How to write a concept to test.

If you’re in marketing research, it’s very likely that you evaluate a large amount of concepts a year… so do we! We’d like to share with you what we’ve learned about making a solid concept to test in order to get realistic results. Most concepts need the basics:

  • Unique selling proposition (if there is not anything particularly unique about the offering, talk about why should people be interested)
  • Secondary benefits of the product or service: what other information should you tell the potential buyer?...but not a list of fifteen things because consumers start to lose interest and it turns into “we can do everything” and not a focused concept. Prioritize what you want to communicate.
  • Reasons to believe: if this is going to be the most cost-effective method of cleaning ever and people will need a drop of your product versus a half cup of the competitor.. what makes that possible? Why should people believe that you can deliver on your promise?Brand: every brand adds a dimension to the offering, so unless you can’t show brand because of competitive reasons, include your branding
  • Price: include if you know what the price will be and the concept is well defined enough to support the price
  • Image (if you can design or find a realistic image of the product or something that represents the service, include it. Don’t include in the image extra items, people, etc. that could bias the reaction to the offering)
  • Make sure all of the above are clear and stand-out. In concept testing (and in life) people lose interest quickly. If the above is included in a seven paragraph wordy concept, your message is going to get lost!

There are always exceptions to the rule and sometimes not all of the above apply. As a rule of thumb, it’s usually good to include the above components in your concept. Also think about what effort the company is going to put behind this new product, service, line extension, etc. If most ideas that you test and move forward with are going to be put on the shelf or included in your offering with no advertising support behind it, then re-think the “standard” concept that you might be planning to show. If when testing a concept you’re clearly laying out the unique proposition, spend 3-4 well defined sentences telling your story of what makes this offering great and why it’s the right choice, but ultimately all those great words are never going to be shared with potential buyers (except for a call-out on the package and three new words) then what your testing doesn’t accurately reflect the potential consumer buying experience.

There is obviously a lot more we can say about concepts and concept evaluation methods and don’t even start us on “norms”… but those are topics for another quarter perhaps. The above are some inputs we’ve found from experience that make concept ratings actionable. If you’ve had other experiences that you’d like to share with us, please send us your comments!