From the editor

Sensitivity can have its pitfalls

September 28, 2009
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Commentators on Retailwire blasted a Kimberly-Clark shopper program profiled in a recent Wall Street Journal story. The program had researchers wearing thick vision-blurring glasses, walking with popcorn kernals in their shoes and taping their thumbs to their palms to understand the physical limitations of seniors, who will begin welcoming Baby Boomers into their ranks beginning in 2011.

So, what's all the fuss? "Because they are over 50, doesn't mean they've got one foot in the grave," raged one respondent. "No doubt they are in better shape than the 20-something who designed the stupid study in the first place." The bottom line for many was the idea that an 80-year-old Boomer will think and act nothing like an 80-year-old of today. Focus on psychographics, they said.

It's the kind of lesson The Campbell Soup Company found out when it launched its Soup for One soups in the 80s. Though the packaging concept was on-trend (single-person households were on the rise), experts say the product failed because the communication reminded consumers of their solitary status. Soup for One (alone again tonight, huh?). By simply repositioning it as a convenience play, Campbells got the single-serve concept right with its successful Soup at Hand line (look at you, you're on the go!).

It's something K-C should consider as it begins to translate its findings into products, packaging and brand communications. Seeing store shelves through senior eyes is important. Just make sure you get into their heads too.

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