We make thousands and thousands of choices every day – many we don’t even think about! Last weekend I chose to spend a substantial amount of time catching up on my queue of TED Talks (can you imagine a more exciting weekend? I can’t!), and came across a great TED Talk by Malcom Gladwell on Choice, Happiness, and Spaghetti Sauce.

As a market researcher with a strong focus and passion for both innovation and product testing, this WAS exciting to me to listen to arguably one of the best researchers and writers of our time talk humorously about essentially what I do on a day to day basis. Need to explain your job again to your grandma or a friend who thinks you go door-to-door interviewing people? Send them this talk! More specifically, his talk centers around the idea that there is not one perfect pickle – but perfect pickles for different groups of people. Duh! But at the time, this was revolutionary thinking and it profoundly changed the landscape of the food industry.

Source: http://payload.cargocollective.com/
Source: http://payload.cargocollective.com/


Gladwell goes on to discuss two key themes:

  • If we ask people what they want, they’ll tell us what already exists. They can’t articulate a product that doesn’t exist!
  • There is no perfect pickle – simply pickles that appeal to different target groups based on their flavor profile.

It illustrates two key tenets in the market research world, and is part of the reason we have jobs! At Ipsos, we’ve helped many clients tackle this question. The primary means of understanding the different flavors and features that might resonate with consumers is via drivers of liking study.

Our product testing experts, Ipsos ProductQuest, conduct this type of research all of the time. In this type of product test, consumers test many offerings in a given space. By analyzing their responses to the products, we can identify specific target groups of consumers by flavor profile: zesty pickles, butter pickles, spicy pickles, etc. While in my mind the classic Kosher is perfect, you might prefer another flavor, shape, or texture! We can further understand the size of these different segments to determine which space represents a better target for future innovation. Descriptive data and consumer data can be layered into a dynamic simulator to provide guidance to R&D for innovation and product optimization.


While we hear a lot about the paradox of choice today and the overwhelming amount of options often present in our stores, it’s also important to keep in mind that as consumers, many of our favorite products might not exist without this thinking and research. But don’t take my word for it – listen to Malcolm Gladwell’s talk. And call us for how you can design the next version of the favorite pickle. Click here to see how we think about product optimization. You won’t be disappointed.

Have questions? Want to discuss more? Need other TED Talk recommendations, or have some for me? Comment below or feel free to email me at Melanie.munsey@ipsos.com.