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TURF Analysis Can Help Grow and Expand any Business: A Lesson from the Girl Scouts


Every winter one of my co-workers at TRC reminds us that Girl Scout Cookie Season is upon us. GSCS (my abbreviation) is a time to call attention to, celebrate and support the agency dedicated to building “girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.”  All well and good, but when it comes down to it, I just want the cookies.

Their best sellers year after year – Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Patties/Tagalogs and Carael Delites/Samoas – contain chocolate. But I don’t eat chocolate (doctor’s orders). Which means every year I hold my breath until I learn whether my favorite GSC – the Lemonade – is still on the list. And thankfully, it is being offered once again in 2019. I ordered 5 boxes from my co-worker’s daughter.

My no-chocolate policy makes me a “niche” consumer of not only GSCs but of snacks and candies in general. When Hershey came out with Hershey Gold in 2017 (essentially a chocolate bar without the chocolate), I thought they had developed it just for me! I hadn’t eaten a candy bar in years until I tried that one. Now it’s my go-to when I need a little something sweet.

But the problem with niche markets is they are small by definition. I worry that with a limited market, eventually Lemonades and Hershey Gold will be dropped in favor of more popular products.

One thing that encourages me though is companies’ desire to reach as many consumers as possible. I wasn’t a candy bar consumer until Hershey introduced a non-chocolate option. They needed to expand the category in order to reach me and others like me.

In research, we use TURF analysis to help in these situations. TURF stands for Total Unduplicated Reach and Frequency. It’s a statistical method used to determine the best combinations of items (products, services, messages) that would appeal to the widest number of consumers.

It’s not a popularity contest. In a regular research scenario suppose we survey 1,000 people and get these purchase intent results (Figure 1):


If the manufacturer wanted to go to market with just 2 candy bars, a “popularity contest” would lead them to select bars A and B. Obviously, many consumers would buy both bars, and by offering A and B let’s say they reach 80% of the potential customer pool (TURF Scenario 1).

TURF-Scenarios-Expand-BusinessA TURF goes beyond the raw percentages and tells us which specific combination appeals to the widest possible audience – in fact, candy bars A and D could actually be the best bet if many of the people choosing candy bar D are different from the people choosing the more popular bars. In our scenario, going to market with the most popular and fourth most popular bars could result in a reach of 85%, a 5% point gain over choosing the 2 most popular bars (TURF Scenario 2).

As a researcher, I understand companies need to make hard decisions about their existing product lines and what to include or exclude in the product development pipeline. TURF is a great tool to support niche marketing and product development, and these considerations can be at the forefront of decisions to keep less popular products in the line-up.  As for me, I hope Lemonades and Hershey Gold bars continue to hold their appeal (for at least as long as my waistline can tolerate them)!

VP / Research Management

Michele likes to hijack TRC's online consumer panel to get relevant answers to her burning research questions. She loves asking questions relating to her favorite hobbies - TV and movies, golf, casino gambling and travel - and more often than not the answers can be generalized across industries.

Contact Michele


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Guest Friday, 27 November 2020

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