Asia Research Seminar: The Power of the Pull Factor

In April 2018, Asia Research held its 12th Singapore Breakfast Seminar at the Goodwood Park Hotel. ‘The Power of the Pull Factor’ featured four papers focusing on product innovation, disruptors, and smart communications. As usual, the event included a high representation of client-side researchers, including those from the media, financial services, retail, gaming, telecom, restaurant, and consumer electronics industries.

Piers Lee, Managing Director of BDRC Asia, presented a paper jointly with Neha Jindal, Client Operations Director from Lightspeed. The paper was based on an extensive joint study they had conducted into the dynamics of brand switching, called their ‘Great Defector Study’. This Pan-Asian survey examined the extent to which consumers trial new brands across a range of consumer goods categories, and the dynamics behind this ‘brand defection’.

According to Neha Jindal, the clearest finding is that defection is mostly driven by ‘pull factors’ towards the new brand, rather than ‘push factors’ away from the current brand. Neha argued that, however much brand owners try to satisfy their customers in order to retain them, consumers love to browse for new products and will be pulled in the direction of new brands through their new products. Advertising is also a much stronger pull factor compared to referral or recommendation. The implications are that brands who do not innovate and do not have sustained media campaigns will progressively lose customers, and this applies to all the consumer categories assessed in the research from the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), household goods, and service industries.

To further understand the role of product innovation, Piers then talked about ‘product disruptors’, focusing on examples from history where disruptors had not worked. He discussed failed product disruptors within the airline, soft drinks, and personal transportation categories, and from the lessons learnt he identified key guidelines for brand owners hoping to introduce product disruptors to the market. These include: 1) getting the design absolutely right, because consumers are extremely unforgiving towards disruptors that do not work properly; 2) getting your distribution in place, because disruptors will be quickly forgotten if they are not visible and easy to find in the market; and 3) not directly taking on large competitors, but seeking a specific niche in the market that will not result in counter-action from direct competitors. Further details on this study can be found in the BDRC/Lightspeed article on Page 7.

Cassandra Tan and Aparajita Roy from Kantar Millward Brown presented a paper on ‘What Truly Matters in a Connected World’. Based on research from their ad reaction studies, they demonstrated how particular campaigns are able to cut through the clutter through better integration across devices. Kantar provided their own guidelines for disruption specific to corporation communications, covering: 1) Concept – having a deep cultural understanding and a powerful story; 2) Creative – delivering a positive halo effect for the brand; and 3) Channel – tailoring disruption to suit the channel and to connect seamlessly with the consumer.

Examples of effective disruptor adverts presented by Kantar Millward Brown included an award-winning NTUC Income advert that connected well with Singaporean Millennial aspirations, very much leveraging on the Concept and Creative principles.

Greg Lipper from Happi talked about his own disruptive business within the market research industry. Happi is an online survey app that brings in respondents via charities and community groups. These consumers can donate to their preferred charity by completing a short survey, but they also have a chance to win a prize. With very short surveys (e.g. five questions) these can be undertaken at a low cost and with a fast turnaround. An example was shown whereby a client tested a skincare TV advert on 600 respondents within two days for only US$600 (i.e. $1 per survey).

Product test surveys undertaken by Happi also allow consumers the option to buy the new product if they wish to at the end of the survey. This gives insight into whether their purchase intent earlier in the survey actually translates into a real purchase. This did raise questions about whether this type of survey could be used by clients as a means to sell, and the ethics of this approach were debated in the seminar. Some accepted that this is where the industry is heading, particularly with so much use of consumer data via social media to promote products and services.

The winner of Best Paper went to James Redden, Managing Director of 2CV Asia. His paper, ‘Using Behaviour Science for Brand Growth’, opened with a few ‘mind games’, such as how consumers can be tricked into drawing incorrect conclusions based on intuition and mental short-cutting. James argued that the quicker, effortless thinking of consumers can be used by marketeers to identify the biases that can influence their behaviour.

These biases were grouped into five categories: 1) Social proof – following the crowd, meaning that brands need to create claims for themselves about their popularity; 2) Loss aversion – a common tactic used in sales closures whereby a consumer feels that ‘missing out’ is worse than gaining something; 3) The Pratfall Effect – often people will not believe marketing claims, so carefully admitting the limitations of your brand can enhance trust in the brand and make other claims more believable; 4) Price relativity – this demonstrates how consumers, by seeing a higher price as a ‘decoy’, can be persuaded to spend more; and finally 5) Scarcity value – a tactic often used by airlines and hotels where they state that there are only a ‘few seats/rooms left’ at the stated price, thus encouraging people to secure that seat or room there and then.

From the Asia Research post-event survey, 66 percent gave the event a rating of ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’, and 80 percent said they would be likely to attend future Asia Research seminars.