concept development

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A process of successively refining, amplifying and enhancing the basic idea of the product. While concept development is often conducted haphazardly, it can and should be a highly organized process:

1. Assess the present situation

You must thoroughly understand what people are doing now. You want to know their present satisfaction levels, whether they perceive a problem for which your product may be a solution, and what are their present beliefs, misconceptions, attitudes, and emotions. Look particularly for the issues that they have the most energy around, rather than what they tell you is important. You want to know the words they use, and the way they categorize and conceptualize the area. More often than not, people will not make the same distinctions and discriminations the manufacturers make. Users' concepts will be much more use- and function-oriented. The manufacturers' concepts will be more product- and feature-oriented. Sometimes people say that they don't need the product when it is the kind of product that solves a problem that they don't see, or are embarrassed about, or don't want to acknowledge. Such a response does not mean that your concept is dead. One of the roles of the experienced marketer is to get them to acknowledge that there is a problem. Product rejection is a normal initial reaction, when the respondents take professional pride in their ability to overcome the difficulties that your products will eliminate.

2. Concept statement

This step is the most difficult in the concept development and testing process. The way the concept is presented is crucial.

The statement ought to be more than just a straightforward ‘objective’ description of the features of the product, and it should not make claims that cannot be backed up in reality. Instead, a balance must be struck between a specification and a sales document. It should begin with a brief description of the present situation, in words the target audience uses. It is usually best to describe the concept as a solution to a problem; then the product or the service itself, and, importantly, how the product's claims will be substantiated.

3. Refine and elaborate the statement with subsequent testing with different groups

The concept statement is written and rewritten, for successive groups, continually taking into account what has been learned before. Each time it is presented, the marketer will elicit qualms, objections, and concerns as well as praise, new uses, and new ways of describing it. You take the positives and incorporate them into the concept statement. With the negatives, the marketer will look for ways to turn them into benefits. The marketer will find out directly from participants how the product can be made more appealing.

Almost every good concept starts off with strong scepticism, which can be devastating to the client unless the process is understood. Sometimes concept testing is unfortunately stopped at this initial flood of objections. However, objections are actually desirable, because in the first sessions you want to understand people's concerns. As successive focus groups begin to become more positive, it is important to reiterate the negatives encountered in former groups and ask them how they would answer such objections. Shifts of opinion, however subtle or implicit, should be closely monitored. These shifts of opinion, either from positive to negative or vice versa, are often intimations of how the product will be received in the real marketplace.


Subjects: Marketing.

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