Mind Modeling: Identifying Cheez-It’s Distinctive Attributes

At Quirks Brooklyn, Tim Hoskins of Quester shared a Kellogg’s case study. “Kellogg’s was stuck in a rut trying to identify a new and compelling way to talk about ‘100% real cheese.’  While the existing campaign had been running successfully for an impressive 11 years, nearly all their competitors had followed suit with the same claim. The challenging objective required Kellogg’s to think outside of the box and turn to an innovative methodology to deeply understand the heart and mindset of the consumer.”

The Kellogg’s team identified a need to shift from a product-centric claim to consumer-centric messaging. The plan was to conduct qualitative insights at scale. Terrae Schroeder, the head of insights at Kellogg’s, in a pre-recorded video shared that Kellogg’s in the past had done a mind-modeling study that was very labor intensive and took three months, though it produced great results, but those results weren’t tested quantitatively. She wanted to use a faster, more affordable, more technology-driven approach, with qualitative insights at a quantitative level. She selected Quester. which did 3,800 online and mobile interviews for six competing brands, using verified purchasers identified by Numerator, a deep dive into consumer stories at the brand level, and then used quantified linguistic analysis. The study took six weeks, and each brand had a quota of 600.

In 2005, Quester’s founder wanted to do qualitative research at scale and began building an AI moderator (a chatbot). Probes provide further qualitative detail, including laddering through redirect probes to get beyond the initial, surface-level responses. The objectives were to understand the unique attributes and benefits of competing brands, explore differentiating emotions for each brand, and answer how does brand fit within the category.

One chart contrasts goal-oriented language (functional) vs. emotional language. The cracker category has many functional brands (e.g., works as an appetizer) while “cheesy” brands like Cheez-It were more emotional brands. Quester delivered benefit ladders, going from product attributes as the foundation, to functional benefits, to resultant benefits, and then the emotional benefits. Note that interviews “bounce all over the place” when discussing these items. The “quantified qualitative” measures the frequency of association. Quester also provided a competitive brand ladder, which showed the strengths of the competition and which benefits had to be stayed away. A summary of the “winning” ladder for Cheez-It:

  • Product attributes: 25% crunchy, crispy texture
  • Functional benefits: 26% fill me up, satisfy hunger
  • Resultant benefits: 11% satisfy cravings
  • Emotional benefits: 37% feel satisfied
  • Message: “Cheesy, crunchy satisfaction.” 

Business results: “We expected to see declines in the short term switching from a long-term campaign,” Terra said. “In the pretesting we got great results so we felt really comfortable. As the year went on, we executed several streams of work, new copy, new digital, new sponsorship, and the end of the year, we increased across all those vectors. You can overcome humps when you change from a historical campaign. We use these insights across the organization.”

The first-quarter business results: the equity portion of the campaign was almost twice as effective, the TV ROI improved, the digital display ROI improved, and the social ROI improved significantly (across 300 million impressions!).

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