The Union of Senses method enables qualitative researchers to reverse engineer the senses, and move beyond projective techniques. It allows us to bypass rational and verbal explicitation of consumer behavior and uncover sensorial and more implicit qualitative insights.
What is Union of Senses
The famous composer Franz Liszt allegedly once said 'O please, gentlemen, a little bluer, if you please! This tone type requires it!' In fact, the majority of us experiences this union of senses, i.e. the phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory mode leads to the experience of other sensory modes, e.g. tasting what you see, feeling what you hear and seeing what you smell. The most obvious evidence for this is our use of metaphors like “loud colors”, “sweet music” or “bitter cold”.
Our new Union of senses research method
The UoS research method works with a toolkit containing different exercises, each focussing on a specific sense, i.e. smell, hearing, touch... For each exercise, a set of different scents, sounds, textures … is provided.
While being a qualitative research method, respondents are asked not to talk in order to let them focus on feeling their sensations and emotions rather than explaining them.
The basic task for respondents in each exercise is to select the scent / sound / texture / … that best represents how a stimulus makes them feel. For instance for the scents exercise, respondents would sniff a variety of scents (going from banana, through pine, to cat urine) and gradually narrow down their selection until they find a scent that best matches the emotion triggered by the stimulus.
UoS to translate a personality into tangible packaging attributes
The objective of our client, a major manufacturer of chocolate confectionary products, was to uncover the attributes of a packaging (e.g. size, material, finishing etc.) that consumers would associate with certain pack personalities like naturalness or premiumness.
Union of senses proved to be the ideal research method for this project as it allows to reverse engineer an abstract personality to the concrete level of packaging attributes, through the emotional filter of consumers.
Using the UoS method, we generate a large database of sensorial information linked to a certain abstract concept, for example an intended personality for a packaging. This is achieved by shortcutting verbal explicitation, which in turn results in more implicit sensorial insights.