Expert or consumer language? Why not both?

Date of publication: June 15, 1993


We use language to describe and communicate our impressions and feelings to other people. When a single language is spoken by a group of people, there is no problem in understanding. However, where there are 2 different languages, to get an understanding either someone in the group has to leam the other language, or an external person has to make a translation. An analogous situation exists in the fragrance market research, where we have two main types of language: - Expert - Consumer both languages are different yet but at the same time complementary. Just as it is impossible to ask consumers to lean the experts' language, it is also very difficult to ask experts to interpret consumer language. The best solution is to find a link between the two languages. This is the subject of this paper Expert language is the fragrance description in olfactive/perfumistic ('ingredients') terms made by experts without regard to any hedonistic quality of the fragrance. This language is objective and thus not subject to geographical/cultural variations. Consumer language is used by consumers to evaluate and select products in real life. This language is not very large and for the most part is expressed in imagery and hedonistic terms. Contrary to experts, this language is subjective and as such can be influenced by geographical, socio-economic and cultural differences among consumers. In our industry we tend to ask questions of consumers without determining in advance what their real language is. This results in the use of terms and dimensions in our questionnaires that are not the most important, nor the most relevant to them. Furthermore the consumer always gives an answer to a question, whether or not relevant to him. Three cases are analysed in this paper. CASE 1 shows the potential danger when the relevant consumer language is not used. In CASE 2 it will be shown what it is possible to do when relevant consumer language is used (Interfacing consumer attributes with expert attributes). CASE 3 shows the interface between expert attributes and spontaneous consumer dislikes.

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