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Testing, Testing ... 1, 2, 3

By: Alisa Marie Beyer
Posted: March 8, 2011, from the March 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

Every once in awhile, a brand will have an idea for a new product, develop it and bring it to market successfully without first engaging in product concept testing. However, when you consider that, according to AccuPoll, up to 95% of new product launches fail each year, Ernst & Young claims 80% of new brands fail, and only about 15–20% of new brands and products are actually successful (according to P&G), it is easy to clearly see that this is the exception and not the rule. Like a well-told children’s story, a well-crafted and -executed product concept test can draw in, capture and create real interest in your potential new product before one dollar is spent or one man-hour is wasted, saving your idea from falling prey to these bleak statistics.

Gathering Critical Information

So much more than just words on a page, product concept testing offers brand owners the opportunity to test new concepts with consumers at the most critical juncture in the product’s life cycle—before it enters the market. Written in the same tone and manner as if the product were already on-shelf, good testing engages consumers with the critical touch-points of your potential new product, creates awareness and excitement with consumers, and allows brand managers to understand exactly where consumers will let you go with an idea. But even greater than awareness, product concept tests can save brands millions in lost sales, prevent the need for laborious rebranding after launch and, hopefully, avert the inevitable loss of interest if a new product launches to a lukewarm consumer.

Product concept tests let you gauge your target consumer’s reaction to a new product idea quickly, tweak concepts kill the ones that aren’t working and green-light the winners, allowing you to ultimately introduce the most appealing, must-have product that says what your consumers wants to hear, and that they already want to buy.

Speak Their Language and Don’t Overwrite

When writing the product concept stories you will ultimately use to test your ideas with consumers, put yourself in their shoes and think strategically about what you want to say. What will they want to hear, read or learn about the product? What real-world problem does it solve for them? Why should they believe in it, and what benefits will it bring to them? Although you may not ultimately stick with all of the concepts you test when it comes time to actually market and brand the final product, the information you glean by testing several different stories will tell you exactly what messages resonate with them the most, saving you time and money. And by answering these questions up front, you establish the strong informational benchmark you need to bring the product concept story to life as an actual product with the strongest, most appealing consumer message.

To get the truest read on what consumers think of your new product idea, it’s important to include certain elements in every product concept story: product name, core promise, consumer insight, reason to believe and benefits. Additional information to highlight includes new technology, format/distribution, taglines and, if pertinent, price. Ideally, to get the truest feedback on what elements of your new product they value the most, the reason to believe and the technology description should be very nearly the same in every concept. Because this aspect of the product is not likely to change much anyway, keeping it similar in each concept allows the participants to focus on the other aspects of the potential new product that can be altered, changed or rewritten with their feedback, such as name, reason to believe and core promise.