CONCEPT CRAFTING AND WRITING
How do I craft concepts and prototypes for testing in market research?
What is concept crafting?
First, let’s establish the definition of a concept. A concept is meant to communicate an idea in a concise way. Concepts are NOT final products. They are rough drafts that give an idea of how the product or service could take shape.
Concept crafting is about converting a raw idea into a better draft to showcase your innovation concept. The trick is cutting down the number of ideas you have brainstormed into a prioritised set of concept ideas to take into testing in market research. The consumers will be the true judges of whether your prototype will pass muster.
It is said to be one of the trickiest parts of new product development and testing. You need to make sure your concept or prototype conveys the core idea to the consumer, while at the same time being relatable, motivating and capturing the essence of the problem it solves.
How to prioritise ideas for concept crafting & prototype testing?
You will first need to review your business plan, innovation roadmap and marketing goals to set up a basic template. You should also check company capacity and resources to produce, distribute and market.
Assuming you have run a brainstorming or innovation design session and now have lots of ideas, we suggest you appraise ideas based on two simple factors: impact and effort. Is the idea potentially high impact and low effort – if yes, then that goes through to concept crafting. If the idea is low impact and high effort, then consider dropping or reimaging it. You need to be realistic here and less is more when it comes to prototype testing.
Crafting great concepts and prototypes is part art, part science
Concept crafting is not simple – is both a formulaic exercise AND an art form— finding the right balance can be difficult for if you are unclear about a concept’s true purpose.
- should be embodied by a headline, an articulation of the need, a product explanation and benefit, a key visual and a tagline or CTA as a draft to begin with
- Writing in consumer language to entice, persuade or resolve a consumer need or tension
- Succinct consumer storytelling
- About designing the prototype to influence consumer emotional response and inspire action (investigate, buy, talk about)
- You need market insight (qualitative research or quantitative research)
- To convey the idea succinctly – this is not a time for verbal fluffiness
- Ability to answer some key questions before you start crafting:
- Who is your audience?
- Why would they be interested – what is the need or tension you are solving for?
- Why you – what benefits or magic do you or your idea offer?
Concept crafting needs to bring the art and the science together.
Remember, cool ideas are not enough for consumers, sometimes the most mundane are the most successful. That is because simple ideas solve a problem simply and that is what makes them motivate. That is what you need to capture for a great consumer concept.
Getting concept crafting right!
This concept crafting template will help you draft your concept in the earlier stages, but within each stage of the concept crafting you need to ensure you have the right information or considerations. Market research early can help you get you concept crafting tight and focused.
Concept Crafting Template
There are a couple of simple things to keep in mind to ensure you have strong concepts to take forward to prototype testing.
- Cracking Insight: This means that you have a consumer problem or tension or itching desire to scratch. It needs to be more than gut instinct and it needs to be crafted in words and possibly visuals in such a way as to ‘connect’ easily with your target audience.
- Compelling Benefits: A great concept works on both a rational and emotional dimension. Crafting concepts and prototypes requires you to understand which benefits are most compelling and to focus only on these. To get the top list of benefits, you may need to do some qualitative research prior to the concept testing, to narrow these down and optimise their wording. Whatever you do, don’t cram lots of ‘benefits’ or ‘features’ in the hope that you think you are differentiating the product and driving consumer desire. It has the opposite effect.
- Impactful Support or Proof points: This could include some key functional claims you can make or persuasive reasons to believe. Again, you need to choose carefully and do not cram in too many. We have seen many concepts come through for testing that overwhelm the consumer – this
- Demonstrative Images: Bring the concept to life with prototype drawings, sketches or visuals that help the consumer imagine themselves using the product idea. Basic images that convey the idea well are best. We have seen a lot of beautiful concepts that consumers either do not get, or think – wow, this is going to be expensive when it hits the shelves!
- Optimise with Consumers
Co-creation is qualitative research with passionate consumers who can help you:
- Sharpen the insight
- Ensure you have compelling benefits
- Narrow the list of proof points to the most motivating or differentiating
- Helps you understand how the consumer will bring this idea into their lifestyle
- Help you understand any watchouts – from product or service design through to marketing messaging and launch strategy
CONCEPT VS PROTOTYPE
A concept is an articulated idea. It is about why consumers need it and how it works:
- It is a demonstration of a process, product, or idea as a ‘proof of concept’ and allows you to refine, verify interest and likelihood of purchase.
- For marketers, it can determine whether the idea can be turned into a reality, test viability and explore the ideas potential to be developed or built.
A prototype is what the idea actually looks like:
- A very early draft of a concept or product, process or idea that brings the idea to life for consumers so they can appraise or help co create usability, aesthetics etc., of the final product
- It is not expected to have all the features and functions but more a draft idea visualised
- Can be a product mock-up (replica for instance) or simply a sketch
Ideally back in at your innovation workshop, you had someone sketching up ideas as you went. If not, now is the time to make sure your prioritised concepts for crafting have great images or sketches to help consumers understand the idea from a usage, design or need perspective. If you wish to progress to product mock-ups or facsimiles of service ideas, then you may need to engage a design agency to help you with this.
When writing up the final concepts, ensure that they are:
- Single Minded: If there is too much going on within one concept, break it up into two (or more) to get a clean read on the main essence of the idea.
- Distinctive (from one another) yet Consistent: With NPD the goal is not to have variations of the same concept tested repeatedly – consumer fatigue, waste of ROI
- Also, when testing several concepts with the same consumers, make sure you treat them the same way – length, language, tone – so consumers can compare apples with apples
- Concepts need to be clear and simple: They are not ads. In order to communicate the idea clearly, you need to remove all the fluff.
Not necessarily all the “fun”
PROTOTYPE TESTING – BE DISCERNING
We believe less is more. While it is possible to run a lot of ideas through a fast test to prioritise, we believe this leads to false positives and false negatives. As a marketer you need to get to grips with your target market, their needs and how this idea will fulfil them. That is the best measure for prioritisation.
This is where market researchers come in. They have great experience with the consumer, and new product or service development and, naturally prototype testing. We talk more about concept and prototype testing in our article ‘How to Test New Product Concepts and Prototypes’.
Want to know more?
To get your concept crafting right it is often a good idea to turn to market research. Market research prior to your innovation sessions will help you gather insight into consumer needs and tensions. Market researchers are also great concept writers and can either help you write your concepts or write them for you. If you want to know more or looking for some assistance with concept crafting or prototype testing, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 80946800.