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Developing and Editing Concepts

You have spent three long days getting to this point. You cranked out idea after idea. You slugged back the cold remains of your coffee to push through the 4pm slump during concept outline development. Now, finally, you are in the home stretch. The last concept is sitting in front of you and your team, complete with artwork—and there is no way this idea is going to concept testing until everyone agrees on this final sentence.

It’s a situation most of us have experienced during concept development: the semantic stalemate. This is the point in concept editing when the group is paralyzed. No one can decide whether the bing cherry flavor is too retro, if the color is maroon or oxblood, and factions are forming over whether the effect of the product is exhilarating or effervescent. 

At some point in the concept development process, the editing has to stop.

When this happens, it is a clear sign that the concept is so close that it makes no difference. At some point in the concept development process, the editing has to stop. When we are working on concepts in our projects, we like to work to different levels of perceived finish. When working on concept outlines, we have found that it is most productive to work towards clarity in the language, which means often about 80% finish. When working on concepts that are going to be tested, 90% finish on the language works well.

Next time you find yourself or your team stuck on a concept, worrying about which synonym to use or whether the description needs a semicolon or a new sentence all together, take a step back and ask these questions to find out if you are spending too much time on details:

  • How would your three closest friends outside of the industry react if you told them about the insight that drives this concept? 
    • If they would nod their heads in agreement, your work is done.
  • How clearly does this concept communicate the benefit of the product it describes?
    • If the answer is “quite clear” to “very clear,” check this box off.
  • When reading a description of the product, would someone recognize a single benefit or multiple competing benefits?
    • If the main benefit is clear, keep moving.
  • Check the remaining parts of the concept: the name, headline, and tagline. Do they all work together and make sense?
    • If yes, then you are good.

If the concept clears these 4 questions, you are probably close enough to finished to pass this concept through your first round of testing—whether it is quantitative or qualitative.

It is a long road from concept to launch. There are many places to fine tune and get feedback, so there is no need to push to launch-ready language at this stage—especially when consumers are sure to help you refine the idea further. 

Looking for more information on Concept Development? Read on:


Or click below to download our guide to developing the perfect concept:

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Greg Cobb

Greg Cobb is a Creative Process Designer and Facilitator as well as the creator of Ideas To Go’s Inspire® visual survey platform. Greg has a BA in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania.  Prior to joining Ideas To Go in 2011, Greg led the US consumer division at a leading global market research firm.  Facilitating innovation sessions and moderating consumer interviews and groups since 2007, Greg has worked extensively in most consumer categories as well as pharma, B2B, and automotive.