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At some point every brand marketer has to position a brand, product or service. They learn the tried and true rules and brand positioning format, and begin applying them in their work. At some point, a need arises to test a new product or service concept before deciding how to move forward. But, it’s not as common for marketers to recognize that a brand positioning statement and a concept statement are two different things, each with their own nuances.
While many of the skills related to brand positioning still apply to concept writing, there are some specific rules and guidelines to keep in mind when writing for testing. If these differences aren’t accounted for, you may find that consumers or customers aren’t as excited about your new product or service as you expect.
To help you write clear and compelling concepts, below are five guidelines to follow the next time you write concept statements for testing.
1) WRITE FOR AN EXTERNAL AUDIENCE
The first step is to recognize that each document serves a different purpose. A brand positioning statement is an internal strategic document. However, a concept statement is an external document meant to be seen/read by customers or consumers. This means you need to have certain executional elements in the concept that are undesirable in a strategic tool like a brand positioning statement. Elements like headlines, selling lines, claims or even simple words like “new” will help you achieve stronger scores.
2) USE NATURAL CUSTOMER OR CONSUMER VOICE
While a brand positioning statement uses very specific language to capture the exact strategic intent, a concept statement is written in the customer or consumer’s voice. It should not sound too grammatically perfect, robotic or be overly technical.
It’s also critical to avoid sales speak. Consumers do not want to be sold to. They are keenly aware of any and all selling language, and will dismiss an entire concept if they feel like they are being sold to. When you write, ask yourself if you can imagine one of your customers or consumers actually saying those words out loud. If you don’t feel like the answer is a resounding yes, rewrite and edit accordingly. It also helps if you’ve actually done in-person research and have heard the consumer/customer voice first-hand.
3) ANSWER A SPECIFIC TENSION OR PROBLEM
This is where many concepts fall short. A key insight must ground the concept. Hopefully your research points you to something meaningful in the target’s life that you are solving for. Not having enough of your product is not an insight. Consumers don’t identify with products. They identify with the problems the product solves. The tension can be functional or emotional, and the introductory paragraph (the insight, way in, or ACB depending on your terminology) should clearly set it up. Getting the reader nodding their head in agreement here is the most important part of the entire concept and is what drives relevance scores.
4) KEEP THE BENEFIT FOCUSED ON THE PROBLEM
The benefit must directly answer the problem or tension that was set up in the insight. Keep it simple. In many cases the tension or problem is functional, and it’s OK to focus on functional and leave out emotional. This is a key difference versus a brand positioning statement where you must capture both functional and emotional benefits.
A lot of brands try to pitch the emotional benefits of products, and they ring false with the consumer. This happens either because the product does not lend itself to believable emotional benefits, or because the brand hasn’t built up enough functional equity to jump to emotional communication yet. It all depends how high on the benefit ladder you want to go. Just know that you can’t always jump to the top of the ladder. Build the functional base first, particularly with newer brands and products.
5) INCLUDE A VISUAL… A GOOD ONE
Depending on your testing method, this step is optional. Internal brand positioning statements don’t include visuals. However, a good visual can greatly aid in communicating a concept. Similarly, a poor visual can break an otherwise good concept. If you use a visual, it must be a good one. Do not throw something together just to have a visual on there if it isn’t actually good.
A good visual does three things:
- Provides a mental image or reference point such as basic format, size and method of interaction
- Enhances the clarity of the concept by helping communicate the benefit and/or point of difference
- Makes the concept credible. Photorealistic is ideal for believability, but sketches are acceptable if they are done well (clear and credible)
Check your image against those three criteria each and every time you write or approve a concept statement for testing.
APPLY THE LEARNING
The five guidelines above will help you peel apart the important differences between brand positioning as strategy, and concept testing potential future executions. Use these tips to guide your writing and increase your chances of getting a winning concept out of your next testing initiative.
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Kevin Namaky is CEO at the Gurulocity Brand Management Institute, a marketing education company that trains and consults for notable brand teams including Kimberly-Clark, Scotts Miracle-Gro, Bolthouse Farms and Gorilla Brands. Kevin is a featured instructor for the American Marketing Association, lectures at the IU Kelley School of business, and has been featured in Ad Age, Forbes, Fast Company and the CMO Council. Previously Kevin worked for 20 years in the corporate and agency world growing notable brands. Follow/connect with Kevin on LinkedIn, TikTok and Twitter.