Test For Success in Nielsen BASES

During my 20 years working in marketing, I have worked on literally thousands of concepts. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. And when it comes to working on concepts destined for Nielsen’s BASES, I’ve seen what really moves concepts to score green and blue—and what causes them to stall out in yellow and red.

BASES is not easy because it’s not meant to be easy. The testing sets a high bar for excellence so that the final results are meaningful to the companies that rely on them.

It should come as no surprise that getting a passing concept through Nielsen’s BASES testing can be a real accomplishment. For many, it’s considered the gold standard of concept testing—and that is exactly why it’s so challenging. BASES is not easy because it’s not meant to be easy. The testing sets a high bar for excellence so that the final results are meaningful to the companies that rely on them.

That said, if you find yourself making these statements, you’re definitely not alone:

  • “It’s frustrating to spend so much time and money coming up with new ideas to see them fail as concepts in BASES.”
  • “We live and die by our BASES score. If we don’t get passing concepts—we’re pretty stuck.”
  • “BASES reports may tell us why our ideas don’t pass…but we don’t always know how to fix the issues.”

BASES SnapShot uses 12 different consumer touch points—or “Factors for Success”—that directly impact the probability of your concept’s success. And they all weigh-in on a concept’s success—a concept can fail on the basis of the weakest link. An example of this is Need/Desire. It is an area where marketers often struggle because there are very few new products that consumers really need anymore. The key to cracking this critical criteria is discovering a real and meaningful consumer insight that needs to be solved—and then leveraging it well through excellent communications.

A Good Concept Depends On A Solid Benefit

But beyond great insights, one of the most effective keys to BASES success rests in great benefit work. A solid, single-minded benefit has the ability to unify just about any concept. The key is to uncover and communicate benefits (with your consumer always in mind) in a way that make your product, service or brand so compelling that they just can’t live without it.

Truthfully, finding a benefit that fits this bill takes a concerted effort. It needs to be a truly distinct, compelling, real benefit. (Note: a new product itself is not a benefit.) If passing BASES testing is in your sights, you’re looking for something the product offers beyond just tasting great, getting you clean, or being totally portable when you’re on-the-go. I’m not saying you have to promise world peace, but the benefit could offer:

  • Something you couldn’t do before.
  • A new form with a meaningful difference.
  • A new experience.
  • A fresh answer to a current consumer need.

Also, keep in mind that a compelling benefit today might be old news next year. For instance, once upon a time, “whitening” was a breakthrough benefit in oral care. Now, whitening is just about everywhere—from dental floss to chewing gum—so marketers must continue the search for new claims and features to stay viable.

Another issue to avoid is what I call the 'kitchen sink benefit.' It’s when you point out everything that’s great about an idea (and list them all!) so that there is something in there for EVERYONE. But including every benefit you can think of in one concept doesn’t actually sway consumers to purchase. It confuses them. And there’s probably no way you’ll be able to deliver on it—or communicate it—in the end.

A Note About Well-Written Concepts

To succeed in BASES, disciplined concept writing is essential. This includes sticking to one main, single-minded benefit that clearly communicates what your customer gets from the product. If you have another benefit, great! Write a second concept and see what consumers like best.

Ultimately, quality concepts stem from having the right elements—insights, benefit and reasons to believe—come together to tell a good story. And that story needs to be clear, believable and compelling enough to ultimately persuade a customer to buy. But to get there, you can’t short-change the process. By methodically working through each section of a concept, and crafting each piece correctly, you can be sure your end product will be focused and refined—and clearly communicates your unique point of difference to your consumers.

Optimize Concepts With Consumers Before BASES

Once you have a set of well-written concepts—i.e., clear, compelling and believable—stop before you test. It is more than worthwhile to run your concepts by consumers and optimize them before you spend a cent to test them. It really could be the smallest element standing between you and success—something so preventable that could make all the difference between “failure” red and “outstanding” blue:

I really mean run your concepts by consumers who have been carefully selected, and prepared for this critical task.

  • An odd phrase in the concept.
  • A confusing line on the package.
  • A polarizing name.

I should note that when I say “run your concepts by consumers,” it carries a caveat. I really mean, "run your concepts by consumers who have been carefully selected and prepared for this critical task." What’s the difference?

Anyone who has experienced sitting in on a focus group can understand how frustrating Gen Pop consumer feedback can be. While regular consumers do have their place in market research, they often only point out what they don’t like—and what the issues are—but not necessarily ways to solve for them. To be truly impactful, these carefully selected and prepared consumers should be:

  • Articulate problem-solvers—so that they can collaboratively provide solutions from a consumer point-of-view to help you move forward.
  • Trained in the innovation “must-haves” of quantity, diversity, uniqueness and elaboration—so your team has a rich choice of options to consider.
  • Trained in the creative mindset—as well as how to optimize products that exist, and generate ideas for those that could be—so they don’t shut down a potential idea with a simple “I don’t like it.”
  • Knowledgeable in the differences between insights and benefits—so you can have productive discussions when it comes to optimizing each element of your product concepts.

These consumers deliver feedback many notches above typical consumer input. And by elevating the role of the consumer in your optimization process, you’ll have far more actual solutions to work with—rather than a laundry list of opinions, issues and “I don’t knows” to decipher.

Pay Attention to the Details

Just when you think the end is in sight, there’s a bit of housekeeping to be done before testing time. When you’ve spent this much time, effort and money ideating, converging, writing, editing and optimizing, it’s natural that you want to just get on with BASES already. And that’s exactly when teams make the mistake of slapping on an illustration, price and varieties at the last minute.

Take a little extra time and make sure each element is really thought through. Have your team sit down with packaging, finance, and any other department necessary to ensure that you have it right. At the same time, be clear about the guidance you’re seeking from your internal teams. You’re looking for clarity—not another round of ideation outside the scope and learning you gained from your consumer work.

Beat the Nielsen BASES Beast

Spending time on optimization is not only smart—but vital.

BASES is tough—but we help marketers succeed in getting passing concepts every day. Spending time on each element, and providing support for each factor for success, enables you to pull together a tight, cohesive message that makes it easy for consumers to respond. Spending time on optimization is not only smart—but vital. And if you do it all with the help of some idea-savvy consumers, you’ll consistently elevate your concepts to the point that you can avoid the reds and pass through with flying colors.

©2017 Ideas To Go, Inc. All rights reserved.

Emeritus Facilitator Christine Haskins

Christine Haskins is an Emeritus Facilitator and Former Vice President of Customer Experience at Ideas To Go. She worked with customer-centered innovation for Fortune 500 companies across all market categories and industries.