Concept tests aren’t something we’d encourage you to skip. After all, it’s imperative to know how your target audience might react to a new or improved product before you spend tons of money launching it.

But there are three things that can render this powerful tool completely valueless.
Three Concept Testing Pitfalls You Must Avoid-small

Ready, Set, Prepare … Fail?

Over the years, many products launched by gigantic brands have been brutally slain by consumers. Why? Because the potential acceptance of a new product was not measured correctly. Companies spend thousands of dollars in development, launch, and promotion; despite this preparation, there’s still an element of doubt surrounding the product’s success. Or worse, the result of this investment is an all-out failure.


Take the example of a large packaged foods company. Last year, they developed a new line of snack crackers with popular flavors. They put it on store shelves and promoted it. Then they pulled the entire line 6 months later due to lack of sell through. Turns out the differentiation of popular flavors just wasn’t enough in this very competitive category. If they had launched a gluten-free line, it would have been much more successful. Proper testing would have eliminated this costly mistake.

In order to greatly reduce the risk of failure, companies have relied on concept testing. Traditionally, this gives them a window into their consumers’ acceptance for a new idea. But it is not as simple as it seems. Despite its wide usage and well-known status, concept tests are still being done incorrectly. And when they’re being done incorrectly, they go from powerful tool to near-useless drain of time and resources. At the very worst, a poorly-done concept test can produce misleading, inaccurate, and ultimately un-actionable information.

The good news is that concept test misuse can be avoided once you identify the triggers.

Three Common Concept Test Mistakes You Need to Avoid

We’ve conducted hundreds of concept tests across various industries in global markets. When things go wrong, it’s usually one of these causing the problem:

  1. A Poorly-Written Concept Brief

If you’re setting out to test new ideas for your business, a well-written brief is one of the most crucial steps to master. This directly influences both how your product will be judged and how realistic your concept test results will be.  A good concept brief should describe a new product or service idea accurately. This lets the research agency or the internal teams absorb the benefits, strengths, and differentiating factors of your product, which enables them to effectively and appropriately develop the survey.

To write a good concept brief, a marketer should be mindful of the following:

  • It’s important that business objectives are clearly stated. Only then will the research agency really comprehend and appreciate what’s motivating the research. And don’t skimp on detail: too often business managers do not realize the importance of sharing background information, which can lead to confusion later on.
  • Once the business objective is clear, the key decision should also be defined. This impacts the entire research design, and is one of the major factors in evaluating research results.
  • Make sure that all the terms in your product description are understandable. Provide as much detail as possible to ensure that the pertinent elements of your product idea get captured in the survey.
  • More often than not, research methodology is decided in tandem with the research agency. However, if you believe that a particular methodology will yield better results — or if there is a history of testing using a certain type of framework — mention it in the brief.

To know more on how to write an effective concept test brief, read our post, “Seven Questions You Must Answer Before Starting Concept Research”.

  1. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) That Aren’t Mapped To Product And Business Objectives

KPIs are numerical scores or outcomes that determine the acceptance of a proposed concept. They help marketers measure a product under multiple parameters such as likeability, believability, uniqueness, relevance, etc.

Companies that don’t regularly perform concept tests may not be completely aware of which standard KPIs to measure. However, a clearly stated business objective (remember that from Point 1?) can help define the KPIs that will best answer their key business issues.

For example, a concept test conducted without a ‘Relevance’ KPI wouldn’t just be incomplete.  It would also not demonstrate the very real impact that ‘Relevance’ would have on a consumer’s intent to purchase. This half-baked information could very well result in a poor business decision and erroneous marketing strategies.

  1. Showcasing A New Product Concept In An Inappropriate Format

A bad choice of format can obscure the benefits or usefulness of your concept. Customers can get overwhelmed if a fairly simple product idea is displayed using flashy animation, superfluous graphics, heave text, or other unneeded bells and whistles.  But a lack of information on a new concept can lead to a failure to understand what the test – and the product – are about.

The correct format will change based on what concept you’re testing.  Images are very powerful for packaging and product design. But they’re not necessarily so great if you’re testing simple copy – i.e. in product names or taglines. A video might get your point across beautifully when you have a mechanical feature to test, but it can be unduly elaborate for a familiar product.

When Apple launched the first iPod, it was difficult to describe the benefits in a few sentences. An appropriate display medium (video) was critical to showcasing the iPod’s features and advantages over what was then available. Conversely, when a chocolate brand decides to launch a new flavor, a simple image with the key ingredient would suffice; anything more involved could just be overkill.

In a nutshell, the right format enables the respondents to give you the most accurate responses. Above all, it helps bring out the right insight about consumers’ response.

Believe in the Power of the Concept Test

When done the right way, concept testing can benefit marketers immensely.  It has the power to yield some of the most incredible insights into what your customers want. It gives you a window into their thoughts about a new product idea. It can help companies avoid false starts, wrong positioning, and poor strategy. If these above-mentioned mistakes are avoided, concept testing can help precisely anticipate consumer’s intent to purchase – even before the product hits the market.

Authored by Richa Kapoor – Marketing Communication Manager at Absolutdata, and Alan Wheeler –Executive, Marketing at Absolutdata

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