common mistakes in concept dev

Keeping Concepts Clean

Welcome back to Common Pitfalls in Concept Development. In Part 1, I talked about the hazards of taking product customization to extremes. Today I'll cover a second pitfall:

Pitfall #2: It’s Multipurpose!

What kinds of ideas are susceptible: 

  • Ideas where the benefit would allow for use in multiple areas or instances.
  • Ideas in which the technology allows for multiple uses.
  • A multifaceted opportunity area. 

Watch out for: 

  • A product description or a benefit that starts accumulating bullet points. One tell-tale sign is when the concept reads like an "As Seen On TV" ad. Like an all-in-one kitchen tool that’s not only great for poaching eggs, BUT ALSO cleans those hard-to-reach spots behind the fridge!

Why this is not good for the idea: While the concept may indeed be a wonder tool, the concept can start to lack a clear purpose—and benefit—that consumers can relate to their lives. When testing such an idea, it will be difficult to determine what consumers are responding to: the concept itself, a specific use case, or even the variety of use cases. Additionally, the core benefit of the concept will now be evaluated through the lens of each of the potential uses—lenses which may not cast the benefit in the best possible light. Plus, as the link between the additional benefits/use cases and the insight that sparked the idea grow weaker, they become points for the consumer to argue, "Why would I use an egg poacher to clean my floor?"

How to rescue the idea: When use cases and benefits start piling on, ask the following questions to get the concept back on track:

  • What does this concept do the absolute best? What is its strongest feature?
  • Which benefits, features and use cases fit best with the driving insight?
  • Is the insight strong enough to support this product—or should it better reflect the strengths outlined in the benefit and the description?
  • How could we make this multipurpose while still maintaining ONE clear, single benefit?

Let’s use our home cleaning tools example again:

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. This would be excellent for washing decks and wooden patios! (Enhances the concept with a use clearly linked to original insight.)
    2. It would also make a great boat-deck cleaner. (Still connected, but drifting.)
    3. Why stop at boat-decks? This product not only washes your floors, you can use it to clean cars, motorcycles, bicycles, jet skis and snowmobiles! (These use cases have no connection to the original idea.)

In the end, concept development works best—no matter what category you work in—when you stick to a few simple guidelines. One insight, one benefit and just a few carefully selected reasons to believe. Keep things clear and single-minded. You’ll reap the benefits when it’s time to test your ideas, and when you’re rolling them out to your satisfied customers.

For more tips on great concept development, check out our article, “How to Write Winning Concepts.”


©2014 Ideas To Go, Inc. All rights reserved.

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.