thought leadership

Risk & Reward: Alienation Testing

Using Alienation Testing to understand potential in the marketplace

Reasons to Use the Alienation Test Approach

Are you considering a change to your product? Changing a product for any reason entails risk that current users will feel alienated and reject the new product. Companies must weigh the potential business risks of change against benefits such as quality improvement, cost reduction, or regulatory or ingredient issues. Alienation testing engages with current users to quantify the risk they may alter their purchase behaviors in response to the proposed changes.

InsightsNow takes a unique behavioral approach in assessing this risk to predict how and why current users will react to a proposed product change. This includes a diverse array of situations where product changes are “blind” or accompanied by marketing communications. Working with client teams and meeting company research goals means we may survey consumers in a central location, or in a home use or extended home use environment for alienation testing.

Coming out with clean label products without alienating brand fans is a major challenge for most food companies.”

Noel E. Anderson, Ph.D, CFS,

IFT Fellow

What Your Alienation Test Will Reveal

When you use a behavioral approach to alienation testing, your research insights will inform:

  1. How much alienation would result from making the product change?
  2. Can additional Research & Development efforts address any alienation causes?
  3. Do the results indicate that the change is simply not beneficial for the product (i.e. too much alienation)?


Alienation testing gives you the vital information you need to make business and product decisions.

Ensure that you don’t lose current users when doing a product change or update, and plan a strategy to tip any implemented changes in a positive direction in the marketplace.

How Alienation Testing Works

Identifying Alienation

The first step in structuring your alienation testing project is to determine how much alienation you are willing to accept on your proposed product change, if any. Then, through testing, you can determine the percentage of people who would be alienated can be calculated by identifying the number of people who: 

  1. DETECT the change
  2. PREFER the current over the new
  3. Would NOT BUY the new/changed product

What are the Sensory Trade-offs?

The next step is to quantify the sensory trade-offs for a proposed change through application of the alienation testing approach.

  • Is the new product detected as different from current?
  • Does the new product create penalties that reduce liking or preference?
  • Do benefits overcome penalties leading to a change in purchase behavior?

The Consumer Reactions

Basically, analysis through alienation testing looks at when a brand makes a product change and how to gauge consumer reactions to this change. Essentially, there are four possible consumer reactions:

  • Unaware/Indifferent: Members of this group fail to detect the product change, or are unaware or indifferent to it.
  • Contented: These consumers detect and prefer the product change.
  • Vulnerable: These prefer the current product, but will remain brand loyal and keep buying in spite of the change.
  • Alienated: Members of this reactionary group are aware of change, prefer the current product, and in turn will reduce or discontinue product use as a result.

Partnering with InsightsNow on Alienation Testing can take this process to the next level. By starting from a place of understanding human behavior on a deeper level, we work to create a specific testing environment to assess risk. Through the process, insights are uncovered to predict how—and, importantly, why—current users will react to a proposed product change.