Concept testing is a typically a quantitative research tool that evaluates and diagnoses, in detail, the performance of fully developed conceptual ideas that have been created to meet consumers’ desired end-benefits. Results are also used to identify those features that are most motivating, to provide product development and advertising direction, and to identify groups of consumers for whom the idea holds the greatest appeal.
Surveys & Forecasts conducts concept testing at any time there are one or more ideas to test, but we typically undertake testing (1) after concept screening has identified a set of appealing ideas in their basic form, or (2) following post-concept screen qualitative research (e.g., focus groups) that was used to further develop the ideas by fully incorporating consumer needs and language.
The goal of concept testing is to evaluate and diagnose a complete branded idea. Hence, concepts are fully “fleshed out” descriptions of new product ideas. They are typically comprised of a visual (color photography, or color laser output, of the branded product – usually framed in the top 1/4; a headline (large font that speaks to the end-benefits), body copy (smaller font that speaks to secondary benefits); and, in the bottom 1/4 of the page, quantity, pricing, and relevant usage information. As in concept screening tests, full concepts may represent new ideas, flankers, line extensions, or new uses/repositioning of existing products.
Concept Test Design
Concept tests involve exposing a single concept to a group of respondents, each comprising its own cell. Also known as a “monadic” design (from “monad”, meaning one), this method reflects how consumers would evaluate products in the real world (i.e., based on their accumulated experience). Because both evaluative and diagnostic measures are needed, concept tests cover more measures than concept screens. Measures typically include:
- Purchase interest (and/or use of constant sum scale)
- Open-ended reasons for purchase interest
- Main point communication
- Overall rating (excellent to poor)
- Voluntary positives (e.g., likes, advantages) and negatives (e.g., dislikes, disadvantages)
- Value, uniqueness, superiority, believability, relevance
- Degree of fit with manufacturer’s image
- Expected frequency of use, HH members who might use
- Anticipated purchase frequency, purchase quantity
- Usage occasions/situations would use
- Replacement vs. addition use
- Detailed attribute ratings (e.g., 15-20 items)
- Attitudinal, classification, and demographic questions
In high incidence categories, a broad, general audience of respondents (e.g., males/females ages 18-65) is often used. However, if products are single sex, or limited to specific age groups (e.g., female razors, or fem-hy products), definitions can be altered to meet specific needs. If multiple target audiences are used (i.e., different by cell), then a numerical “go/no go” target should be set (e.g., based on a norm, or % “Definitely Will Buy” level), as monadic results can be difficult to interpret without them. Common sample sizes are 150-200 exposures per cell. Study costs depend on the number of concept cells and screening requirements. As with concept screening, other factors to keep in mind for concept tests:
- Concepts should be created using the same format. Consistency in format, screening, geography, and question sequence will also be important for future historical comparisons.
- Plan to either include control concepts or pre-establish normative hurdles for concept performance.
Pros & Cons
Pros: Comprehensive assessment of fully developed conceptual ideas before large capital outlays for product development.
Cons: Test interpretation may be difficult without controls or norms. Versus concepts used in screens, concepts will better represent products that depend on mood or tonality, but may still fall short.
Cycle time (excluding stimuli preparation) from field start to an initial presentation is typically 4-6 weeks, but this will vary based on screening requirements.
Subsequent steps include additional concept refinement or positioning research, copy testing, and product testing (with or without the concept).