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.”