How concept testing brings your idea to life

Editor’s note: Josh White is the marketing executive of Glow. This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared under the title “Concept testing: Benefits, methods, and examples.”

Got a big idea that you want to share with the world? The smartest thing you can do is make sure you’ve nailed it before you waste time and money bringing it to life. Concept testing can help you ensure your new product or service will be a success before you go to market. But what exactly is concept testing and how can you use it to make sure your idea is a success? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about concept testing. 

Concept testing: What it is and the questions it can answer

Concept testing is the process of running an idea for a new product or service by your target market to see what they think of it. By getting valuable feedback before going to market, you can iron out the kinks in your concept and ensure it will be a hit with your key audience. 

In the broadest sense of the word, the “concept” can be one of many different elements – it could just be the idea of the product or service but can also include things like product name and logo, advertising ideas, the website experience, packaging or even the pricing of your new product. Some of these specific elements have specialized approaches to testing, such as advertising or pricing, but we’ll refer broadly to all these concept elements throughout the article.  

Concept testing can help answer questions including:

  • Is this product or service appealing?
  • Who will buy this product or service? 
  • Does our [website/brochure] explain the product/service well enough? 
  • Is our advertising resonating?

What are the benefits of concept testing?

Why bother with concept testing? The short answer – because different ideas appeal to different people. 

Customer-centric product development

When coming up with a new product idea, it’s easy to get lost in your own bubble and assume that your idea will be a success. However, this assumption is hardly ever the case. In fact, 85% of products FAIL when companies don’t talk to consumers. Only your potential customers can determine whether an idea will succeed. That is why it’s vital to test your ideas and concepts before taking them to market. 

Concept testing can help you land on the perfect product to meet your audience’s needs. It will help you figure out which of your product concepts appeal to which markets and how to target those markets through tailored messaging.

Engaging customers in the concept testing phase promotes a customer-centric approach to innovation. This involvement not only builds transparent and open relationships but also enhances brand loyalty. By valuing customer opinions, businesses can create products that resonate not only with existing customers but also with broader target audiences. 

Avoid making costly mistakes 

Early-stage concept testing serves as a proactive strategy to identify and address potential issues before product launch. By uncovering weaknesses in the concept, businesses can mitigate risks, avoid costly mistakes and maintain a positive brand image, ensuring a smoother and more successful market introduction.

Did you know that 70% of customers abandon purchases due to a bad user experience, while 62% of customers claim they share bad experiences with their peers? Concept testing can rid your user experience of any flaws or faults before going public. 

Continuous quality assurance through iteration

The iterative nature of concept testing, particularly when conducting research through agile research platforms, allows for continuous quality assurance. Businesses can refine and optimize their concepts through multiple testing cycles, ensuring every aspect aligns with customer expectations. This ongoing refinement enhances the overall quality and market readiness of your concept. 

Streamlined decision-making and internal alignment

Concept testing can help businesses get their stakeholders on board and expedite internal decision-making by providing concrete evidence of a concept’s viability. This helps in gaining support from senior leaders and fostering a collaborative environment within the organization.  

The accelerated decision-making process ensures a more efficient path from concept to development and beyond. Testing is particularly critical in risk-averse companies or in tough economic conditions when the risk of “getting it wrong” is heightened. 

Four concept testing methods and when to use them 

In concept testing, using the right method is akin to selecting the right tool for the job. Tailored to the number of concepts in question, these methodologies offer distinct lenses through which businesses can gain invaluable insights. Below are the four most common concept testing methods:

  • Comparison testing.
  • Monadic testing.
  • Sequential monadic testing.
  • Protomonadic testing.

What is comparison testing?

Also termed comparative testing, this method can be used when evaluating two or more concepts. Survey participants provide structured evaluations by rating the concepts in question and ultimately choosing which they prefer. Conducting a comparison test will give you a clear result as to which concept is preferred. However, it will not tell you WHY consumers preferred that option over the others. 

Some common comparison testing use cases:

  • Product features: Evaluate which product feature your target market prefers for your product design.
  • Packaging designs: Compare different packaging options to identify the most appealing.
  • Marketing messages: Test various messaging strategies to see which resonates best.

What is monadic testing?

In monadic testing, the audience is segmented into smaller groups, each tasked with evaluating just one product feature or concept. Here, the focus is on in-depth feature assessment rather than comparison. The questions used probe individual concepts and elements, offering a focused perspective on them.  

As participants are only exposed to one concept, it will allow you to understand the concept’s appeal without the influence of other versions. This method enables you to dig deeper into specific attributes such as aesthetic appeal and overall impression through follow-up questions, yielding results that offer nuanced insights into why a particular concept may outperform others.  

It is important to be able to use rich stimuli (e.g., visuals or videos) to bring the concept to life and to use a variety of question types to ensure you capture not only how people feel but to get under the skin of why they feel the way they do. 

The monadic approach offers richness, but it can be resource-intensive and cost more when testing a wide range of conceptual variations. 

Common use cases for monadic testing:

  • Product descriptions: Test the effectiveness of different ways to describe a product.
  • Logo design: Assess the impact and recognition of different logo variations.
  • Usability testing: Evaluate the user-friendliness of specific product features.

What is sequential monadic testing?

