- How can we effectively communicate about our brand in ad concepts?
- What will really resonate with our customers longer term?
- What are the key themes that will really provide a hook for behaviour change?
These are questions we as a research agency are asked time and time again by our clients when they are testing campaigns. But the answers to these questions are not straightforward. In order to really have an impact, concepts need to be noticed, understood, recorded/associated with the brand and its story to create drive that will initiate the cascade of behaviour change (pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action) – PHEW!
That’s a lot to assess from one little concept, with traditional concept testing approaches only scratching the surface to capture the initial stages or the way concepts are coded in the brain.
The truth is, there is a fine line between ‘interesting’ and ‘activating’.
Traditional concept testing
Traditional concept testing uses various techniques in qualitative or quantitative interviews, but is historically based on direct questioning like ‘how different’ ‘how relevant’ ‘how impactful’ ‘how compelling’ – but this doesn’t tell the whole story. Fundamentally these types of questions are all subject to the affect heuristic – a phenomenon where when you like a concept you ascribe positive characteristics to it and suspend your critical judgement. So when we ask these questions, what we may as well be asking is ‘do you like it’, ‘do you like it’ ‘do you like it’?
Secondly, the traditional approach is not not realistic respondents often spend time poring over a paper campaign in isolation and then are asked “what do you think” and “why do you think that?” In the real world exposure to concepts is often fleeting, digital, in a noisy environment and people are not expected to justify their choices. Now you might think this ‘reality’ point is irrelevant because we can rarely access the exact moment of choice and we need the rationale, but in concept testing the nature of this approach is important.
In a 1993 study at the University of Virginia they demonstrated this ‘introspection bias’ by giving students the opportunity to select a one free poster from a choice of 5 . The students were either told “select your poster and then you can be on your way” or “select your poster and tell the person at the register why you picked what you did” – those who didn’t have to give rationale primarily selected an artistic poster, but those who had to give rationale overwhelmingly selected a funny poster with a kitten saying “gimme a break” – their need to give rationale meant that they actually made different choices.
So what is the problem here?
In order to have an impact on customer beliefs and behaviour about the brand, the concept needs to have the right impact and relevance. Firstly, the ablity to breakthrough and be coded in to a customer’s reaction to the brand immediately whilst also resonating longer term and communicating key brand messages in both a rational and emotional way. Traditional approaches alone however can over-emphasise the initial part of the cascade or over-play the rational part of decision making.
The HRW approach to concept testing
At HRW we’re passionate about accessing reality in all types of research. We have a suite of approaches to get us closer to deeper truths in concept testing research by staying grounded in cognitive science. This group of analytical and methodological tools have been thoroughly vetted on self-funded pilots and those that have passed our thresholds for validity and rigour have been added to our toolbox to uncover both the implicit and explicit responses to concepts. Allowing us to recommend the right mix of approaches to best meet your timelines, budget, objectives, and market feasibility.
- From simple tweaks to the way concepts are presented
- Technological means to augment measurement of the implicit reactions to concepts without interrupting the initial encoding/reaction process
- Validated approaches to understanding long term resonance and encoding
To see how this approach can deliver more realistic and actionable results for your next campaign, get in touch for a free lunch & learn on the science behind how our brains remember images, case studies of recent concept development studies using these approaches, and example outputs.