Avoid Concept Development Hazards

During our ideation and concept development sessions at Ideas To Go, we get to work on quite a few exciting new product and service concepts. The energy in these sessions is generally high, and the teams are enthusiastic about the work they are doing. However, there are two common pitfalls that I often see teams fall into when it’s time to write up their big ideas. This post covers one:

Pitfall #1: Customize It! aka “Just let them choose so we don't have to."

What kinds of ideas are susceptible: 

  • Ideas that are easily expanded into platforms by changing attributes, colors, flavors, themes, etc.
  • Ideas that require the consumer to control features/settings.
  • Ideas where ergonomics are important.
  • Ideas that combine two or more existing products into a new product.

Watch out for: 

  • An idea that starts to spiral away into its constituent parts—all of which can be customized by the consumer.
  • An aspect that is customizable becoming the focus of the benefit. 

Why this is not good for the idea: In this case, customization becomes THE benefit instead of just an element of the idea. This generally means the idea loses a level of brand “own-ability.” If all of the decisions end up being made by the consumer, where is your brand showing through? While a high level of customization may work for some ideas, most of the time it results in ideas that are less differentiated than those already on the market. Also, when you take this type of idea into consumer testing, the consumers end up reacting to multiple benefits—making it difficult to parse out where the real value lies.

How to rescue the idea: When your idea starts spiraling down the "Customization Pit," ask the following questions to get to the root of the idea—and rebuild it with a strong, single-minded benefit:

  • Does this idea depend on the consumer's ability to customize it—or is it just a “nice to have?”
  • Beyond simply "having it their way" how does customization actually improve the experience this idea offers?
  • How would I personally customize this idea? What would my set-up look like?
  • What is the single feature of the idea that I would most wish to customize—and how does it enhance the original benefit?

For example, let’s take a look at home cleaning tools:

Main Idea:  A mop that both cleans and dries the floor, using a hair dryer-like vent behind the mop head.

How this idea might spiral out of control: 

  1. What if we could turn the heater on and off? (Enhances the idea.)
  2. How about if we sold different shaped mop heads and dryer attachments for different areas? (Still improving, but the benefit is starting to splinter.)
  3. That sounds great, let's also add in a range of handle lengths and grips, so the whole family can use it! (Full on benefit fragmentation.)

See what I mean? It's challenging to get a clean read in testing when there are so many elements for consumers to respond to. Instead, keep concepts simple in order to get the most benefit from responses.


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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.