One of the best parts of our job is that clients often come to us for a reality check. That is many of our clients are very aware that the assumptions they make internally about the consumer or about the direction of an industry may not in fact match what is happening in reality. And this is where taking an anthropological approach allows us to ensure that our clients move into a space knowing what the cultural expectations or barriers of the consumer might be.

Last week, I talked about the example of wellness and oral care and how culture does not always follow logic. This week, I’m going to continue with the oral care example but this time talk about the space of so-called “premium oral care”.

I was recently in a conversation with a senior leader who told me they were investing heavily in the premium oral care market. When I asked him what that meant to the company he said – oral care products that are beautifully designed, and are better for the planet. He said they have data that shows the consumer’s willingness to pay a slight premium to acquire such products.

So I asked my team to do a “reality check” (a quick analysis done in less than 1 hour) for him to see whether the actual meanings around premium oral care matched the company’s perception.

What we discovered was rather surprising to this company.

Consumers associate premium oral care with something that you get from the dentist. Something that is more “technical” in nature. And because a visit to the dentist is often associated with a level of stress and anxiety especially given the ambiguity around costs for the visit and the need to make future visits, the same level of ambiguity also extends to the premium oral care sector. The consumer sees premium oral care as something that is ambiguous in its value and potentially anxiety inducing in the fact that you never truly know whether you actually needed it.

Which is also why premium oral care is mature in culture…that is, the meanings around it are rather well defined in the mind of the consumer. And they’re not defined in a direction that may help a company that’s producing beautifully designed sustainable products with the goal of gaining better margins.

Which is to say that if the client wants to carve out a unique space in the premium segment, they’re going to have to break the existing meaning equation.

Doable? Yes of course. But it would require a different pathway over the obvious one they have already selected.

This analysis reminded me of an episode we recorded for our podcast Why Meaning Matters on the “all natural myth”. Season II of our podcast launches next week. In season II we’re going to be dedicating each episode to a specific topic/category to provide more detailed analysis and insight. Doing so gives us the opportunity to dive deeper into each space in each episode so we’re excited to share the results of that journey with all of you.

Lastly, if you’re a client, today’s a big day! We’ve launched a whole bunch of improvements in our system, the biggest one centered around improvements in the application of machine learning to aid the self-serve research process. Don’t worry….this does not take anything away from the incredible research our PhDs provide to you through our support service. This is more centered around giving our users better tools with time, so they can accomplish more in our system in 5-10 mins of search time.

We’re also pumped to announce that those of you who have access to our signals technology will now also have it directly integrated into our Trends platform. Which means you can do direct comparisons of dominant meanings against emerging meanings in a matter of seconds! Visit our blog or reach out to your customer success lead for more information.

What do you want to research today?