"The formulation of the problem is often more essential than its solution."
-Albert Einstein

our senses detect sensation
our brain translates sensation into perception
perception is shaped by culture and context
culture is a complex adaptive system
context is a bordered system
all systems can be decoded, modeled, explained, and understood

The Importance of Framing the Problem

The key to good research answers is asking the right questions. The abiding problem of communication with the consumer is that companies are not clear about what questions they should be posing to their researchers or research consultants. Perhaps our highest value to our clients is in our expertise in culture as the platform for generating questions that generate the highest, most reliable, information yield.

Understanding your Cultural Positioning

Culture determines what people perceive as important. It is the platform on which your brand equity and market position stand. Yet it is most often the least understood part of the marketing process.

Branding and market position are both outcomes of, and markers for, cultural position, which is the grounding value of products, services, ideas, and experiences. This value must be searched out not just in the market but also in the place where all things are first desired and finally bought: the mind of the consumer.

Your cultural position reveals not just how the consumer values your product, but how it relates to other products and categories. Understanding a product's cultural position is to understand why people are prompted to buy it in the first place; what needs a product fills, and how it relates to core values in the minds of consumers as they age and values shift in priority over time.

Most businesses pursue this knowledge intuitively, based on personal and corporate experience, an insider's view of their product, and its current market position as measured in dollars. Cultural positioning allows you to concentrate your focus on the unconscious motivators that drive people to choose one product over another.

Based on an analysis of long-term consistent patterns of human behavior, we can identify the unconscious drivers of the buy decision: where the product fits within the buyer's brain. We use match data and behavior models to accurately measure the Cultural Valence; the operational value within the overall scheme of the consumer's mental model for value exchange.

Leveraging your Cultural Valence

Cultural Valence is the measure of how important a product is -- and why it is important. It describes the value set embedded deep in the mind of the consumer by the host culture and "grown" through individual experience.

The valence of products, symbols, people, and ideas is determined by a tiered study of the relationship of human biological and social needs and the specific cultural environment that shapes the form of products that fill these needs.

Applying the result:

The most effective form of communication is one in which the recipient is already predisposed to believe the information.

These research results can be used to predict how a new product will be received in the future, and identify the most receptive groups of consumers. They can reveal the reasons products have been successful or failed, the potential lifespan of the product, and what types or categories of products are most likely to prevail in the future. Linking products with the way people think about and value them is key to the most effective communications design, and to modifying that design as the market evolves.

"Americans like to think of themselves as a rational people - rooted in fact. If this were true, Consumer Reports would be our best-selling magazine instead of TV Guide" -- Margaret J. King, Ph.D., Director
   Copyright © 2001, 2006 Cultural Studies & Analysis