready to take the messaging plunge, when the traditional research shows that not all of the consumer base is on board. When is it ok to test the boundaries, and alienate some consumers in order to create even deeper bonds with others?

For Honeymaid, the when was now, and the gamble paid off. And that’s the lesson for us in this by-the-numbers game we’ve chosen as a profession – the surface doesn’t always tell the story. That’s why it’s critical to get into the deeper, unconscious and nonverbalized emotions to understand the visceral – because that’s where the deeper consumer/brand connections happen. In Honeymaid’s case, the visceral was expressed so clearly in the flood of social media interaction from both sides of the controversy. And, in the end, more love was evoked by the brand’s portrayal of wholesome than not.

The Emotional and Financial Stress of Millennials

Just this past weekend I read an article in the NY Times that confirmed US Millennials are worse off than previous generations at their age by comparing them across multiple economic measures. While federal aid and economic stimulus is decreasing, many are starting to feel some sort of economic relief. However, recovery is still lagging behind for Millennials who, unfortunately, entered into the work force during the Great Recession.

“According to the latest census data, nearly 16 percent of those in their mid-20s to mid-30s were in poverty in 2012, compared with just above 10 percent of Gen Xers in 2000 and baby boomers in 1980. Nearly 14 percent of that age group were living with their parents in 2013, a higher percentage than in previous generations. And of those living at home, 43 percent (2.5 million people) would be counted as being in poverty if they were on their own. Only 38 percent of those who were on their own were homeowners, compared with 46 percent from this age group who were on their own in 2000.”

There was another article, that posted on the same day decreeing US Millennials’ inability to save for retirement will pose a serious problem later in life.

Both articles cited high student debt as a contributing factor to many of this generations financial issues. To find out more about Millennials’ thoughts and feelings related to student debt, we conducted our own Student Debt study of 501 U.S. residents, ages 21+.

In order to understand the emotions and feelings respondents associate with debt, we asked them to create an online collage that illustrates their feelings about the opportunities and challenges in their life as they relate to their student debt. A few examples of these sentiments are included below:

student debt collage examples

An initial look at these images reveals strong negativity that largely reflects the stress, both emotional and financial, that stems from carrying debt. Images also expose a common struggle respondents face in having to assess and balance wants versus needs given their limited budgets.

Click here for more information on our Student Debt study.




Ice Cream Indulgence

Just in time for summer in the Philippines, Magnum is opening up another one of their pop-up shops in Manila this week. The Magnum Ice Cream Pleasure Stores are nothing new. The stores have been appearing all over the world in cities such as Sydney, Toronto, Shanghai, London, Paris, New York and Tokyo.

The whole idea of the store is that customers get to create their own custom Magnum ice cream creations, first by choosing an ice cream bar and then smothering it with toppings ranging from almonds to sea salt chili flakes. Customers are free to do whatever they want, either going for a more traditional dessert or overindulging and going for something a bit more experimental.

Magnum seems to be finding great success with their pop-up stores. It’s no secret that during times of economic hardship, people turn to other ways they can indulge and an ice cream bar topped with gold flakes and rose petals seems like the perfect way.

It made me think of a study we did in which we explored the different dimensions of the word “indulgence”. More than anything else, the word seemed to be strongly connected to food. Respondents focused on decadent treats such as chocolate and cake, which makes sense since at a time when cut-backs are common, food has the capacity to provide a safe and affordable outlet for this need for debauchery.

So, what do you think? Are you planning on stopping by a Magnum Pleasure Store the next time one opens up in your area?

For more information on our Exploring Indulgence study, click here.

Sustainable and Innovative Food & Beverage Packaging Goes Commercial

If you haven’t heard yet, packaging innovation has made a huge leap towards sustainability recently. And I’m not talking about using less plastic, I’m talking about using no plastic at all!

It was just announced that Stonyfield has teamed up with WikiFoods to bring Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls to select Whole Foods stores in and around the Cambridge, MA area to test market them. WikiFoods, Inc. was launched by David Edwards, a bioengineer at Harvard in June of 2012. The natural and edible skin is made of electrostatic gel, natural food particles, nutritive ions and a polysaccharide.  You can see some examples of WikiPearl™ products in the video below and hear more about their collaboration with Stonyfield.

And that’s not the only sustainable food & beverage packaging story I’ve seen lately. I was completey mesmerized by Ooho, a double walled membrane made out of brown algae and calcium chloride. Three industrial design students from Spain have just won a Lexus Design Award for their water blob. However, they might need to solve the messiness factor (as shown below) before they go to market. Could these spherical membranes one day replace our plastic water bottle habit? Apparently, the process is fairly simple and inexpensive to create. They even have hopes that this will catch on as a DIY project. Ooho is showcasing their new design right now during Milan Design Week from April 8-14.

Of course, there’s still some waiting to be done before you might see any of these products at a store near you. In the mean time, you can try the WikiPearl Co-Creator here  

Photo credit: WikiFoods, Inc.