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JND

II

IIPM, NEW DELHI


“APPLICATION OF JND IN INDIAN MARKET”

Just Noticeable Difference is the minimal apparent difference between two products as observed by
the consumer. Otherwise we can say -"The just noticeable difference (JND) is the smallest difference in
intensity between two stimuli that a person can detect." Psychological concept applied to consumers'
purchasing patterns that holds that consumers are more likely to purchase products based on the perceived
differences between products than they are to purchase based on the attributes of one product or another. In
marketing there are two valuable concepts to follow. However, they sometimes use indiscernible stimuli that
are just below a consumer’s threshold so as to influence him. This is called subliminal message. Of all the
stimuli a consumer comes into contact with, he pays attention to only a few and interprets the messages that
he remembers. This is called the process of perception and has the three steps: 1) exposure, 2) attention, and
3) interpretation. How well the consumer pays attention will depend on the stimulus, and also the
consumer’s interest and need for that product. The consumer interprets the information in two ways: 1) the
literal meaning or the semantic meaning and 2) the psychological meaning. A consumer also interprets the
symbols and other physical features of the product on the basis of his experience and cultural beliefs which
are important in Indian market and cannot be ignored. Marketers make use of perception to formulate
marketing strategies. The marketers use a perceptual map, wherein they find out the attributes or the
characteristics that the consumer associates with the product and they create the product accordingly. Thus,
development of a brand or the logo of the product, packaging of the product, etc., have to be made keeping
the consumer’s perception in mind. It is important to make a just noticeable difference and to seize
opportunities. A ‘just noticeable difference’ would be a contribution and ‘opportunities’ might be the
possible implications. Perception is the process through which a person forms an opinion about the various
stimuli he receives from his sensory organs. In marketing, perception is concerned with understanding how
the consumer views a product or service. The five senses of a person help him in this process. The marketer
uses various props to stimulate the consumer, that is, through the use of colors, sound, touch, taste, or smell,
to observe the product. The marketer must distinguish his message from the competitor’s message. This is
the concept of Just Noticeable difference (JND) comes to their aid. It helps the consumer to distinguish
changes in prices among purchase alternatives. Marketers thus use stimuli to grab customers’ attention and
most often these efforts are clearly visible and known to the customer. Indian producers are also using the
JND tool extensively for winning the market competition. Though the Indian market is the toughest place to
compete because of various successful brands adapted by different regions of people of India where the JND
technique plays a great role for existence among others.
One of the basic questions regarding the effect of marketing stimuli. The ability to discriminate
among stimuli is learned. Generally, frequent users of a product are better able to notice small difference in
product characteristic between brands. The ability of consumer to detect the various in sensory elements is
determined by their threshold level. Some consumers are more sensitive to these stimuli than others. This
will be quite clear from the fact tea and coffee companies employ persons called tea or coffee ‘tasters’. Just
Noticeable difference is based on the differential threshold of a consumer. A consumer will not be able to
detect any change in stimulus below his threshold. For e.g. If an unbranded detergent cost 5 percent less that
consumer is regular brand, the consumer ma not notice the difference. However, if the same unbranded
