I’m not a big yogurt fan. “Live cultures” would be unacceptable (or even scary) in most foods, but are highly prized in yogurt. Nevertheless, we can all learn something from a neuromarketing study focused on the gooey dairy product.

First, a question. If you were to imagine the process of eating yogurt, starting with seeing the container, picking it up, opening it, inserting the spoon and stirring up the fruit, smelling it, eating the first spoonful, then another, which step do you think would be most engaging to your brain?

In The Buying Brain, Dr. A. K. Pradeep says that most people asked that question choose “spoon & stirring.” Certainly, the first creamy spoonful would be a good second guess. When NeuroFocus tested the yogurt consumption process in its labs, however, they reached a surprising conclusion: the key part of the process (as far as consumer brains are concerned) is grasping and removing the foil covering over the top of the container.

NeuroFocus calls such characteristics a Neurological Iconic Signature (NIS). An NIS could include the crunch of a potato chip. Pradeep doesn’t mention it, but long before neuromarketing one advertiser found and promoted its NIS: Rice Krispies made the sound its cereal made when combined with milk famous with its “Snap, Crackle, Pop” slogan.

The finding that pulling off the foil lid was perhaps the most significant sensory element in eating yogurt was important to the yogurt-making client that sponsored the work, but it’s an important lesson for all product marketers. Don’t assume that the obvious product characteristics are the only important ones. With yogurt, one would logically expect taste, texture, and aroma to outweigh mere packaging considerations; that was found to be incorrect. (At the same time, flavor and other characteristics are still very important to the success of the product; if the yogurt didn’t taste good or had an off-note in its aroma, surely it wouldn’t sell.)

And while neuromarketing studies can reveal surprises like this, costly research isn’t always necessary. The Rice Krispies marketers who decided to let everyone else talk about flavor and focus their ads on the sound of their cereal conducted no brain studies, but turned their brand into a decades-long success story.

Image via Shutterstock

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