Global Snacking Brand Uses Implicit to Understand Base Business Decline

A multi-billion-dollar snacking brand was in decline, yet tracking results showed parity on brand health KPIs. The brand team intuitively believed that this decline was driven by equity erosion as a result of lack of connection with a younger demographic who were turning towards healthier options and in response was planning on launching a reformulated product.

Ahead of this launch, the senior insights director looked to leverage innovative research methodologies to test this hypothesis and uncover any additional insights to better understand the drivers of the base business decline and inform the communications behind the reformulation.


Hotspex conducted a foundational assessment of the brand combining both explicit and implicit measurement to understand both the conscious and non-conscious drivers and barriers for the brand.

The same approach was used to evaluate a concept of the new reformulated product across different generations.


A deep dive on the snacking brand itself revealed that there were declining emotional associations laddering up to confidence and trust.

These leading indicators were not being picked up in the brand tracker as it was only focused on lagging indicators related to the purchase funnel.

Results indicated that there were diverging impacts of the change between conscious and non-conscious perceptions based on whether the product was being purchased for themselves or for their children. Interestingly, it was identified that in fact, there was strong equity with millennials.

Explicit questioning demonstrated that parents with younger kids embraced the new formulation after conscious consideration, which gave parents confidence to feel better about their choice.

The implicit measurement offered an important nuance – consumers that didn’t have kids at home were put-off by the “new” and healthier formulation.


Marketing was hoping to drive health perceptions by explicitly communicating the reformulation, thinking it would help drive health perceptions and ladder up to the emotional associations of confidence and trust.

The research uncovered that this strategy would have alienated one of the key consumers segments: consumers without kids in the home.

To solve this communication challenge, Hotspex ran a brand building workshop with both the insights and marketing teams which led to a new idea of reframing the reformulation as not ‘new’ news.

Hotspex behavioral sciences team provided guidance on how to convey the new health benefits to those who needed to hear it, in a way that would not alienate a key consumer segment.

Behind The Scenes

Marketers allocate significant portions of their budgets to brand trackers, but the key to uncovering brand health issues is to also measure leading indicators, such as emotional associations with rigor.

Hotspex used emotional depth and implicit measurement techniques to dig deeper in addressing why the base business was in decline for this brand.

In addition to our tools, we rely heavily on our team of cognitive and social psychology PhDs.

Hotspex wants to empower insights leaders to proactively address the enablers and overcome the obstacles of base business growth.

In this case, we helped our client run a brand building workshop aimed to present the research findings, but also facilitated the discussion by sharing examples from other brands and categories to inspire thinking about how to reframe the communication of this reformulation.

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