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Creating Appealing Product Concepts

Early this year, I received a very rewarding email from a client with whom I had worked last year. The product we had worked on was going to be launched in January. With the high failure rate of new products, it is very satisfying to see your work thriving on the store shelf.

Wouldn't you love to create a concept that results in your target audience wanting to try your product or service?

Do you desire to create a concept that shows you understand your target audience?

This client credited the research process as one of the reasons for this success. A top scoring concept and winning product were the result of:

  • Identifying the target audience
  • Understanding them
  • Clearly articulating a meaningful benefit

This edition of the Insight covers how you can use qualitative research to create winning concepts, an important step in creating successful new products.

Clearly Articulating the Problem

If your consumer does not believe that you understand their problem, then you will not convince them that you have a solution. In-context interviews, in-depth interviews or focus groups are ways you can begin to uncover consumer's unmet needs as well as their current behaviors and frustrations. These conversations also help you to understand how your target audience articulates their frustrations. Using their "language" to describe their problem can help you quickly connect with them. Expressing problems in the form of a statement works best. For example, "Stiff, rough tissues can leave your child's nose red and sore after several blows."

Defining and Recruiting Your Target

You want to talk to your target audience when developing a concept, but sometimes you may be unsure of who to recruit. And, sometimes when recruiting respondents for qualitative research, your recruits are not exactly who you thought they would be.

Trying to answer these questions will help you better identify your target audience:

  • What are their habits and practices in regards to the product or service you develop?
  • What competitive or substitute products do they use?
  • What are their shopping and purchasing habits?
  • What are their attitudes in regards to the context of your product or service?

Clearly Articulating the Solution

Early in my career I had a supervisor who told me, "Benefits drive concept scores." Stated another way, people buy products because of the benefit they provide them. Products that provide superior benefits usually do better in the marketplace. The key to a winning concept is having a superior benefit and clearly articulating it to your consumer.

Simply state what your product does to address their problem and how your product or service meets that need better than any other. Strong benefit statements include an action verb stating how the product or service will improve their life: "Helps to ..., Provides ..., Cleans ..., Enriches ..." Some examples of clearly defined benefit statements include:

  • "Brand X dog food enriches your dog's health by providing the most vitamins and minerals of any other dog food."
  • "This new tissue helps prevent sore, red noses better than any other tissue."

Perfecting Your Winning Concept

Once you have a draft of your ideas, use qualitative research to help hone your communication. All too often, potentially winning ideas are sidetracked because they were not clearly communicated and therefore not understood. Once again, conversations with your target audience can help you identify the words they use to express their frustrations or how they can be delighted. There are several exercises that can give you the direction you need to write a winning concept.

One direct approach is to ask the consumer to read the concept and do the following:

  • Give the main benefit of this idea.
  • Circle the words or phrases that are appealing to you.
  • Cross through words or phrases that you dislike.
  • Place a question mark by words or phrases that are unclear.

Analyzing their input can help you see the strengths and opportunity areas in your concept.

Key Questions to Answer Prior to Writing a Concept

  • Who is my target audience?
  • What characteristics differentiate my target audience from the general population?
  • What problem does my product solve?
  • How does my product or service provide their desired solution?
  • What differentiates my product from other potential solutions?
  • What reassurances do they need that my product or service will solve their problem?
  • What price will they be willing to pay?

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