Brand Odyssey

Rigas Harbilas

Brand Odyssey is an agency engaged in ground breaking consumer research that provides marketers and advertisers with deeper insights into their customers and products within the modern marketplace...

The explosion of available goods and services means that a modern consumer is no longer able to navigate almost any category using rational decision making and is relying more on feelings, implicit intuition and sub-conscious needs.

The modern consumer lives in two worlds. The world of reality and the world of hyper-reality. Every day people are spending increasing amounts of time interacting with the world via online technology. The modern consumer is increasingly living in hyper-reality.

In a hyper-real world, images, messages and perceptions become more important than reality itself. In a hyper real world, the image of the product is more important than the product itself. In hyper-reality, the image is the product itself.

Consumers are increasingly buying products directly from the hyper real world. Consumers are preferring to live in hyper reality than reality itself.

These same consumers are however also savvier and more knowledgeable about marketing and advertising than previous generations and therefore are putting up stronger rational barriers to prevent us from understanding those feelings and triggers.

This has huge implications for marketing because in a hyper-real world, brand image is everything...

At brandOdyssey we believe that marketing is the most important function in any business. We pride ourselves in helping marketers understand the mysteries of brand image and consumer perception in order to create more relevant and resonant brands, products, designs and advertising. We use innovative, techniques and processes to work through the rational façade of the consumer and into the feelings, perceptions and intuitions that are increasingly guiding the decision making process

Setting up the Room

Brand Odyssey always conducts consumer sessions with the participants sitting on the floor, either on bean bags or pillows. There are several reasons for this. Firstly the table in the middle of the room is a terrible barrier, it is almost impossible to properly connect with the participants and for the participants to connect with each other when there is a table in between everybody. The table is very problematic in that it encourages people to hide and not participate. The table encourages defensiveness and some cynicism all of which are the opposite of what we wish to achieve.

Sitting on the floor gives the group much more space, things can be laid out on the floor, the stimulus can be put out on the floor, participants are actually very comfortable sitting in bean bags on the floor. It is actually far more comfortable than sitting on a chair behind a table for two hours. Because we also we rely on visualisation and regressive techniques in the groups, we need participants to actually lie down and close their eyes which would be impossible with a table.. And in general, sitting on the floor encourages people to let go and rely more on their feelings on their body language and intuition, and that is precisely what we want to understand.

Taking off shoes

It is also important that the participants take off their shoes before coming into the room. This is a very important and effective technique. In fact it's one of the most important things that we do in order to set up the group. Removing the shoes allows them to let go a little, to relax, to feel more comfortable. Even though initially they may feel somewhat awkward; once they sit down on a bean bag without their shoes on and they realise that everyone's the same and no-one has anything really to hide and they lose some inhibitions and start to respond more freely

The other important effect is that the custom of removing shoes before you enter a room creates a sense of reverence and respect. We are leaving the real world behind and we are coming into a room, into a different domain. It immediately changes the ambience of the session.

Therefore before the group has even officially begun, participants have already started participating by taking off their shoes and sitting in the floor which is an essential aspect of creating the kind of mood and feeling for collecting emotional impressions.

One other advantage is that they are not feeling like they are in a stereotypical market research session. So they are a little mystified and intrigued at the same time.


At this point, the moderator needs to introduce the group in order to put everyone at ease and we say about 4 or 5 things to them in order to put them at ease. We tell them the truth:

  • that this is actually a serious market research group, even though we are sitting on the floor
  • We are sitting on the floor because it is more comfortable because it is just easier to do everything on the floor and because we notice the people talk a lot more when they sit on the floor.
  • We tell them that there will be a series of different things that we do in the group, so we are not just going to sit around and talk for 2.5 hours, we are going to do a number of different thing
  • we also tell them that there are no right or wrong answers to any questions that we ask them
  • And then we encourage them to give us their first impressions and gut feel about everything that they see. Understanding first impressions are very important for marketing.

Stories and collages

The first activity in the Brand Odyssey group is to begin collecting impressions about the brand or the product or the category or the idea that we are investigating. We have devised a specific technique whereby we ask each participant to bring along either a story about a significant memory or behaviour relating to the topic in question and/or a collage of pictures and words.

