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Adcepts – A Better Way to Reduce Innovation Risk

The fundamental purpose of qualitative market research is to reduce the risk of failure – failure likely to cost the brand owner many millions in product development, production and marketing support. The technique is very simple – ask target consumers in focus groups to tell us if an idea will work or not, and ideally, indicate how it will work best. Simple as that. Very sensible. Except…

Except that we are doing it all wrong. For qualitative research to do its job, the new ideas need to be presented in a way that is familiar, realistic and ‘everyday’ to consumers. Instead, we show them cold written concept statements, perhaps supported by a few visual ‘mood boards’. Focus group members have never seen a concept statement before in their lives and have no context within which to judge it. Also, concept statements have no emotional resonance, so cannot convey what is often the most important aspect of a brand – its personality. Finally, showing words and visuals on separate boards means that the message is fragmented and confusing. Risk reducing this is not. This is where Adcepts come in…

Adcepts are different from concept statements. They are in the everyday language of brands – advertising – so consumers can quickly and easily evaluate an idea within the context of real life products with which they are already familiar.

Adcepts convey emotion in very precise and subtly differentiated ways. A single product idea can have multiple emotional expressions to isolate which is the most compelling.

Adcepts put words and images together on the same page, bringing the expression of an idea together holistically in a way concept statements + mood boards cannot.

Adcepts give us feedback which is much more useful and reliable than concept statements can provide. They also allow us to explore many more idea areas so that no good idea is needlessly lost. B7 Innovation shows up to 80 Adcepts per focus group, versus a typical six concept statements in traditional research. So Adcepts don’t merely reduce the risk of launching the wrong product/brand, they also remove the risk of a strong idea being left out due to limited space, or that it could be rejected because there was only room for one version.

B7 founder Paul Tidmarsh comments “Innovation is an essential but risky process. Replacing concept statements with Adcepts gives much richer, more precise information, significantly reducing the chances of getting it wrong.”

B7’s New Quant Methodology – Like GPS for Brand Positioning

B7 has worked with RDSI to create a breakthrough quant. methodology that offers both massive breadth and the tightest precision for brand positioning. The technique allows brand owners to compare every potential positioning, layered with different tones of voice and brand personality, to isolate the most compelling vision. And unlike any existing quant. system, the winning positionings are mapped on one simple graph showing their ‘Golden Score’ – how they performed in terms of consumer appeal, difference and memorability. It’s like having GPS for your strongest possible brand positioning.

The power of this methodology lies in the use of B7’s Adcepts. These are like simplified press or poster advertisements and up to 80 can be shown to consumers in research. Unlike concept statements, the advertising format is familiar to consumers who can quickly decide which ones are interesting and which ones are not. Each respondent sees 30 Adcepts, arranged in five pages of six on a computer tablet. They choose the ones they like in much the same way as they would choose a date on Tinder. Because time is tight, they are reacting in a similar way to how they would in the real world, with emotion at the heart of their decisions, thinking in an intuitive ‘system 1’ mode.

Not only does this technique encourage system 1 thinking, it also allows us to test a much larger number of themes and tones by presenting so many Adcepts. That means that almost any potential positioning can be explored and compared from a variety of angles. This is very different from concept statement testing where typically only six themes can be evaluated. The B7 technique makes every idea compete against every other idea, with the strongest emerging from the pack to produce the most compelling possible positioning for your brand.

As well as showing what ideas work best, the methodology allows for dialogue with the respondents to pick apart why they made the choices they did, to add richness and rigour to the findings and to explore any questions thrown up by the results.

Commenting on the new quant. technique, B7 founder Paul Tidmarsh comments “Modern life would be impossible without the power of GPS. Now the precision and certainty of GPS can be applied to modern brand positioning.”

B7 & RDSI – Putting System 1 thinking at the heart of Quant

B7 Innovation has worked with RDSI to develop the first quantitative research technique that puts system 1 thinking at its heart – allowing consumers to intuitively select their favourite ideas much as they do in real life.  This initial system 1 phase is followed by a second phase where participants explain what in particular they liked about their favourite ideas to add richness & depth. No other methodology can test so many themes & expressions of themes whilst accessing consumers’ emotional AND rational mindsets. Nor can any other quant technique do so as economically or as fast.

The key to getting consumer system 1 reaction to an idea is to give them too little time to think. In total, 60 Adcepts (a standardised format that resembles a rough press ad) are tested on 800 respondents. Each one sees 30 Adcepts, 5 or 6 per screen. They quickly select their favourite from each screen, with the ‘intelligent’ algorithm ranking the strongest ideas using multiple permutations. This process produces a ‘Golden Score’ for each Adcept, expressing it as an index against the other 59 competing Adcepts.


