Unveiling the Hidden Opportunity of Massage

The Challenge

Should a brand extend into a new category?

Massage is increasingly a household word, but occurs behind the closed doors of spas and bedrooms. Our client’s business intuition told them the untapped potential for home massage products is significant, but to evaluate the opportunity, they needed to understand this culturally complicated and commercially underdeveloped category.

More than a quick-hit brand extension

With a well-established brand in the personal health space and license to explore opportunities from the sublime to the highly sexually charged, our client wasn’t interested in a quick-hit brand extension. They wanted multiple innovation platforms that would shape and expand this nascent category into the mainstream.

Perceptions of massage span quite a spectrum, from illicit to deeply spiritual. Little common cultural context exists that could reliably be leveraged by our client. In addition, market data was next to nonexistent. To make sense of the category, we needed to dig deeper.

The Process

How do you bring a hidden market into focus?

Mapping a path to serious business opportunity mandated triangulating through a variety of lenses: the Market, the Culture, Human Motivations and our client’s brand in order to develop a clear and holistic understanding of where opportunities lay.

Decoding personal moments and an opaque market

Market Mapping

With no entrenched players or even clean Nielsen classifications, we built a data-driven massage market model and sizing from the ground up.

Culture Mapping

We decoded the intricate tapestry of massage—rich in triggers and taboos, aromas and emerging science—to properly set the contextual stage for innovation.

Motivation Mapping

Ethnographies with loving couples revealed a nuanced psychographic landscape that stretched from caring comfort to delightfully torrid play. Yet in spite of this rich territory of experience and occasions, the market lacked well-designed products and insightful marketing. Understanding the world of massage that consumers had made for themselves allowed us to properly set the contextual stage for innovation.

Client’s Brand as a Lens
All of our insights were put through the lens of our client’s brand:

Where did they have permission to lead, issues to overcome, and clear opportunities to embrace?

The Results

Do you have the right tools for invention?

To enter the largely uncharted world of in-home massage and evolve their brand, our client needed:

  • A credible business case.
  • Strategic clarity about human-inspired commerce opportunities.
  • An immersive innovation experience to inspire the client team, build institutional buy-in, and generate fast-prototyped product concepts.
  • Testable product concepts to answer and shape this future market opportunity, along with positionings to ensure cultural relevance, resonance and desire.

Business and human insights to green-light product innovation.

Market Sizing
With probably the most accurate estimate of the massage market ever assembled, our client had the confidence to build and present a credible business case, and received the green light and funding to build massage into a future core business.

Opportunity Map
Rooted in honest sharing from massage-loving people, contextualized by broad cultural and market trends, and honed through comparative analysis with existing and analogous products and categories, we were able to pinpoint six innovation platforms and the associated attributes that would capture the loyalty of high-potential consumers—and define a new growth category.

Rapid prototyping through immersion and inspiration

We organized all of the data synthesized across these various dimensions and facilitated a series innovation workshops for our client team, translating consumer need states and cultural context into rapidly-prototyped product concepts.

Innovation Workshops
A multi-disciplinary team was fueled with market information and inspired across all 5 senses to evolve insights into implementable ideas. Across multiple days, professional designers worked hand-in-hand with massage therapists, marketers, scientists and researchers to conceive, refine and render multiple ideas across six emotional platforms.

Test-Ready Concepts
We crafted full product positionings and 2D renderings to bring to life each innovation platform. It gave our client the strategic and concrete tools necessary to have their brand and business take a bold step away from their historical comfort zone in order to lead the growth of an exciting new market.