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Proprietary Methodologies

... provide a more accurate read on what consumers will really do in the market place, as opposed to taking what they say they will do at face value.

The Livingston Group is staffed by highly trained clinical and research psychologists and specialists.  As such, we have developed several important techniques for removing social desirability and self-report biases and more fully understanding purchase motivation. The net effect of our techniques is usually a more accurate read on what respondents will really do in the market place, as opposed to learning what they say they will do! We are additionally able to discern emotional end benefits. (the true reasons people buy: they think it will make them more in control, more lovable, smarter, see themselves as a good parent).


Special Techniques are Required to Unearth Emotional Benefits and to Understand How They Are Linked to the Functional Features and the Overall Image of Your Brand

While the importance of emotional end benefits is clear, it is very tricky to assess via direct questioning techniques. All but the most creative respondents are hard put to provide rich, detailed answers to straightforward questions such as, "If this soda were a person, what kind of person would it be?" or "How does this soda can make you feel about yourself?" (Or even worse "Which color graphic on the can would make you feel like a sexier person when you bought it?")

In some situations, it is possible to simply ask about these relationships. For example, the relationship between eyewear and attractiveness is not particularly threatening. Most consumers probably would not be uncomfortable telling you that they consider how attractive they look in eyewear before purchasing. However, most often you do need special techniques to probe emotional benefits:


People are often frightened of being judged and will only say what they think is socially desirable. For example, some people are uncomfortable verbalizing the desire to feel attractive. To them, Feeling Attractive is something to be quietly pursued, not publicly acknowledged. This is particularly true for older women, many men, and those from Asian cultures. When someone of this ilk is asked for an emotional connection, they will tell you something more socially desirable like "it makes me feels practical" or "it makes me feel safe."

While social desirability bias is a small problem for 'Feeling Attractive," it is a much bigger problem with many other motivators like "Feeling Sexy," "Feeling Excited," "Has a Sense of Belonging," and "Feels in Control."


The conscious experience of emotional benefits is usually vague. People have difficulty articulating their underlying motivations and even more trouble specifying how product features are related to these emotional benefits.


Most consumers want to think of themselves as logical, rational buyers. The idea that feelings influence purchase threatens this perception. Consumers don't realize (or don't want to admit) that advertising images affect their purchase decisions. Indeed, most consumers want to believe that they purchase based solely upon rational facts such as price, value, taste and performance. Moreover, since consumers tend to deny that emotions (and the product imagery with which they are associated) affects their decisions, they can become anxious that their answers to direct image-related or emotionally-laden questions are a reflection of their personality. The result of all these dynamics is a relatively quiet respondent, who gives sensible, general, barely useful responses.


Finally, some respondents are concerned that if strangers really knew what made them tick, retailers and salespeople would take advantage of them and sell them things they did not really need.

Despite these inherent difficulties, many market researchers (who are unaware of alternative approaches) attempt to ask direct questions to assess imagery in focus groups and in-depth interviews. However, a handful of qualitative market researchers have borrowed techniques from psychology called "projectives" in order to obtain richer, more detailed descriptions of product imagery.


Most of our techniques rely on projective methodology. (Note - see Dr. Sharon Livingston's article on projective techniques for a more thorough treatment of the subject). Through these techniques we can provide a clear picture of purchase motivation, and the emotional end benefits attached to your brand. Please see the sub-pages of this section for details.

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