Tag adcepts

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.”

5 Reasons why Adcepts Engage our Emotional ‘System 1’ Brain Better than Concept Statements

Recent advances in the understanding of how we make decisions about what we buy have shown that non-conscious, emotional motives are at least as strong as logical, cognitive ones. Our so called ‘System 1’ emotional brains react in a non-conscious manner to brands and ideas in a way that even we ourselves are unaware of. The implications for marketing professionals trying to successfully develop new brands are massive.

When looking at new product or brand extension ideas, consumers need to be persuaded strongly on both rational AND emotional fronts. Currently, the vast majority of innovation research uses stimulus which is only capable of exploring our rational ‘System 2’ brain – the ubiquitous concept statement. But there is an alternative. B7 Innovation’s Adcept methodology not only gives clearer and more precise learning on the rational appeal of an idea, it also gives insights into its non-conscious appeal, something which concept statements are incapable of doing.

Below, B7’s Paul Tidmarsh outlines 5 reasons why Adcepts engage our emotional ‘System 1’ brain better than concept statements.

1. Adcepts are Familiar
Our non-conscious brains are suspicious of unfamiliarity. Few focus group participants have ever seen a concept statement, so showing them in groups provokes a defensive (if non-conscious) reaction. Adcepts, by comparison are familiar. They are written in the everyday language of brands (advertising) allowing respondents to view the content without questioning the format. B7 Innovation uses the same format on all its adcepts to create ‘format blindness’ among participants, ensuring that the idea and not the format, is getting the reaction.

2. Adcepts are Emotional by Nature
Concept statements are simple expressions of what a brand can do and why the consumer should believe it can deliver its promises. They are deliberately unemotional. Adcepts however, being in the style of press advertisements, allow all sorts of emotions and brand personalities to be conveyed, from serious and authoritative, to humorous and mischievous.

3. Adcepts Provoke Fast Reactions
Behavioural science tells us that choices made under time pressure favour our System 1 brains over our System 2 brains – we react more instinctively without dwelling on rational argument. B7 Innovation has a very different methodology than that used with concept statements. Whereas concept statements typically only allow six idea areas to be explored, B7 produces up to 80 Adcepts to be shown in the focus group. These are posted gallery style on the wall and participants are asked to quickly note their favourites, which are then discussed by the group. This forcing of consumers to make quick choices means that Adcepts with strong emotional, non-conscious attractiveness move through to face the more logical scrutiny stage.

4. Adcepts are Holistic
Concept statements are often supported by mood boards which aim to give a visual feel for an associated concept. This separation of the written and visual is discordant for the brain which has to knit together ideas from different fields of vision. By contrast, Adcepts are holistic, all in the same field of vision, with the familiar ‘layout grammar’ of headline, image and supporting text.

5. Adcepts Give both non-conscious & conscious insights
New brands and innovations from existing brands generally need a stronger rational engagement with consumers than existing brands. Consumers need to be told what’s different and better about the new product. This is not enough on its own, however. The fast Adcept selection stage gives vital insights into the crucial associations that the new brand needs to link with if it is to create a positive emotional space in consumers’ System 1 brain.

The Non-conscious Brain – Why Adcepts are better than Concept Statements

Recent advances in neuroscience tell us that at least 90% of the decisions we make are made non-consciously. This is what Nobel Prize winning academic & author Daniel Kahneman calls ‘system 1 thinking’ – thinking that even the individual him or herself is totally unaware of. We make instant decisions using our emotional brains based upon past experiences and associations between what is currently before us and connections in our often non-conscious memory. Our brains evolved this way to conserve energy for conscious thought – the logical, self-aware analytical thinking that needed to be rationed for important matters, known as ‘System 2’ thinking. Our emotional brain has far greater capacity than our conscious brain, operates much faster and never shuts down or tires. Without it, our System 2 brain would be overwhelmed and incapable of functioning. And it is our System 1 brain that makes the vast majority of buying decisions and shapes our feelings about new and existing brands. So why does current qualitative research stimulus – the concept statement – completely ignore the System 1 brain?

