Concepts, Dreams & Nightmares

Written by Tim Gowing

(A summary of the paper presented at the Media Research Group)

Concepts are the thing of dreams. They represent progress, evolution and revolution. They result from collaboration, imagination and ultimately creativity. And yet, they go on to become a respondent’s nightmare!

I recently attended a presentation from Will Gompertz who has been named amongst the world’s top 50 creative thinkers. He remarked that the brilliance of humans that will keep them forever ahead of machines, is the ability to think of an idea and turn it to action. This creative spark is universal in almost all of us, and it is an incredible gift. The evidence of this gift is probably best shown in art, music and literature, but we also use it in our work. Ok, we need to apply a few parameters to commercial creativity, but nonetheless, locked inside your brain is a black box for generating ideas.

When we develop commercial concepts, they are often confronted by the four horsemen of the creative apocalypse; Validation, Research, Testing and Evidence. These four necessary evils are preventing creativity from fulfilling its potential. But the solution is not to abolish concept testing, but to affix it with the same creativity that goes into the concept creation. Those four horsemen should be pulling concepts off the page and onto the shelves, not standing in their way.

It was this frame of mind that enabled us to develop our Unlock Winning Ideas  methodology. We started with our goals – lots of concepts, quick responses, positive respondent experience – and then worked backwards to develop our quantitative approach. We ended with a solution that enables us to test up to 80 concepts within a manageable sample size, and within a 12-minute questionnaire. The key was to leverage system one thinking; the intuitive, emotional part of our psyche, and minimise our system two thinking, logic, reasoning, to ensure a response as close to reality as possible. The methodology allocates a unique score to each concept and then provides more detailed appraisals of the leading concepts through follow up questions on understanding, relevance, interest and differentiation.

The key to this methodology is that it encourages you to be creative with your concept testing, not hampered by the limitations of a survey. It provokes you to come up with many ideas, not reduce them down to an acceptable number for testing. Ultimately it empowers you to use your gift of creativity, instead of restraining our skill to think and do.