Don’t Fall in Love with a Bad Idea
May 8, 2014 | Sara Martens
You’ve just had a great idea. A flash of brilliance, an aha-moment. It might be a product innovation, an ad concept or a break-through marketing strategy.
Some people will simply charge ahead to implement that idea. Most of us, however, step back, consider that bit of brilliance again and wonder, “Is this really as good as I think?”
Or, consider another scenario. There’s not one break-through idea. There are three or four or more. All seem reasonable with equal chances for success. You have to decide.
In both situations we seek opinions. Our colleagues, a mentor, the boss, the boss’ boss, our mom, best friend and significant other all weigh in. None of that matters if you’ve not asked the opinion of the ones who matter most: the customer and prospect.
Idea or concept testing is not about letting the consumer decide for you. It’s about letting the consumer have a voice in the decision.
That “voice” often starts in focus groups where the full range of consumer reactions is explored, probed and prodded. Brilliant things can spring forth. But often the groups serve another important role – they confirm that you’re on the right path. Don’t be disappointed in groups that lack that single golden gem of consumer insight. Be happy that your ideas have been affirmed.
Following groups, many clients deploy a survey to quantify the focus group findings. Knowing that six of the 10 people in a focus group liked the idea does not equate to 60%. Groups are directional. The survey gives you the stats you need to know you’ve got a winner.
As you begin testing here are three guidelines to hold near:
1) Don’t mistake popularity for effectiveness.
Client A had a breakthrough idea. Take a boring utilitarian item you use every day and personalize it. Consumers loved the idea of personalization. It pushed all of the buttons – self-expression, pride, connections – that Client A hoped it would. The problem was the underlying product behind the personalization wasn’t very good. The feel-good personalization, which consumers loved, wasn’t enough to overcome the not-so-good practical problems with the product. The testing was too narrow. Client A was convinced the product rocked and wouldn’t ask critical questions about it. Ultimately, the product failed.
2) Only test what you’re willing to use.
Client B had two advertising concepts from their agency. One was lighthearted with a cuteness factor that scored high. The other had a slight fear factor with a meaningful and memorable line that made the ad very believable.
No surprise–the cute concept felt safer, was easier to sell internally and was ultimately chosen. Cute will always win a consumer popularity contest, especially in this particular category. Personally I advocated for the fear-factor option believing that meaningful and memorable would do more to sell the product than cute. Time will tell how this decision pans out.
3) You are not the target audience.
As a focus group moderator there are times I’ve finished a group, walked into the back room and wondered if the client was watching the same group that I just moderated. Hearing one or two comments that support your opinion is not a green light to proceed. Wait for the full report and consider all of the input. Use research to learn and expand your thoughts, not to simply confirm what you thought. You can use your mom for that.
Research allows you to evaluate your ideas while you still have time to make changes. However, it only works when you structure it correctly and are willing to accept what you find out…especially when it means you need to take a different direction.
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