Moving away from testing to learning can help product development

Kimberly-Clark’s Kleenex brand is shifting from testing to learning research, which is steering its product development. The brand’s marketing director, Sophie Woodford, describes this as a move away from ‘cupcake research’.

Mindi Chahal

This doesn’t mean research about cupcakes, although that would be a tasty project to work on, it refers to a testing approach rather than learning from any brand insight.

For example, if marketers were using this approach they would provide cupcakes to a focus group and ask them what they like about it.

The group might say the icing and Woodford believes that this could lead to producing a cupcake that was 90 per cent icing because that is the result of the test group.

In reality, it’s about getting a balance and hearing what is being said about the product and taking it forward to learn and develop rather than going by what testing says works or doesn’t work.

Woodford says: “Insight isn’t a linear process, you have to gather from many different sources and build them together.”

The brand used this approach to launch a £2 million redesign of its range and to launch a new variant, Kleenex Sensitive.

A similar approach is being taken by Virgin Trains to launch a major advertising campaign, backed by a projected £28 million marketing spend over three years.

The brand undertook an ‘ideal customer experience project’ to identify the areas that need work, which involved intense analysis and research, including following people on journeys to learn about pain points.

The brand is introducing a new strapline, ‘Arrive Awesome’, which, I would argue, might have bombed in focus groups if Virgin Trains had tested its new campaign because it’s such a bold claim for a travel brand.

Research should be about learning and interpreting insight to better understand what the consumer need is and use that to develop products and services. Rather than to prove or disprove whether marketing campaigns resonate or if people like or dislike products to provide a reason to spend money on one aspect or another.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here