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#IIeX: They Showed You What?!


By Jeffrey Henning

“Please send us a photo of you placing your pad onto your panties.”

No, that’s not some sick new fetish, but an honest and important research request from Proctor & Gamble for its Always line of feminine hygiene products. And a clear demonstration of the intimacy and comfort that research participants have with their smart phones.

And frankly it is a much less obnoxious request than P&G’s traditional technique: wear these panties we send you, freeze your used pad, then after it has frozen send it to us in this biohazard packaging…

To process those submissions, P&G then needed a biohazard protocol. You can imagine that given the cost and challenge and time delay of this data collection method they were eager for alternatives.

Sion Agami, a research fellow at P&G, and Rick West, of Field Agent, shared the results of this intimate case study today at the Insights Innovation Exchange in Philadelphia.

P&G had three key objectives:

  1. learn from women at “relevant moments”
  2. leverage new technology
  3. stay current with consumer trends

As Sion said, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” They certainly expected to learn something new from this research — if it even worked.

People are used to taking photos with their smart phones. They are used to sharing those photos from their phones. And, even if they don’t admit it, they take those phones with them into the bathroom. Field Agent simply leveraged these behaviors to answer a very personal and private research question.

But would Field Agent panelists, who are typically paid to take photos of products on shelves at retail outlets and to take pictures of their use of products, be willing to provide such personal photos?

In fact, they were, submitting 8,000 photos, of new pads being placed, and used pads before being replaced.

While in earlier research only 4% of women said they placed their pad at the narrowest point of their panties, the photos revealed that 45% actually did so — a huge disconnect between stated behavior and observed behavior. Participants hadn’t been lying, so much as inaccurately reporting a behavior done by habit.

The results were startling — the traditional model of use of feminine hygiene products involved pad absorbency plus pad fit plus pad comfort. They completely missed the importance of pad placement, which ended up being responsible for 25% of the performance of their product.

How revolutionary were these findings in the domain of feminine hygiene?

P&G applied for two patents based on the findings.

Clearly, mobile crowdsourcing such as Field Agent opens up research that might have formerly been considered off limits.

P&G rewarded Field Agent with a follow-on project.

Why toilets clog.

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7 responses to “#IIeX: They Showed You What?!

  1. Thanks for sharing Jeffrey. I’m enjoying your posts from the conference… feels like I’m almost there! This one made me chuckle. Thank goodness for mobile MR lol.

  2. A great article, great to know about Field Agent. I conduct qualitative research and I can see how I can integrate this into my work. Love all these new technologies! Thanks for sharing.

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