product costs less than 30 percent less than he is definitely going to notice the difference. Weber’s Law
states that the stronger the stimulus, the greater the change required for the stimulus to be seen as different.
The most important application of this law is in price. One critical implication is that the higher the original
price of an item, the greater the markdown required to increase sales. For e.g. If price of a Mercedes Benz S
class is reduced by 25000/-, it will not have any impact on sales because the basic price is in several Lakhs
that a difference of Rs25000/- may not be noticeable for consumers. On the other hand a price reduction of
even Rs5000/- for a Maruti 800 is seen to push sales substantially because of its low original price. Another
example, if the price of a car is increased by Rs.1000/-/- it would probably not be noticed i.e., the increament
would fall below the j.n.d. it may take an increase of Rs.5000/-/- or more before a differential in price would
be noticed. However even an one rupee increase in oil price would be noticed very quickly because it is a
significant percentage of the initial amount So an additional level of stimuli equivalent to the j.n.d. must be
added for the majority of people to perceive a difference between resulting stimulus and the initial stimulus.
Absolute Threshold is stimulus below which consumers cannot detect the stimulus at all. It is also referred to
as subliminal perception .i.e. perception of stimulus below the conscious level. One of the major
controversies regarding consumer perceptions is whether consumers can actually perceive marketing stimuli
below their absolute level. The level at which consumer’s no longer notice a frequently repeated stimulus.
An individual walking into an air-conditioned room, kitchen full of fragrance, or a noisy party will notice the
stimuli after a period of time. Consumer differs in their level of adaptation. Some tune out more quickly then
others. Novelty, humour, contrast, and movement are all stimulus effects that may gain consumer’s attention
and reduce their attention and reduce their adaptation. Price perceptions directly influence consumer’s
perceptions of brand quality and determine their purchasing behaviour. For e.g. Parker pens were positioned
as expensive, hand finished pens. In order to achieve large volume of growth and to share a pie of the
explosive growing ballpoints, Parker entered this market for cheap pens moving away from its traditional
positioning. The results were disastrous because company’s image was not consistent with its price. In the
late eighties, it moved back to its strength, high priced fountain pens, with an ad campaign featuring style
and luxury. This shift made the company profitable again.
Raising prices of products and services in a country like India may result in adverse reactions from
consumers, especially the mass consumers. It may even alienate consumers from a brand. One important
factor to consider while raising prices is how much to raise it by. Is it possible to raise prices to an extent
where consumers fail to notice the price rise ? Yes, it is. To do that, the price must be raised to just below the
JND, or the Just noticeable difference. 'Price' is a stimulus. If price is raised to an extent where it is within
the differential threshold, then the 'raise' would not be noticed. Now that is something HUL (Hindustan
Unilever Limited) has raised the price of its soaps, skin creams and detergents as costs of raw materials like
palm oil, an ingredient used in the manufacture of soaps, and linear alkyl benzene, a key input for detergents,
have increased. Hindustan Lever raised the price for a 1.5-kilogram, or 3.3-pound, package of its Surf Excel
Blue detergent pack to 120 rupees from 117 rupees. The price of a 45-gram pack of Lux soap was raised to 6
rupees from 5 rupees. A 9-gram pack of Fair & Lovely cream was raised to 6 rupees from 5 rupees. The
consumer perception has changed but brand positioning of HUL (Hindustan Unilever Limited) is excellent
which has improved the market share in India.