We leave the instruction purposely open to their interpretation except to say that they are not allowed to use pictures of brands or any advertising or marketing; so therefore it has to come purely from their own personal impressions. It is fine if those impressions are influenced by marketing or advertising but they are not allowed to use the marketing or advertising in order to express what they think or feel.

The purpose of this activity is four-fold:

  1. Firstly it allows each and every participant to express themselves right at the beginning of the group, they cannot hide from participating in the group.
  2. Secondly the group begins by using emotional expressions; both the personal recollections or the personal stories and the collages are actually emotional expressions. This is a very important aspect of the Brandy Odyssey method. We are constantly tapping into emotional, sometimes subconscious perceptions and impressions.
  3. It immediately sets a context for the remainder of the group, so therefore all further information is collected in the context of these consumer impressions which adds further insight to the information.
  4. Finally it also allows the client viewing the group to hear immediate and relevant information about the topic, which is often very interesting and paints an initial picture for the client watching from the other room.

All of this is achieved with the moderator asking virtually no questions whatsoever. The information we receive from the participants is tight and it is significant but with minimal to no influence by the moderator. It is pure consumer thought, both rational and emotional being expressed in a free environment.

Market spatial analysis

At some stage we need to bring the participants into the world real world of the product or brand A brand or a product doesn't exist in isolation. You're picking it up or you're buying it within a competitive context, so we have to understand its position within this competitive context. This is what we refer to as the 'spatial position' of a product or brand or idea.

So what is the space that a brand or product takes up? How is that space perceived and how large or small is that space?  Is it a space that engulfs other products and brands?  Does it act as a centre of gravity or is it something that orbits around other brands or products?  This is understanding the spatial dimension of a product or brand.

The technique we use to understand the spatial dimension is the product sort. We literally throw as many related brands and products as is manageable onto the floor and ask the entire group to make sub-groups of brands or products that form the basis for the subsequent discussion on spatial analysis.


One of the cornerstones of the brandOdyssey process is the use of individual, written subjective projections. This is a powerful technique because it allows the consumer to express their own perceptions but without having to talk about themselves directly. This allows us to tap into sub-conscious and even unconscious perceptions about a brand or product or idea. This technique and the information from it have proven vital for developing the insights that are necessary to understand the potential future of a brand or product.

In order to achieve the projection we rely on a series of personality, abstract and symbolic pictures that allows a participant to express various sub-conscious perceptions about a brand, product or idea. The pictures we use are of less importance than what each consumer perceives about those pictures in relation to what they are writing about.

It is important that these answers are written down and not discussed within the group for a number of reasons but the most important is that it gives the participant freedom to write things down and express themselves without having to justify why they have those feelings. This is key to obtaining deeper consumer impressions. We want the consumer to provide these deep impressions in the purest form available and not tainted by the knowledge that they will need to justify what they feel to other people in the group.

This written information is collected, analysed and presented to the client in clear and precise terms that are practical and actionable.

Hypnotic Regression

We use a hypnotic regression technique in order to understand the effect of a brand's past and also its future.

A brand or product's past is understood by collecting the emotional imprint it has left on the consumer. This imprint is often subconscious but very influential on behaviour.

We assist the participant to remember an early or powerful memory by taking them on a memory journey. However in order for most participants to remember specific emotional details of these memories they need to be regressed using relaxation and mild sensory deprivation - closing the eyes and lying down in a darkened room. The lack of external distracting stimulus allows the participant to focus on their own memory and recall specific emotions associated with that memory.

However, like the emotional projection, the memory is written down and not discussed within the group. Again this gives the participant freedom to write down all aspects of their memory without having to explain or justify themselves publicly.

In virtually all instances where we have used this technique the results have been staggering and this specific information has led to an understanding as to why products were not performing well in the market. Consumers carry around amazing subconscious perceptions about brands and products that are very influential in determining how consumers behave.

The same technique is also used to determine a brand or product's potential future. Again via a similar technique but with a different script, we assist the consumer to travel to their 'ideal' scenario for a brand or product. If a brand or product could be anything what would it need to be in order to appeal to that consumer.

Here we are tapping into the consumer imagination and vision of the future which more often than not contains powerful marketing information. People buy products in order to fulfil their aspirations and ideals so it is important that marketing understands what those ideals are and how they might be manifested.