Influencing Consumer Purchase Decisions: Campbell Soup's Tryst with Neuromarketing

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Case Details:

Case Code : MKTG292
Case Length :11 Pages
Period : 2008-2012
Pub Date : 2012
Teaching Note : Not Available
Organization :Campbell Soup Company
Industry : Consumer Packaged Goods; Condensed soups
Countries : US

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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"When we walk down an aisle in a grocery store, our purchasing decisions are made in less than four seconds. There is no way we can think about that in a complete way. Those decisions take place in the subconscious part of the brain."

-Martin Lindstrom, a marketing expert, on the significance of Neuromarketing.

"[...] the Campbell Soup Company publicized a bold redesign of its iconic label with the assistance of neuromarketing. Pundits promptly predicted brand suicide, decrying the company for using pseudo-science."

-Fast Company, February 22, 2010.

In 2008, Campbell Soup Company (Campbell), the largest soup maker in the world, embarked on a research exercise that lasted two years, to boost the sales performance of its condensed soups. One of the key techniques employed in the initiative was neuromarketing1. There were two reasons for initiating this exercise. One, Campbell's condensed soups, which were the company's flagship products, had been witnessing weak growth momentum since 2002. And, second, the company had been increasingly finding a disconnect between its highly-talked-about advertisements and soup purchases on-the-ground.

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Campbell wanted to figure out what consumers sought in its condensed soups. The company adopted a clinical approach in conducting this neuromarketing exercise. It recorded and assessed the biometric details of over 1500 individuals in collaboration with three neuromarketing enterprises, and, also verified the results of the study using conventional market research techniques.

One of the initial outcomes of the study was that the package labels of the condensed soups were outdated. Campbell immediately set about redesigning the container labels of some of its condensed soups.

This tinkering with the soup labels proved controversial as, according to experts, Campbell's soups had been donning these labels for more than a hundred years and they had come to partly symbolize American culture and consumerism. In August/ September 2010, the company relaunched some of its condensed soups with these redesigned labels.

However, that the label redesign did nothing to mitigate Campbell's soup troubles was evident from the dwindling sales of its condensed soups in the subsequent quarters in its main market of USA. So, were Campbell's problems deeper than could be addressed through mere cosmetic changes?

Background Note - Next Page >>

1] Examining consumers' brain processes to fine-tune products and their promotions.

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