Tag adcepts

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 & 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.”

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.