11 Dec 2015 17:13 IST

Why blind testing is important in product research

Blind testing doesn't involve literal blindfolding. The term just means that the consumers don’t know the brands they are trying   -  Shutterstock

Why is blind testing done? Can it really gauge the perception of consumers towards the product? Read on to know

After his last article on market research, the writer is back to answer more queries on the subject.

In this article, the student asking questions was shown old advertising as part of his/her class-work. The class was shown some ads for Pepsi, where people were blindfolded and given soft drinks to taste. This, the class was told, was blind testing.

Can you tell us something about blind testing?

Blind testing is part of a field of market research called product testing, which is in turn, part of a larger field of new product research.

The first thing you need to understand is the extent of importance that multinational companies attach to inputs from consumer research. As a result, they do research at various stages of a new product’s development.

A new product does not necessarily mean a radically new product; it could be a variant of an existing one. To give a hypothetical example, a new variant of Milk Bikis biscuit could be one which is fortified with extra vitamins or minerals that help improve memory. The company would create samples of this and get consumers to react to the product taste, its crispness and other factors.

Okay, but what is blind testing?

We’ll get to that. But before that, you need to understand a few more terms.

Product testing can be done in a central location or with product placement, and can be monadic or comparative testing.

To explain these terms, certain kinds of products require the consumer to prepare other dishes with the product as the ingredient. Examples are cooking oils and sugar. Such product test studies involve “placing” the product sample with the consumer for use at home over a few days. This is product placement.

Other ready-to-consume products can be tested in a central location. Examples would be biscuits and soft drinks.

Now, to explain monadic or comparative testing.

When we test a product by itself, we just evaluate if it is good enough or not. This is called monadic testing. When we test it against another product, then it is called comparative testing. In such tests, we normally want our product to score significantly better than the item it is being compared with. Usually, the compared-to product is the brand which the consumer currently uses, or a brand that is doing well in the market.

But when we compare our product with a leading brand or the consumer’s current brand, then the consumers will naturally be loyal to the existing brand, won’t they?

The question is a good one. And it is this that brings us to blind testing.

When we perform comparative testing, we buy the consumer’s current brand or a leading brand from the shops and repack it, removing the brand name. So, the consumer tests two unbranded products. In this sense, the testing is “blind”, so to speak, which is why it is called blind testing.

So, blindfolding isn’t involved?

Certainly not. The term just means that the consumer doesn’t know the brands he/she is trying.

If the test product scores well over the existing brand in blind tests, then the company goes to the next stage. If it doesn’t score well at the blind stage, then it will certainly lose out if launched in the market, because of the reasons mentioned — brand familiarity, perceptions and consumer loyalty.

Therefore, doing well in a blind test is a key stage in the new product development cycle.

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