In sequential monadic testing, like the traditional monadic method, the target audience is split into groups. However, instead of showing one concept in isolation, each group evaluates all the concepts or a subset of concepts, one after the other. For each concept, participants in each group answer the same set of questions, providing comprehensive insights into every concept. 

An advantage of sequential monadic testing is its efficiency; a relatively small target audience is sufficient, making it cost-effective, especially in situations with budget constraints or a limited audience. However, due to the evaluation of multiple concepts, the survey tends to be longer, potentially impacting completion rates and quality. 

It’s important to note that, like any testing method, sequential monadic tests face challenges. Potential biases, such as interaction or order bias, should be carefully considered to ensure the reliability and validity of the results.  

Some common sequential monadic testing use cases:

  • Ad creative: Test the sentiment impact of different advertisements.
  • Website design: Assess the overall user experience by testing different website layouts.
  • Mobile app features: Evaluate the effectiveness of various features in mobile applications.

What is protomonadic testing?

Protomonadic testing mixes both sequential monadic and comparison testing. Participants examine concepts, compare features and then select which concepts they prefer at the rotation’s end. This method offers a balanced synthesis, providing insights into individual feature evaluation and overarching concept preferences. 

Common use cases for protomonadic testing:

  • Brand positioning: Test various brand positioning statements for optimal resonance.
  • Product bundles: Assess the appeal of different combinations of products and services.
  • Pricing strategies: Evaluate how different pricing models change the appeal of your concepts.

How to conduct a concept testing survey

A quantitative survey is the most common mechanism used by businesses to get feedback on their concept. Concept testing surveys are a quick, engaging and robust way to figure out what your target market wants. 

Five steps for conducting a concept testing survey

1. Set your research objective.

The first step to developing your concept testing survey is to define the motives and purpose behind your survey clearly. This will tell you what questions to ask, what language to use and will help structure the flow of your survey. 

2. Choose the right concept testing method.

The concept testing methodology you choose should align with your research objectives and the type of data you wish to draw from your concept test. 

3. Design your survey.

Craft a survey script that resonates with respondents. Consider clarity, flow and the ability to generate necessary data. Ensure that your research platform can support a wide array of question types so you can ask exactly what you need to capture the “what” and the “why” from respondents. 

What are the common types of questions used for concept test surveys?

  • Likert scale – Likert scales offer an odd number of answer choices, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” These questions are user-friendly and provide easily analyzable data.
  • Ranking questions – These questions ask participants to rank different concepts, allowing you to effortlessly identify preferences among specific demographic groups.
  • Images or video – These questions are used when seeking feedback on visual or emotive concepts and can help bring the idea to life.
  • Open text questions – These are great for digging into the “why” behind an answer when applied in combination with logic filtering. 
  • Demographic questions – These enable you to identify your ideal audience. The key is to keep these questions broad because your ideal audience won’t always be who you think it is.

Pro tip: Make sure you mix up question formats to keep your survey interesting for respondents. 

4. Recruit the right participants.

Since unlocking insights from your target market is the fundamental goal for your concept test, it is essential to enlist those individuals who fit with your target audience’s characteristics. Within this target audience, you should still incorporate variations in age, gender and other factors to discern which aspects of your concept resonate with specific subsections and to identify unexpected opportunities. Tapping into respondent research panels enables you to quickly and efficiently find the right people to ask about your concept.

5. Review and interpret your results.

The final step in your concept test is to draw actionable conclusions from your data. Depending on your research objectives, this could be seeing whether your idea resonates with your target market, testing how different audiences respond to your messaging or identifying the concept favored by your target market.

Concept testing in action: Three real case study examples

Product testing – Brita

Multinational water filter manufacturer Brita has been on a mission for 50 years to get people to drink more water. Brita wanted to review its market position relative to other water choices, particularly bottled water, by evaluating category buying dynamics in support of a new product launch. They also wanted to test understanding of their ESG strategy and evaluate new messages for a core product. We were able to help them field a sustainability-focused brand tracker and custom research studies to support strategic business decisions. Read the case study

Message testing – Reckitt Enfa

Multinational consumer goods firm Reckitt needed data to assess and prioritize messaging for Enfa, its main infant and toddler brand, which specializes in child nutrition products. Reckitt needed to consolidate and optimize Enfa’s core brand messaging across four key, but very different, markets.  

Specifically, Reckitt needed to pre-test new campaign messages to ensure they were relevant, believable and would invoke purchase intent. Together, we were able to create a questionnaire, develop a rotation methodology to avoid bias and translate and deploy the survey for four key markets within a week. 

Reckitt was able to review the data in real-time as respondents completed the surveys, enabling them to tweak the messages tested in each market. That process enabled Reckitt to align its overall messaging across all markets, as well as optimize local messaging to reflect market, language and cultural differences. Read the case study. 

Talent testing – Global food business

A global food giant that blends great products, rapid market expansion and a highly-effective marketing strategy faced a challenge as expansive as its global footprint – finding the perfect global brand ambassador to elevate its image in the next phase of growth. 

Armed with a streamlined survey framework and supported by Glow’s research tech, the company began testing high-profile candidates across eight distinct markets. The result? The brand was able to identify a universally liked ambassador that aligned seamlessly with their criteria in just two days. This enabled the business to finalize its selection and appoint the new ambassador in time to incorporate them into a new global marketing campaign. Read the case study.