Concept statements are simple unemotional descriptions of a possible new brand or brand positioning, stating what the brand does with a reason/s to believe that it does it better than the competition. These are typically shown to focus group participants on boards, often supported by mood boards to give some visual feeling for an idea area. Unfortunately concept statements fail to engage our non-conscious System 1 brains for the following reasons:

1) They are unfamiliar – focus group members are unlikely to have ever seen a concept statement before and our System 1 brains treat novelty with suspicion.
2) Logical arguments create suspicion – our non-conscious minds have been shown to react defensively to being told about something new and set up barriers to protect against salesmanship.
3) They are unemotional – concept statements are deliberately factual and devoid of emotion, the very opposite of how our System 1 brains work.
4) They separate the written from the visual – the non-conscious brain cannot connect the ideas on separate boards, in separate fields of vision.

Not only do concept statements fail to engage our emotional brains, they actively set up suspicions and barriers. Fortunately, there is a better way…

B7 Innovation has developed an Adcept methodology which engages the non-conscious System 1 brain to help develop more effective positioning and communication start points for new and existing brands in the real world. Below are some of the advantages of Adcepts versus concept statements when trying to uncover System 1 thinking:

1) Adcepts are familiar. They are in the everyday language of brands – advertising – so are easily understood and not treated as new and suspicious.
2) Adcepts are emotional – they express personality from humorous to authoritative and provoke an instinctive emotional reaction.
3) Adcepts combine the verbal and visual into one holistic idea so the brain can react to all the elements of the stimulus at the same time.
4) Adcepts have the right blend of familiarity and novelty to engage our emotional brains – the advertising format is familiar, but the idea expressed is novel. Research shows that we are attracted to novelty, but suspicious of it. Adcepts are in that ‘Goldilocks’ area of being sufficiently new to be interesting, but not so different as to be off-putting.
5) We ask focus group participants to quickly scan the 80 Adcepts we typically produce for research and note the ones they like most, without thinking particularly about why they appeal. This means we get a quick emotional reaction to the Adcepts, before the favourite ones are discussed in a more system 2, analytical way by the group.

Adcepts are far better at uncovering areas that appeal to the crucial emotional brain than are concept statements. They are also more effective at uncovering the System 2 thinking which is also vitally important to the success of an innovation. Because of this, B7’s Paul Tidmarsh believes that B7 clients get feedback that is much more accurate and holistic than traditional qualitative research stimulus can provide.

B7 Innovation – The World’s Only Adcept Specialists

B7 Innovation is the only agency in the world that specialises in the Adcept methodology. Our staff members have spent a combined 100,000 hours using our Adcept technique to help find the most compelling positioning and communications opportunities for many of the world’s leading brands. We are a powerful example of the benefits that come from focusing exclusively on one specific area.

B7 Innovation’s creation came from a deep dissatisfaction with the stimulus used in traditional qualitative research. Concept statements were (and sadly, still are) the dominant form of stimulus used, despite their very clear shortcomings. Concept statements are very poor at uncovering consumer opinions and feelings for a number of reasons; they are unfamiliar, they lack emotion, and only very few (normally a maximum of six) can be presented in a single focus group.

Adcepts are different. They speak to consumers in the familiar language of brands – advertising – so that they are able to place an idea in the context of a market they know and understand. Adcepts also convey emotion in the same way that a finished advertisement can, allowing consumers to react to an idea at a more fundamental, visceral level where most buying decisions are made. Finally, B7’s methodology allows up to 80 Adcepts to be presented to a single focus group, meaning a wider range of ideas can be explored, with multiple versions of each theme to give every idea its best possible opportunity.

As B7 Innovation is the pioneer in the field of Adcepts, we have had to create our methodology through trial and error and continuous improvement and refinement. This process started in 2003 and continues today. Hands–on experience and feedback from some of the best minds in world marketing have improved our techniques enormously, though often in very subtle ways. In his book ‘Outliers’, Malcolm Gladwell wrote famously about 10,000 hours being the amount of time one needed to invest in an activity before becoming truly excellent at it. This wasn’t just any 10,000 hours either, it was 10,000 hours of focused effort and continuous search for improvement. B7 founder Paul Tidmarsh comments “We’ve now got over 100,000 hours’ experience of Adcepts across our team, which we believe is why our technique and execution of Adcepts is unmatched anywhere in the world.”