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The ultimate guide to concept testing

Which product concept will be a winner?

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Eric Van Susteren
Content Strategist

Learn everything you need to know to bootstrap your own concept testing program, with methods for everything from ad and logo testing to product and packaging design.

Table of contents
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Overview

Project planning

Survey design

Fielding

Analysis

Action


95% of product launches never reach breakout success.

Source: Harvard Business Review
(Nobel, Carmen, Clay Christensen’s Milkshake Marketing)

Let that statistic sink in for a moment. Think of all the money spent on research, development, marketing, sales, promotional events, and everything else you can imagine for a product that consumers didn’t actually need or want to buy. You wasted all that time and money that could have been spent on something that would get a much better return on investment.

It’s a scary thought, but think about it from another perspective.

Think of all the ideas you’ve had that never got to see the light of day. Maybe you weren’t confident enough in them, maybe your boss didn’t like them, or maybe you simply didn’t have enough proof that they would be successful.

Here’s another, perhaps more informal, data point that most people attribute to Wayne Gretzky, some to Michael Jordan, and fewer still to Michael Scott.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

But Wayne didn’t take just any old shot. By the time the puck left his stick, he had a pretty good idea of whether it was going to score. That’s because his shots were calculated; they were honed; they were tested.

In the business world, you might not be able to get (or afford) enough shots on goal to develop a sixth sense the way he did. But that’s what concept testing is for.

Concept testing is the process of evaluating a concept (like a product or an ad campaign) and how it will be received by consumers before it goes to market. While various concept testing methods exist, we’re going to talk about the most common technique: using surveys.

Concept testing neatly addresses both of the issues we’ve presented above. It helps you:

  • Avoid investing in ideas that won’t be successful
  • Arm you with data to prove that your good idea is, in fact, great

The bottom line is that implementing a professional, well-developed concept testing system will save you money.

We’ll teach you how to create and run your own concept testing program, from point A to point Z. We’ll even give you examples to follow along the way.

Throughout this guide, we’ll show you examples of concept tests we created for a fictional pet food company to choose a name, logo, and ads. The results you’ll see are real feedback from a global panel of respondents on SurveyMonkey Audience, our always-on market research solution.

The methods we’re going to use for this guide can be applied to a lot of other use cases like product development, package testing and messaging. But in this article, we’ll be focusing on three main use cases: name testing, logo testing, and ad testing.

As you learn about the ins and outs of concept testing in this guide, you can follow along and use the surveys we created as examples for how to run your own. Before we begin, it’s worth mentioning that SurveyMonkey has a suite of expert solutions that can make the process of building and analyzing a concept testing survey a lot easier, providing you with fast, reliable results from your target audience without doing a lot of the legwork.

Coming up with a name that’s both catchy and relevant is tough. Make sure consumers see it that way.

View solution

Choose a logo that differentiates your product and stands out on the shelves.

View solution

Ensure that your advertising campaigns are on target before you launch.

View solution

Here’s the beauty of the concept testing principles you’ll learn in this guide: You can use them for many purposes at virtually any point of your project’s timeline. All you need is a little focus.

Before you even begin thinking about survey design, your first step should always be to define a goal. You’ve got to get specific—your goal can change virtually every characteristic of your test. A good survey goal answers 3 main questions:

  1. What type of responses do I want?
  2. What type of data am I hoping to get?
  3. How will I use that data once I get it?

Take a look at the pet food package designs below. Your goal for a concept test on them can’t just be “are they good?” You need something specific that answers the three questions above.

two different package designs for dog food

I want to get feedback on my pet food package design.

I want pet owners to tell me if my package designs would motivate them to buy my pet food product. I also want to know if the designs indicate that my product is high quality. The results will help me decide whether to use the design or go back to the drawing board.

A lot of people have the general idea of what they want to test, but they don’t do the mental work it takes to make to turn that idea into a specific goal. Completing this extra step will add focus to your test, make it much easier to build, and ultimately improve the quality of your results.

We targeted these people because they’ll be potential consumers of our product.

We’re only testing one ad, but we want a high degree of certainty because this data could make or break our ad design.

We’ve got one concept with a narrow goal so it should be a relatively quick and easy survey to create and field.

We already know what we want to ask: questions about the product’s purchase intent, quality, appeal, and value. By taking the time to write a goal, our questions are practically written!

Working through the exact purpose of our test has had a remarkable effect: Most of the planning and foundational design work is already done. That’s why developing a goal is crucial to planning your concept test.

Now that you’ve determined your goal, it’s time to start thinking about what type of concept test you’ll build and when you’ll run it. Your test’s timing has a lot to do with what you’re testing and what stage of the product life cycle you’re in.