In Telecom sector of India-“Brand morphism in telecom is a quick process. An SMS on day one can
change the name in nanoseconds.” Brand buy-outs are essentially cruel events. A brand is created from
scratch, nurtured with care, galvanised into activity and made to happen. Consumers gravitate towards the
brand, involvement deepens, value creation is at work and the brand buzzes. And then, all of a sudden, in
comes a buyer, buys into its equity and all things physical, non-physical (and meta-physical alike) that
surround a brand name. And the buyer has a call to take. Change the name? Or retain it the way it is? The
brand is a name, a slogan, a logo, a colour, a differentiation and 43 other things altogether. But is it a name
alone? Not really. The Hutch name, for instance, is not a name alone. It is much more. It is the collective
equity that is represented by the name, the service, the dependability, the experience at large, the colour, the
logo, the fonts that speak of Hutch and everything else that lies in the amorphous space of other attendant
attributes. As the early statutory issues are cleared, one can expect intelligence in the transition. The tool of
'Just noticeable difference'(JND) can be used to advantage.
Brand identity changes can happen for many reasons. In most recent cases, particularly Axis Bank and
Vodafone, the identity change was all about a need for a new name to replace the old. In the first case, it was
a statutory imperative and in the second, it was due to a change of ownership pattern. The key need is,
however, to convey that the change is but a name change alone. Nothing else has changed. We are the same.
Our reliability continues. The key points one needs to focus on in such changes are the link elements in
terms of visual, aural and experiential imagery that the old brand enjoys in the minds and hearts of
consumers. It is important to audit these points carefully and emerge with bridge elements that will continue
in the new communication exercise. In such an audit that is consumer-centric, you could emerge with as
many as 1,200-1,600 points that spell the meaning of the old brand to the consumer. You need to short-list
from this by giving specific weightage to those points that must remain inalienable from the new identity
you are about to convey and build. After having gone through this laborious exercise, brands need to ensure
that the old imagery balances itself with the new. It is important for the new elements in the brand
communication exercise to have the right weightage. For instance, the Vodafone logo and its dominance.
Brand-name morphs are sensitive exercises. One deals with them through a series of executions. At times
one execution is not enough. For instance, Vodafone will need to have a very quick second-generation
campaign following the pug in the new kennel. This campaign needs to be new-identity-specific. ‘Just
Noticeable Difference’ format where its presence is slowly phased to a smaller degree of significance
visually.
Detergent powder is a category that has been completely dependent on benefits for several decades. Ariel's
‘Spring Wash’ and Tide's `Jasmine' fragrances appeal to hedonism. Consumers, apart from requiring clean,
well-washed clothes, may feel better with fragrant clothes. Retailers of optical frames, especially the
premium varieties, emphasise the `feel-light' factor when traditionally durability and fit were important
benefits. In developed markets, a number of leading car manufacturers try to make the interiors feel better
and a few brands even spray a special fragrance when the cars are sold. The feel factor has always been
important in apparel but with major advances in technology, the feel factor has almost become the
proposition in a number of higher-end offerings from well-known brands. In entertainment electronics too,
products ranging from Sony's plasma TV and iPod to MP3 players, product design plays a vital role as visual
appeal by itself is being considered as a proposition, given the symbolic and perhaps the self-gratification
derived from such aesthetics. Slim watches from Titan satisfy both the feel factor and visual appeal. Visual
appeal has always been a feature in consumer durable categories but in the recent times, it has almost
become a proposition, given the commoditisation of products with almost all brands offering the same set of
features/ benefits. Onida's Ultra Slim, LG Art air-conditioners and Carrier's changeable grill air-conditioners
are some examples. The consumer may be more attracted to such visual appeal, especially in durables that
have a social signalling value. Power House, the mini audio-system from Philips launched during the
Eighties, is a good example of how a brand used the visual appeal, apart from the price factor even then.
While higher-end product categories (like durables) rely quite significantly on hedonism as a strong
differentiator, hedonism is also getting into consumables like detergents and soaps. The marketing
implication of hedonism with regard to products is interesting. While both the lower and higher segments in
a category may be interested in hedonism, it may be worthwhile for marketers to find out at what level
hedonism appeals to consumers and if consumers will be prepared to pay for it. The first aspect is concerned
with a concept called `just noticeable difference' by which a brand will be able to know the point at which
consumers will notice a quality - in this case. For example, providing benefits like fragrance in detergents or
even moisturiser soaps involves adding such attributes and marketers need to find out at what point
consumers really notice and enjoy the experience. This can vary from segment to segment and research
studies are required to obtain insights. Tata is a brand name and has established identity infront of the
automobile segment through heavy vehicles as well as through the light vehicles. The logo of TATA-T-
inside circle that reminds every person about the heavy vehicles like truck and busses. The slight change in
the shape of the logo Elliptical-T-inside the ellipse best fit for the light vehicles of Tata. Now presently
whenever someone looks towards the logo his perception describes that there is smoothness in the sense of
design, engine sound, exterior, interior, driving comparing with globally successful brands of India. The
mindset of consumers has changed after observing the smoothness of TATA INDICA.
The 'Magic' of J.N.D. is not limited to product sales but it has more or less
importance in advertising too. Indian Marketers often want to update existing
packaging without losing the ready recognition by consumers who've been
exposed to years of cumulative advertising impact or they want to popularize the
new brand name, and in such cases they heavily rely on the J.N.D. aspect. They
usually make a number of small changes, each carefully designed to fall below
J.N.D Marketers can use the J.N.D to determine the amount of improvement they
should make in their products. The key thing is that less than J.N.D. is a wasted
effort as the improvement will not be perceived; more than J.N.D. may be
wasteful by reducing the level of repeat sales.