What You Need to Know to Place a Concept Test

What You Need to Know to Place a Concept Test

I love how simple the idea of a concept test is. A concept test basically puts a product idea on a sheet of paper, shows it to a consumer, and asks them, “Will you buy this?”  This article examines the basic components of a concept.  It then reviews the two different kinds of concept tests (qualitative and quantitative).  Lastly, I’ll talk about some basic factors used to determine a “winning” concept.

The Basic Components of a Concept:

  1. Title or call to action.
  2. Accepted consumer belief: This is the “hook” for why the consumer cares about the product.
  3. Benefit statement: This shows how the product in the concept is a solution or satisfies that consumer’s need.
  4. Reason to believe: This statement explains what features or elements the product has that make-good on the promised benefit.
  5. High-Res image:  All concepts placed in your concept test should have an image of the product or its package.
  6. Product variants: The different weights, scents, flavors, recipes, etc. the product will offer in market.
  7. How much each variant costs: Most importantly, DON’T forget the price.

There is no “official” word limit to a concept placed in a concept test. In my experience you can sometimes “game” the results of a concept test by packing more words and promises into it. Don’t do that.

A good concept should accurately communicate the information a consumer will receive in market. If the concept message will turn into a :60 second copy-spot, it’s OK to include more verbiage. A concept for a :15 second spot should include fewer words since it will have less time to communicate its idea in real-life.  Lastly, if the product will get no advertising at all, consider a pack-crept and only include copy from the package.

Once you are aligned in what concepts to test, you will need to recommend the method of concept testing. In general, a concept test is most often done in one of two ways:

A Qualitative Concept Test:

The first kind of concept test is a qualitative concept test. Typically, you would do this early in the life-cycle of the concept. This kind of test is usually done in Focus Groups or as IDI’s. The objective of a qualitative concept test study is for your Marketing and Agency partners to hear how consumers talk about the product in their own words.

I recommend that for a qualitative concept test, you cast a “wide net.” Ideally, you should test many different ways of talking about the product. The “further” apart they are, the easier it will be for consumers to decide between them.  If your concepts are very similar, only making slight tweaks between synonyms or ways to describe a benefit, consumers usually won’t care.

In a qualitative concept test, you don’t always have to pick a “winner.” Sometimes all you need to know are the top 3-4 ways to talk about a product. In other cases, you are just looking to refine the technical language of the concept to be more consumer friendly.

While some companies do use qualitative concept tests to identify consumer consensus on a “winning” concept, this is more rare among large CPG’s. If a big CPG company is going to “cut steel” and invest to produce a new product, they often opt to do additional quantitative concept testing.

A Quantitative Concept Test:

This brings us to the second kind of concept test. A quantitative concept test is typically done as a survey with a large base of consumers. Many questions can be asked about the product in the survey, but the most important is the purchase intent question.

The purchase intent question often appears early in survey. This is to prevent any biasing from other questions the respondent might read before it. Different concept testing companies will ask the purchase intent question in different ways. Most often, it will read something like this:

How likely are you to buy [_____]
1. I definitely would buy [___]
2. I probably would buy [____]
3. I might or might not buy [____]
4. I probably would not buy [_____]
5. I definitely would not buy [_____].

In my experience, these scores are typically reported in one of two ways:

1.  Top-2 Box Purchase Intent: This sometimes called T2B. This is the sum of the consumers who responded definitely or probably would buy.
2.  A Weighted-Purchase Intent: This is sometimes called WPI. It is a formula that weights the definitely and probably responses differently. Usually, more weight is placed on concepts with higher scores of definitely would buy.

In a quantitative concept test, the winner is most often the concept with the highest T2B/WPI. Some concept testing services will compare concepts v. their total database instead. BASES is one such company.

If “just” a number isn’t right for your situation, you might recommend using a volume forecast or financial forecast of the top concepts before selecting a winner.  Things like cannibalization, or SOVA, may help break the financial tie between two concepts. The success criteria of a quantitative concept test vary project-to-project and company-to-company. Whichever criteria you pick, make sure you align your business partners to those criteria BEFORE the concept test is placed.


In conclusion, if you are reading this because you are about to field your first concept test, congratulations! Placing your first concept test is a right of passage for most Market Researchers in the CPG world. If after reading this this article you still have questions about concept testing, feel free to post them in the comments below.  If your business is considering doing a qualitative or quantitative concept test, but does not have the in-house expertise to do so, feel free to contact us for a consult.