The Golden Score is powerful because it is based on system 1 thinking, making it a more meaningful measure. Consumers are intuitively combining standout, relevance to them, persuasion/ positive brand message, attractive personality & tone. Golden Scores can be mapped by theme area or to compare different geographical markets researched. However, the killer chart is the one that maps the star performers. On this chart, winning Adcepts are mapped to show three key attributes: Their Golden Score; how different each Adcept is considered; and how much standout each Adcept has. This chart is so powerful because it crystallises at a glance the relative strengths of the strongest Adcepts chosen by consumers in system 1 mode.

These raw scores are then supported with consumer panel reaction to bespoke questions about each individual piece of stimulus. This shows what consumers liked (and didn’t like) about an Adcept or aspect of an Adcept, producing verbatim comments that bring the discussion to life.

B7 partner Paul Tidmarsh comments “For clients interested in finding the most compelling expression of an innovation, brand positioning or communications strategy, there is now a quant methodology that gets inside both consumers hearts and minds, can show an enormous breadth of creative exploration & do all this quickly & affordably. We think your system 1 & system 2 thinking will be very pleased with the results!”


Adcepts & the Power of Snap Decisions

B7 partner Paul Tidmarsh describes how a typical B7 Innovation focus group starts by showing consumers a gallery of 80 separate Adcepts – each one like a stand-alone rough press advertisement. Each respondent is given just 15 minutes to pick the three Adcepts that, for whatever reason, catch his or her eye. New B7 clients are often flabbergasted by the volume of stimulus and paucity of selection time allowed. ‘How can anyone give each idea enough time to see if it’s interesting or not?’ The answer lies in how our brains deal with an overstimulating world.


The human mind has developed an internal computer capable of making decisions very quickly, from very little information. There is simply too much going on around us for our brain to devote rigorous thought to all it encounters. Instead, it relies on what psychologists call our ‘adaptive unconscious’ – a way of sifting information to isolate what is important or interesting and what is not. Psychologist Timothy D. Wilson in his book ‘Strangers to Ourselves’, describes the process: The mind operates most efficiently by relegating a good deal of high-level, sophisticated thinking to the unconscious, just as a modern jetliner is able to fly on autopilot with little or no input from the human ‘conscious’ pilot. The adaptive unconscious does an excellent job of sizing up the world, warning people of danger, setting goals, and initiating action in a sophisticated and efficient manner.


Whenever we react to a new idea, it is the unconscious part of the brain that kicks in and makes decisions in a ‘blink’, as described by writer Malcolm Gladwell. Our world may not be as dangerous as the one our brains evolved in, but our daily lives are surely more complex – recent research estimates that we are bombarded by 10,000 advertising messages every day, each one screaming for our attention. Only those ideas and messages that grab us in an instant are likely to succeed. So when we show consumers 80 Adcepts in 15 minutes, we are simply replicating real life and forcing our focus group members into making the same snap decisions that will decide the fate of the brand or innovation in the real world.


Apart from forcing their unconscious minds into action, the great advantage of showing 80 Adcepts to consumers is that we can explore so many potential themes and subtle variations on ideas. The concept statements traditionally used in qualitative research are normally limited to around six ideas, each one often diluted to shoehorn one idea into another. With B7 Adcepts, we can find not only the most interesting idea – we can isolate the most compelling expression of it. So unlike with concept statements, no idea is passed over simply because it hasn’t been expressed in the right way.


Of course we don’t dismiss the power of our rational, considered ‘system 2’ brain in our research. Once each respondent has chosen his/her three favourites Adcepts from the initial 80, these are then discussed in detail by the group to help prize apart the detail of why an idea works and to examine the ‘reason to believe’ in real depth. This conscious analysis is very important, but the real power driving which brand consumers will spend their money on lies in the hidden world of our unconscious brain and the snap decisions it makes for us.

B7 Communications Strategy Guides Surf Sensations Launch

Surf Sensations has been launched with a TV advertising campaign based on a communications strategy devised by B7  Innovation and the Surf brand team.

The campaign shows how Surf Sensations can put uplifting fragrances made with perfume oils into your everyday life.  B7 founder, Paul Tidmarsh comments “Adcepts gave us much more depth and precision than traditional concepts could on this project. Because we looked at so many different potential communication ideas from so many angles, we found that the fragrances being crafted by expert perfumers was the best support for the price premium, and that the imagery should speak to the buyer as a woman, rather than as a mother.”