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The Art and Science of Concept Development

In my career, I have had the opportunity to develop several top scoring concepts for consumer products and consult with others in the development of marketing messages for their products. I have come to realize that developing appealing concepts is part science and part art.

The Science

When I use the term "concept," I mean descriptions of products or services that the targeted consumer can evaluate in order to gauge their purchase interest. All appealing concepts have three essential components: a benefit, a reason to believe and an accepted consumer belief.

  • The Benefit
    In my first job, I had a supervisor who told me, "Benefits drive concept scores." The point my supervisor was making is, how does the product improve the life of the user? That is what will keep them buying your product.

    Good benefit statements often start with a verb such as eliminates..., helps to..., provides....

    Lastly, product attributes are not benefits. Yes, your product may clean better than the competition or feel softer, but how do these positives impact the life of the user? Go beyond attributes to the real benefit to the end user.

  • The Reason to Believe
    What enables your product to deliver the benefit it provides? What makes your service unique? People want to know why your product will do what you claim.

  • The Accepted Consumer Belief
    Successful products meet a need or solve a problem that people have. Including consumer beliefs in your problem statement can allow you to connect with your target audience. If they believe you understand their problem they are more likely to believe you have a solution.

Other things to include may be ways to use your product or service, performance claims and reassurances.

The Art

The art of writing appealing concepts comes with experience, knowledge of the marketplace and competitive offerings, and an understanding of the consumer. It involves communicating with your target audience in a way that your idea resonates with them and encourages trial. To use the metaphor of an artist, writing appealing concepts requires using ideas, words and pictures to create a truthful picture of your product or service that your target audience will want to use again and again.

There may be a picture that captures and communicates the "magic moment" or "moment of truth" of using your product or service. Pictures are worth a thousand words and could aid in communicating the benefit of your idea.

Perhaps your product or service provides more than one benefit. Understanding what is most important to your customer and how you want to differentiate yourself will determine the focus for your concept.

The Role of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is an excellent tool to help you learn about your target audience and evaluate the impact and appeal of your concept(s).

Exploring the minds, hearts and lives of your consumer, prior to writing, can enable you to write better concepts because you will possess a deep understanding of your target audience. I believe the better your fundamental understanding of your target audience, the more creative, innovative, and on target your communication will be.

Qualitative research can be designed with your target audience to evaluate specific parts of your concept or your message in its entirety. This can be a useful step to refine your communication prior to a quantitative evaluation.

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