In a study aimed at uncovering deeper preferences of consumers for plants, we, Beekenkamp Plants, in collaboration with the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) and Wageningen University & Research (WUR), implemented an innovative approach: the use of MRI scans. The findings shed new light on how consumers express their love for plants, suggesting that the emotional connection people feel with plants is more intuitive and profound than previously believed.
Typically, it takes a breeder more than five years to develop and introduce new plant varieties to the market. A challenge in this process, however, is predicting consumer preferences. The recent study, utilizing both online surveys and MRI scans, yielded valuable insights. Remco Renken, the magnetic resonance physicist leading the research, emphasized the unique collaboration, noting that MRI scanners typically accommodate patients. “Choosing a beautiful plant appears to be an intuitive ‘no-brainer,’ with consumers quickly responding to what intrinsically appeals to them,” Renken stated.
Online Research and MRI Scans:
The study consisted of two phases. In the first part, a thousand consumers were asked online to select the most beautiful plants. They were presented with thirty sets of two plants each, including both new and existing varieties. Geertje van Bergen from WUR observed, “The time consumers invest in making their choice reveals much about their appreciation. It’s an unconscious process that directly indicates what truly resonates with consumers.”
In the second phase, participants were placed in an MRI scanner while viewing photos of familiar and unfamiliar plants. The research unveiled which brain regions were active when viewing ornamental horticultural products, such as visual perception, appreciation of beauty, and decision-making. Interestingly, less brain activity was observed for the plants participants chose to take home, suggesting that selecting a beautiful plant is intuitive, a ‘no-brainer.’
Sirekit Mol, Head of Commercial Operations (outside Europe) and Marketing at Beekenkamp Plants, discussed the study’s significance for horticulture: “This research provides valuable insights into how we can present our products attractively online, considering the consumer’s impulse response. We now have a better understanding of consumer experiences and specific needs.”
The study not only provides insights into consumer psychology but also opens new avenues for the horticulture sector in the realm of neuro-marketing.