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The Touch And Feel Of Consumer Products

The Touch And Feel Of Consumer Products

The sensory perception of a product based on how it feels.

The Touchy-Feely of Consumer Products

Friday, September 15, 2017 - 16:30

Jason Socrates Bardi, Editor

(Inside Science) -- I love learning about a new field of science. It’s like finding a new book by a great author or discovering that your favorite restaurant has a special tasting room upstairs -- like it’s been there all the time but you never looked up.

The field of psychorheology is like that for me. Most of my life, I had never heard of it. But I’ve come to discover I reap its benefits in many everyday consumer products -- everything from hot cocoa to sunscreen.

Psychorheology touches upon how products feel – or more specifically, how we feel when we touch products. That makeup, that hand lotion -- is it oily, dry, smooth, stiff, rough, thick, light or foamy?

Companies care about these things because consumers care. We demand a certain flavor, a certain color, a certain scent. And likewise, we seek a certain texture. How does it feel? That’s exactly what psychorheology seeks to achieve.

Matjaz Jogan, at Johnson & Johnson said, “This work is about human perception. The question is how to do our consumers perceive a product in terms of how thick they are.”  

Jeffrey Martin, at Johnson & Johnson said, “Our projects started when I would get many scientists who were making formulations and they would come to me and say, ‘I’m trying to match the aesthetics of a product that is on the market right now. I have a few different prototypes and I would run many different measurements.’ Of course, it’s never going to match exactly, so I would have to go back to them and say, well here’s a prototype that matches very close. And then I would always get that question, is the difference noticeable by the consumer? And I would always have to answer, I don’t know.”

“We want the consumer to be happy with the product. So, the consumer experience is very important. We can evaluate this experience by basically measuring it by questionnaires or also by measuring their preferences. For measuring their preferences, we can use different tools like eye tracking, measuring their pupil sizes on emotional reactions,” said Jogan.

“All of the different sensory cues for a certain prototype are very important. You can have a lotion that we can show really through data, and you can show a really good benefit and it can have very good aesthetics, but if it doesn’t have a good fragrance it’s not going to get used,” said Martin. 

“Like having more and more data and more merchant models, we should get closer to what the consumer in the end really wants. Especially now that consumer preferences are changing at a very fast pace,” concluded Jogan.

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Jason Socrates Bardi is the News Director of the American Institute of Physics and a longtime science writer.