Modern brands typically succeed or fail by owning a specific aspect of an emotional territory within their category. The problem is that most categories operate within a narrow and well-defined emotional area (e.g. washing detergents – care for the family; vodka – transgression; IT – empowerment). The tricky thing is isolating the particular aspect of the category emotion that is both compelling for consumers and which can be credibly held by a particular brand. We’re in an area of fine & subtle distinctions where pin-pointing the exact position on the map where a brand should place itself is key. Unfortunately, the stimulus used in most brand positioning research – concept statements – is totally unsuited to the task. Adcepts are a much more effective tool, but before discussing their benefits, let’s start by looking at the problems associated with concept statements.
The first key point that limits concept statements’ usefulness in finding the emotional sweet-spot for a brand, is that they simply offer way too few chances of getting it right. Typically only six concept statements are presented in qualitative research, meaning that you have only six chances of finding the right answer. Given this scarcity of areas that can be explored, it’s not surprising that only the most obvious routes and ideas make it through to final research. Themes that are considered more ‘left field’ are naturally sacrificed in favour of the seemingly more promising ones, meaning that the more revolutionary thinking that can transform a brand’s status never sees the light of day.
Another drawback when dealing with such limited numbers is that different ideas are often force-fitted into the a single concept statement. This is so that extra areas of interest can be accommodated within the limited research numbers, but unfortunately the chief effect is to dilute the individual ideas and to create confusion about what the central thought is.
Having room for so few concepts can also lead to divisions within the project team. Individuals with strong feelings about a particular theme are often over-ruled due to lack of space, and can be left feeling resentful that their ideas have been ignored. Once excluded from the research, it is impossible to know whether their ideas were wrong or right. This issue is particularly relevant within international projects, where local markets can feel that their input has been ignored.
The second key drawback of concept statements is that they lack emotion. Given that we are looking to find an extremely precise emotional positioning for a brand, this is a pretty fundamental flaw.
Concept statements are by their nature emotionless – they give a clear, simple description of an idea for the brand, illustrating the problem/opportunity it can solve and why we should believe that it is capable of delivering on its promise. Modern behavioural science has indicated that our decisions on which brand we choose are (at the lowest estimate) 80% driven by our emotional rather than rational minds. Yet concept statements cannot elicit emotional reactions and are therefore a completely unsuitable method of informing likely future consumer actions.
The good news is that there is now an alternative to concept statements that allows a large number of ideas to be explored and which has emotion at its heart. B7 Innovation’s Adcept methodology provides the tools to uncover a brand’s most compelling positioning in a way that concept statements never can.
Firstly, finding the most precise brand positioning is, in part, a numbers game. Whereas typically only six concept statements can be used in a qualitative research focus group, B7’s approach allows up to 80 different Adcepts to be shown. A similar idea can be presented from multiple angles to find the one which has most resonance with consumers. This means that a winning idea that would be rejected in a concept statement group because its wording was not quite right, would be captured in an Adcepts project.
Secondly, emotion is central to Adcepts. They are written in the familiar language of brands – advertising – and research participants find it easy to put each idea within the context of the market in which the brand being researched operates or seeks to join. The individual Adcepts use words and images in the same way that advertising does, to create an understanding of both the functional benefit of the brand AND the emotional benefit offered. Because we’re not limited by numbers, each idea area can be explored from multiple, very precise angles allowing respondents to pick the expression that works best. Not only does this give an extremely tight positioning for the brand’s area of greatest opportunity, it also means that a series of creative routes have been ‘road-tested’ which makes a communications brief much easier to write and more informative for the advertising agency.
B7 founder Paul Tidmarsh comments “Adcepts are better than concept statements because they are rich in emotion and they ensure that the most compelling version of the strongest idea is selected.” It’s no wonder that some of the world’s most sophisticated brand owners and market research agencies are so full of praise for what B7’s Adcept methodology can achieve.