Concept Development – For New Product Launches, Testing is Key

At Imagemme, dozens of great ideas cross our desks every month.  But how do you distinguish which ideas will succeed from the ones that will never make it?  An initiative we stress to all our clients, concept testing, is one way to identify if a product will be a hit or a miss before all the marketing dollars are spent.

We’ve sat in client meetings, namely for smaller brands, where they completely avoid product testing (usually citing cost) with the concept that if they like the idea, so will their consumers. In reality, the best way to measure a product’s potential and suitability is to test it with consumers.  This step is of utmost importance, particularly for smaller brands whose funds are limited.

Don’t get us wrong, every once in a while a brand will bring a new product to market successfully without ever considering concept testing—but that isn’t always the case.  If you consider AccuPoll’s last study, revealing that 95% of new product launches fail annually, in accordance with findings by Ernst & Young, that 80% of new brands fail, how can anyone afford not to implement product concept testing?

New product concept testing can save brands millions of dollars in lost sales while notably avoiding the need for tedious rebranding. A useful technique in product development, it can also preserve customer interest in the product and enhance brand equity rather than damage it.

Even if the product you test isn’t the one you bring to market, you will gain valuable insights into what consumers are looking for, the innovations they think are valuable and the most impelling messaging that resonates with them.

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your concept testing:

  1. Be specific.  Don’t give consumers an end product and ask what they think.  Break your discussion down into segments such as product utility, messaging, look & feel, etc.  Make sure your consumers are focusing in on the right elements so you can gain the most insight.
  2. Ask your test group to weigh in on the vision, core values, benefits, attributes, value proposition, and personality first.
  3. Once you have gained insight on the identity, ask specific product focused questions.  Does it do what you want and expect it to do?  How does it measure up to the competition?  Are you innovating in a way that makes this consumers life easier?
  4. Once you have feedback on the product, attempt to identify consumer thoughts on look & feel.  Is the described brand personality and vision embodied in the package design and message? Does it resonate with the target market?
  5. Do show variations.  Whenever we give a concept presentation, we show 3 to 4 variations, each with very diverse purposes.  Usually, the differences are extremes, exhibiting a range of elements. Eventually you meet somewhere in the middle.

At the end of the product concept testing process, you will walk away with an intuitive account of how your consumers feel about your product—and most importantly: if they would actually buy it.

*Note:  Be sure to select a representative sample, and look for trends across your focus groups.  Research themes that emerge from the data in different groups and determine statistical significance from there.

Amina AlTai is the Marketing Director for the Imagemme New York City office.

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