5 Common Concept Development Pitfalls…And How to Avoid Them

I was recently at my desk reminiscing with co-workers talking about a time when a perfectly solid promotion went awry due to one little oversight by a colleague for whom English was his second language. He wanted to repeat a successful tennis sponsorship promotion, but change it up a bit so that it was perceived as different from the year before. The brand colors were pink and blue, and in the first year, pink tennis balls were displayed and given away as part of this big in-store event. In this second iteration, he went with the other brand color, not understanding that drastic implications of asking salespeople to sell in displays to their customer covered in BLUE balls.

This campaign idea “gone wrong” got me and our research strategists thinking about what other common pitfalls we tend to forget when we’re moving 1,000 miles a minute. I wanted to share the short list that GutCheck team of research experts and I brainstormed.

Theme #1: System 1 vs. System 2 Thinking

System 1 thinking is all about emotion. Loads of people use their emotions above all other factors to make buying decisions. This can be for high dollar purchases like houses and cars, all the way down to the smallest possible purchases, like a pack of gum. There is a very common expression among realtors,

“People buy houses on emotion and sell on price”

If you think about it, this saying rings true. When buying a house, conversation begins with the neighborhood “just feeling right.” Many people buy outside of their stated price range because of this overwhelming feeling.

These are all emotional, feeling based decisions.

System 2 thinking is the other side of the fence. It can be described as rational or fact-based thinking, using data and specifications alone to decide on one product vs. another. Many people use System 2 thinking when buying a new laptop or other home electronics.

“What is the processor speed? What size is the screen? Does it have Retina display?”

There are all rational, fact-based decisions.

Pitfall #1: Kid Tested, Mother Approved Q314-Blog-5Pitfalls-KIX

Kids love Cap’n Crunch! And what a great example of System 1 vs. System 2 thinking. Children are all about System 1. Everything they want is based on emotion. The old adage “Kid Tested, Mother Approved…” sounds great in a Kix advertisement — but, kids don’t want what mom decided rationally fits the check boxes of good for you, unless they have never gone down a cereal aisle. They want Cinnamon Toast Crunch because it tastes great and has fun commercials. The same holds true for a concept. Positioning focuses solely the rational is missing the emotional reaction that moves a consumer to purchase.

So how we do use our research methodologies to engage both System 1 and System 2 thinking? How do we capture the nuances of emotional buying trends? How to tap into the psychological aspects of decisions?

Solution: New age data collection methods

1. Computer Aided Facial Recognition software captures physiological reactions to stimuli in live time. It is a fantastic solution for evaluating System 1 thinking.

2. Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing research that studies consumers’ sensorimotor, cognitive, and effective responses to marketing stimuli and very effectively captures meaningful data on emotional and rational decision making

3. Qualitative research is a tried and true methodology to evaluate the why behind anticipated stimuli reactions. The 6 layers of probing allows deep understanding into rationale behind buying decisions and allows for exploration on both emotional and rational decision making behaviors.

Theme #2: Communication 101

As marketers, we need to be expert communicators. Our jobs depend on quickly and effectively communicating what a product is, why it should be important to the consumer and (most importantly) why they just can’t live without it. That said, many times marketers get lost in the details of the product strategy, so the primary message can be lost in the chaos of buzzwords, product characteristics, multiple benefits, and detailed reasons to believe. Also, finding the voice of the consumer is essential to ensure that the message resonates with the target.

Pitfall #2: U R Not the Customer

A major beverage company was evaluating a new product concept aimed at the teen market. While the concept was founded in good consumer insight and seemed on track in initial qual, the teenage target did not respond favorably to the concepts in large scale volumetric quant. The company adjusted the concept verbiage for passing scores multiple times to no avail. Via engaging with GutCheck’s Instant Research Community (IRC), was it revealed that the imagery intended to enrich the text was confusing and seemed contradictory to the concept message. By correcting the visual, the concept passed the hurdle.There is no better way to find out what resonates with the target consumer than asking the target consumer themselves!

Pitfall #3: TMI! Q314-Blog-5Pitfalls-Woman_Scratching_Head

Very early in my marketing career, I was taught one of my favorite and important lessons in marketing: Never overestimate your consumer. This applies directly to pitfall #3. Often we see marketers that try to over-communicate specifics of their product or offer and the consumer response is often the opposite of the desired outcome. As marketers, knowing too much can make us dangerous. We want to tell the consumer everything that makes the idea worthwhile, which can turn into cramming so much information or overly technical details into the concept that the viewer becomes overwhelmed and absorbs none of it.
For example, would you ever want to buy a product that has epigallo-catican gallate? Maybe not. But what if I told you that it is actually just green tea?
Sometimes we get so excited to share information we forget what the consumer really cares about, which is that tea makes one feel like they’re making good choices towards a healthy lifestyle.


Remember, the average reading level of a U.S. citizen is 8th grade.Using your research to find the right message that conveys your desired response is essential to cutting through the clutter.

Pitfall #4: Looks do Matter!



One product that tried to extend where it couldn’t stretch was BIC, when it dabbled in perfume. When the popular pen, lighter and razor manufacturer launched into the fragrance market, they capitalized on their previous success with lighters by designing a fragrance bottle that looked very similar to a fluid lighter. They also utilized their existing business relationships at cigar shops across the U.S. to merchandise the new product extension.
While the brand did a fantastic job of differentiating the product through its portable containers, the line extension from lighters to perfume was too much for most consumers, a fact that could have been substantiated with proper research, and the line was discontinued in most major markets.


Solution: Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is essential in avoiding common communication pitfalls and helps avoid costly revisions or restarts. It delivers marketers the voice of their target customer, refines key copy points, guides product packaging decisions, and provides vital feedback needed to correctly define your product impression and market need.

Here are a few examples of qualitative applications within the industry:

  • Concept Optimization
  • Package Graphics Optimization
  • IHUT (In-Home Use Testing)
  • Copy Refinement
  • In-Store Consumer Journey

Theme #5: Competition/Unmet Need


Many segments of the CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) space are crowded — extremely crowded. We can name loads of product categories that have so many choices for the consumers that it could be easy to become overwhelmed with the options available. For example, I spent 20 minutes in the olive oil aisle at the grocery store last week. Many people report a feeling of no real perceivable difference between the multitudes of options available. The key to standing out from the crowd is within your research.

FaceDown_5PitfallsBlogPitfall #5: You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting…

When your product is one of many similar products, agile market research is vital in keeping your brand differentiated. Consumer research can uncover attitudes and behaviors in the aisle, preferred messaging, and, crucially, areas where you can stand above the crowd. GutCheck makes gathering this data quick and easy, so when you go to market you can be sure your product or message will stand out in the sea of other options available.


Solution: Use research to set you apart

  • A solid consumer landscape to understand white space, how far a brand can stretch, and how the brand measures up against the plethora of contenders supports putting the brand in a position to leverage those opportunities
  • Using the BASES concept constructor is a great way to move from new product idea to concept. This methodology uses purchase intent, appeal, relevance, believability, uniqueness and value to establish algorithms that can predict revenue potential.
  • Iterative qualitative helps to find the nuances that move a concept from good to GO

Keeping a sharp eye out for these 5 key pitfalls in concept development and testing can significantly increase confidence in the success of the effort, kill bad ideas fast, and use resources. GutCheck is 100% focused on keeping your projects on track by helping you leverage agile research strategies to avoid all the pitfalls in your path.

Watch the recorded webinar to hear more about our pitfalls and examples of each one on our latest webinar with Greenbook.

…or learn more about Agile Market Research by downloading our eBook today!


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