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B7 wins David Ogilvy Gold Award 2015 for Knorr USA Work

B7 has won the prestigious David Ogilvy Gold Award for ‘Excellence in Advertising Research’ at the annual Advertising Research Foundation awards ceremony in New York. The awards celebrate the role of research in uncovering the insights and emotional connections that underpin great creative advertising.

The prize was for B7’s work on Unilever’s Knorr brand which became the basis for the ‘See another side’ advertising campaign which prompted consumers to re-evaluate the quality of Knorr Sides range.

B7 founder Paul Tidmarsh said:

‘We’re thrilled to have been honoured with such a prestigious award – it shows how great creative research can lead to great creative advertising.”
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With Adcepts More is More – More ideas & More Emotion

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.

B7 Adcepts – Helping Advertising Agencies Do What They Do Best

Over the past decade, B7 Innovation has worked closely on numerous projects with some of the world’s leading advertising agencies, including BBH, JWT, adam&eveDDB, Wieden + Kennedy & AMVBBO. Involving the agency from the off ensures that their understanding and feel for the brand helps fuel the Adcepts that we create, and also ensures that any angles which they may wish to explore are included. Agencies with whom we’ve worked have told us that our Adcept methodology has helped them in a number of ways:

Firstly, it saves the pain and time of agonising over a brief where everybody has a different opinion. These opinions can all be fed into and evaluated by the Adcept process so the areas of genuine insight can be clearly seen and agreed by all involved. This also means that the advertising agency doesn’t have to waste precious creative time testing strategy.

Another key benefit is that our Adcept methodology results in an unusually precise, focused client advertising brief that is completely imbued with consumer insight – the best possible start to the advertising process. Poor or vague briefing is the bane of most agencies’ lives and a brief of this quality makes the task of creating great advertising much easier.

An additional advantage for the advertising agency is that the communications brief isn’t just consumer insight focused – it has actually been creatively ‘road-tested’ rather than being an academic route that is not creatively fertile. Because Adcepts use the language of brands – advertising – consumers have been reacting to realistic, emotive stimulus rather than to cold concept statements. Winning areas have been explored from multiple angles to isolate the most compelling route in. Additionally, the methodology also highlights ‘areas to avoid’, which prevents creative time and energy being wasted on inappropriate messages or tones.

B7’s Paul Tidmarsh believes that their Adcept methodology makes the work of the advertising agency less stressful, less wasteful and more focused. “That’s why we are regularly referred to clients by some of the best agencies in the business. We help advertising agencies do what they do best – create great advertising.”

Adcepts – The Range of a Blunderbuss with the Precision of a Rifle

When searching for strong new ideas in any area of our lives, we typically start by spreading the net wide to include a broad range of possible starting points. Only after looking at all these areas from different angles do we narrow down to the areas of most opportunity. We again look at different angles on these areas to see how best each idea could work, before finally deciding where the most fertile area to focus lies. This seems so obvious and simple, but somehow, we don’t apply the same principles when exploring brand innovation. The entrenched belief that concept statements are the most effective stimulus for uncovering insights is hard to defend and the costs to international brands in missed opportunities incalculable.

There are many problems with concept statements – their unfamiliarity and lack of emotion being just two – but their restriction on the number of ideas that can be researched, and the one dimensional way in which each of the limited themes is presented, are certainly amongst the most damaging.

Concept statements remain by far the most common form of research stimulus used for brand positioning and innovation. This is despite the very small number of concept statements that can be handled in a research group – typically, no more than six. This restriction has two effects on what is put before test consumers. Firstly, theme areas must be cut down to just six, which means that a large number of potentially powerful idea areas never see the light of day. Secondly, each of the remaining six areas must be expressed in a general/lowest common denominator manner devoid of the subtlety, nuance and personality that can transform an unappealing idea into a winning one. Fortunately, it is possible to explore a wider number of theme areas and to look at each from multiple angles.

B7 Innovation’s Adcepts work very differently from concept statements. We present up to 80 different Adcepts to a focus group, enough to ensure that any potentially interesting theme can be included. This means that we can find room for the more radical ideas which are usually the first to be cut to accommodate the limited concept statement numbers, but which can be the real ‘game-changers’ that drive market innovation and leadership. Having the freedom to explore more theme areas avoids a common failing of concept statements where distinct though related idea areas are ‘force-fitted’ into a single compromised concept statement, just to ensure that both ideas are included.

Debate about which themes to include and which to exclude not only sap project time and energy, they can also create tensions within the team. This can be especially true of international projects where differences in local markets need to be reflected in the ideas researched. Using Adcepts means that every idea considered important by a team member gets the chance to be put in front of test consumers.

Adcepts, however, do not merely widen the number of theme areas which can be explored – they also allow the exploration of each theme from a number of different perspectives. An idea area may only be compelling when addressed from a particular angle or with a certain personality and tone of voice. Adcepts ensure that no idea area is rejected simply because the specific expression was not the right one. By exploring each theme from multiple angles it has a number of chances to catch the consumer’s imagination and the risk of a winning idea being overlooked is greatly minimised. Additionally, the team gets an extremely precise indication of where the opportunity lies. Having the leading idea crystalised in this way makes agreeing brand strategy much easier, as well as simplifying the often vexed process of writing the communications brief.

Adcepts make brand innovation much more likely to succeed by widening the perspective and then narrowing it down forensically. The methodology has been successfully applied on innovation and positioning projects for some of the world’s most respected brands including Dove, Philips, Bell’s Whisky and Tesco. B7 founder Paul Tidmarsh says “One client commented that our methodology ‘had the range of a blunderbuss with the precision of a rifle’. We couldn’t put it better ourselves.”

B7 Innovation’s Paul Tidmarsh Celebates 200th Adcept Project

B7 Innovation, the world’s leading Adcept specialist, has hit a new milestone – it has now completed 200 Adcept projects.

“It’s hard to believe that we’ve done so many,” says B7 founder Paul Tidmarsh. “We started 11 years ago, working from my kitchen table with just a laptop, a printer and a vision for changing how innovation and brand communication could be explored and researched. A lot has changed since then, but not the vision.”

Since B7’s first project in 2003 (the re-positioning of Archers Peach Schnapps), the agency has gone on to work on the development of some of the world’s most respected brands. Those who have passed through their doors include Dove, Philips, Flora, Bell’s Whisky and Tesco.

“Although our vision hasn’t changed,” says Paul Tidmarsh, “our techniques have. We’re always looking for little ways to improve our methodology. Mainly lots of tiny tweaks that in themselves don’t seem important, but when you add them together, mean a lot. It’s like a sportsman concentrating on the one activity every day, trying to find some extra edge – specialisation and focus lead to excellence.”

B7’s Adcept methodology came from a frustration with concept statements traditionally used in qualitative research. “Concept statements are completely alien to focus group members and they lack any emotion” says Paul Tidmarsh. “Our Adcepts speak to consumers in the familiar language of brands – advertising. They also have emotion and personality, which is usually the most important aspect of a modern brand.”

“Early on, it could be difficult to get clients to look beyond concept statements simply because that was how everybody thought research was done. But when people saw what we were doing, they were amazed” says Paul. “Not only were our Adcepts better than concept statements, we could also show up to 80 different ones per focus group, meaning no potentially interesting ideas need be excluded, and every idea area could be explored from multiple angles.”

“We’ve been really fortunate to work with some of the best brand teams, research agencies and advertising agencies through these 200 projects. We think we’ve contributed a lot, but we’ve learnt plenty too. All our work comes from repeat clients or referrals, so we must be doing something right,” says Paul Tidmarsh, “here’s to the next 200 projects!”.