In developing new products, we often test concepts, a printed pictorial or mocked-up version of a new product, as a way to determine consumer reaction.  While there is a lot of advice out there about what makes an effective concept, we believe 3 key elements are critical in terms of driving consumer appeal and purchase interest:

  • Family uses household goods products to cook a meal together in the kitchen.Habits. How does the target consumer currently accomplish what the product does, and are you asking her/him to change? People develop habits because they make their lives easier1. Understanding her current habits will help you understand the changes that she will have to make to adopt your product and whether those changes will be seen as welcome or as obstacles.
  • Personality. What does your brand/product say about her/him? Does she/he aspire to be a person who uses your kind of brand/product? We all seek brands/products that reflect our personality and communicate to others the type of person we are (or want to be). Using copy and imagery that matches a consumer’s personality has been shown to increase brand2 and concept liking, purchase intent, and product interest scores.3
  • Values. How deeply is your brand/product connected to the target consumers’ core values?  Deep-seated consumer values communicate what’s most important to her/him; the people, activities, and things on which she/he places the highest importance. Much like with personality, people prefer products that mesh with their values4. Connecting with your target consumers’ values will automatically get you more attention in the marketplace.

Tapping into your consumers’ habits, personality and values helps you present a product concept to them that is appealing, credible, and interesting. Demonstrating your deeper understanding of her/his life, her/his aspirations, and her/his challenges can improve the effectiveness of concept testing.

As an example, consider the below concept that was tested by a food product company with moms who cook at home:

“Chicken is chicken, right? Broiled, baked or fried, it all tastes the same, right?

Not anymore!

Now new Chicken Dipping Sauces bring you delicious tasting chicken, right at the table. Chicken Dipping Sauces come in two flavors to complement the taste of chicken: Mild – a light fruity flavor, and Zesty – a blend of robust flavors.

Regardless of how each member of your family eats chicken – with fingers or a fork – every bite will be flavorful and moist.

New Chicken Dipping Sauces…add flavor and moisture to your chicken right at the table.”

Certainly not the worst concept in the history of marketing – but definitely room for improvement.  What about the three key elements?  Habits… It certainly seems like using Chicken Dipping Sauces would not require her to change her habits.  She can continue to prepare the chicken just as she always has; she just has to have the sauce “right at the table.” So, no problem there.

Personality and values… What deep-seated value(s) are we reaching with this concept? Are we saying that she doesn’t care about her family, since she has been feeding them bland, boring chicken? And what does using Chicken Dipping Sauces say about her personality? That she’s a boring cook? That she is unadventurous? Or even lazy?

Let’s rewrite the concept, infusing the habits, personality and values of moms who cook at home:

“I find that I’m preparing chicken more often because it is healthier, but I want easy ways to serve it with more variety and fun.

New Chicken Dipping Sauces are a fun and easy way for everyone in your family to love eating a wholesome food. Chicken Dipping Sauces come in two flavors: Sweet – a light fruity flavor, and Zesty – a blend of more tangy flavors.

Just prepare chicken as you normally would, and let everyone choose their favorite Chicken Dipping Sauce.

Regardless of how each member of your family eats chicken – with fingers or a fork – everyone will love New Chicken Dipping Sauces.”

This concept touches all of the key elements:

  • Habits. Moms follow their normal cook and serve routines – she has the same amount of work with a better end result
  • Personality. She is a fun person who likes to make small changes to delight her family and friends
  • Values. She values preparing wholesome home-cooked meals for her family that they are all going to enjoy eating

The difference is obvious.  If the target consumer believes that Chicken Dipping Sauces fit her personality and values, without needing to change the way she goes about cooking dinner, she will give better scores to the key measures of the concept. Habits, values and personality help your concept connect with the consumer at her core so you can get a better read on how well your concept performs. (To learn more about the role of habits, values and personality in consumer decision-making, download IIM’s eBook Getting Women to Buy: Better Insights to Transform Your Marketing.)

1Wood, W. & Neal, D. (2009). The Habitual Consumer.Journal of Consumer Psychology. 19, 579-592.

2AAker, J. (1999). The Malleable Self: The Role Of Self-Expression in Persuasion.Journal of Marketing Research. 36, 45-56.

3Govers, P. & Schoormans, J. (2005). Product Personality and Its Influence On Consumer Preference.Journal of Consumer Marketing. 22, 189-197.

4Allen, M. (2002). Human Values and Product Symbolism: Do Consumers Form Product Preference By Comparing The Human Values Symbolized By A Product To The Human Values They Endorse?Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 32, 2475-2501.