Key Elements of a Desired Consumer Experience (DCE)

May 3, 2016 Patricia West Doyle



In the world of Consumer Packaged Goods, there is a term that gets tossed around quite a bit: 

the DCE – Desired Consumer Experience.

What exactly is a DCE and why is it important?

 The “desired consumer experience” is a synthesis of deep consumer understanding of values, aspirations, and the product category’s standards of excellence. It can be articulated in different ways: as a category benefit statement, with consumer target product design language, or as a “design metaphor” for the product. 

The full output of a good DCE synthesis can provide multiple levels of understanding for different parts of an organization, driving innovation and collaboration throughout the consumer-facing part of the organization.

The two biggest outputs of good DCE synthesis are:

  1. For R&D, clear product performance requirements that will result in preferred/winning products.
  2. For Marketing, insights into translating product benefits into consumer-meaningful communications. 

And a side benefit, when all parts of the organization are working from the same DCE understanding, often projects flow across the business silos faster.

Category or Target

Depending on the challenge the organization is facing, the desired consumer experience can be either an overall product category articulation or an articulation of what a target consumer specifically wants/needs from that product category or sub-category.

For example, in Hair Care, the category DCE articulation could be, “A great hair day, every day, so I feel like I can do anything.” This is often shorthanded to “Great Hair Days”, a phrase everyone is familiar with! When you take it more specifically to a “clean target consumer” in the dandruff shampoo subcategory, you would get a more detailed DCE statement like, “I want a hassle-free shampoo that will leave me feeling fresh, neat and clean, without any worry of dandruff signs.” Clarity for the project (category, sub category, target consumer) is critical to align the deliverable.

Product Promise

Beyond the DCE articulation, a complete DCE program will identify the product promise, usually articulated with both an overarching promise descriptor and deeper level of specific details, often referred to as the design languageThe product promise begins to identify specific product performance requirements. Additionally, a key design metaphor can often be identified that captures the essence of the product experience.  

Continuing the above example of target clean consumer and dandruff shampoo, this starts to look like: “Simple and Functional Cleaning"  - leaves me feeling clean, smelling clean, and looking clean - superior cleaning signals, controlled and complete dispensing, no added steps or ingredients, not complicated to understand.” A design metaphor could be articulated, “Freshly Laundered Jeans – basic, practical, utilitarian, crisp”.

Each product promise element will lead to holistic design requirements, as well as insights into consumer meaningful claims areas.  This information is critical to create breakthrough, delightful consumer products!

How Do You Develop a DCE?

A DCE comes from synthesis of in-depth qualitative research with your category and/or target consumers.  The best qualitative work for this area is 1-on-1 emotional-based design thinking using high stimulus activities that cover in-depth discussion on all aspects of the ideal product/package experience.  

Would a better full-articulation of your product category or target consumer DCE be beneficial to your brand building efforts? If so, work with your consumer insights team to design and execute the appropriate research. Need help? YourEncore Experts have deep experience in the development of DCE statements that will elevate understanding of your product category and/or target consumer. Contact us here and tell us about your project

Patricia (Pat) West Doyle is an expert in insight discovery and technical brand building. During her 32 years with P&G, she specialized in Franchise Products Research and achieved the level of Research Fellow. Since retiring in 2014, Pat consults through YourEncore, has vigorously explored retirement transition success, and has become a Certified Retirement Coach.



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