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Playing the "What If" Game

February 23, 2006 - by Robert E. Stevens, GENESIS II(The Second Beginning) E-Mail:

One of the more unusual requests I ever dealt with was to conduct a Concept & Use test involving a product that was yet to be developed. The client had invested a considerable amount of time attempting to develop a new laundry detergent designed to effectively remove grease and oil stains. At the time they were encountering two problems. The first problem involved a process problem dealing with the blending of the active with the other components of the product formula. The second problem involved a small but potentially aggravating problem dealing with particulate soil removal.

The "What If' game involved the evaluation of the potential new product both with and without the particulate soil removal problem without having the actual product on hand. Problem number one in the design of the test dealt with a method whereby the participant could see the effectiveness of the soil release ingredient of the product before we could actually make the product. Problem number two dealt with the assessment of the negative associated with mud/dirt removal involving blended fabrics. The final design was as follows:

To create the illusion of the product we could not make, we pretreated the fabrics that were to be washed in the test product with a soil release polymer. The fabrics to be washed in the participant's own detergent were not pretreated.

The execution of the study went as designed. Panelists were interviewed about their comparison of the products, test and own, while the fabrics were graded for soil removal by both the panelists and company technicians.  Unfortunately, the results of the study indicated that it was probably not in our best interest to continue the program of adding a soil release polymer at that time. The study uncovered a second performance problem that could not be overcome at that time. The study was also a valuable source for laboratory validation data.

It is imperative to know the source of your data and circumstances surrounding data collection.

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