Traditional concepts are difficult for consumers to work with. Maybe there’s a better way…


Written by Emma O’Connell

At RDSi, many of our clients need to develop ideas that not only research well in qual, but also get the go-ahead from quantitative testing.   We believe that if the concept research process starts out right, a green light is more achievable.

Traditional concepts are difficult for consumers to work with.  They have no parallel in consumer reality.  Consumers have never worked with concepts before and frankly struggle to relate to them in a meaningful way.  Typically, we find that consumers are overly rational and considered in the way they respond to concepts in group discussions.  It is hard to identify the genuinely motivating and engaging elements of ideas when consumers park their intuitive thinking along with their cars outside the venue!

Yet, concepts prevail…. perhaps because a winning concept, expressed in the traditional way, is the end point that the business can rally behind.  Consumers are emotional beings, but businesses are run along more rational lines.

But, maybe there is a better way to get to this end point; a less frustrating, more consumer-friendly way that makes it easier and quicker to arrive at that all important ‘winning idea’.

  • What if it was possible to allow in a wider array of ideas into the research process?
  • What if each piece of stimulus material took a form that was more recognisable to consumers?
  • What if the research process could take advantage of 2 very different ways of consumer thinking, reclaiming their intuitive, immediate reactions?

All of this is possible.

Drawing on our extensive experience of researching ideas, we would like to share two approaches we have successfully used.

  1. Perhaps the most radical alternative to traditional concept research is based around the humble Adcept – a deceptively simple thing, consisting of a headline, a picture, a sentence of copy and a brand logo. How can Adcepts dramatically change concept research as we know it?  Because an adcept is ‘almost a print ad’, consumers can work with them very easily.  We barely have to explain them, avoiding the long winded preamble that is necessarily in a traditional concept group.  Consumers can sort through adcepts quickly and effectively, so that we can have a large number of adcepts at the outset of research sessions, quickly filtering down to the genuinely interesting ideas.
  1. Another option is Deconstruction. Client and agency teams are great at coming up with insights, benefits, RTBs etc.  Consumers may not know what to make of an entire concept, but they can understand one element, say insight statements, fairly quickly.  We can expose them to a number of insights to find out which one resonates with each individual most powerfully, asking them to express their preferred insight in their own language.  We can build up from there, looking at a range of benefits and reasons to believe etc.  But importantly, we can use techniques to introduce ‘emotion’ into the idea, such as image sorts and other projective techniques.

So, how are groups different when using adcepts or deconstructed concepts?  These approaches allow the good stuff to rise to the surface more quickly and consumers are typically far more engaged with the material that has made the cut than traditional concepts designed by committee and resulting in compromise.

How do outputs benefit?  As well as identifying the insight, benefit, RTBs that have genuine appeal and brand fit, there will also be greater insight into imagery, tone of voice and consumer language.  Our research debrief shows the team the ‘winning idea’ and gives clear direction on how to express it.