‘Why do a concept test when you already have a product prototype?’
Q: We’ve developed a new chicken recipe like Bon Chon’s but better-tasting and without loss of meat size after frying. We asked a market research agency to product-test our new chicken recipe, first the concept and then the prototype.
Here’s what the research agency told us: “When you already have a product prototype, why still do a product concept test? That’s just a waste of research money and time. Of course, as your research agency, we’d like that. That’s more research revenue for us. But we’re not that kind of research partner because sooner or later, you’ll find out it was a waste. We take our partnership seriously.”
Our product managers had attended your Applied Marketing Research (AMR) seminars. They said it was you who advised that every product test should be in two stages, namely, product concept first, and then if the product passes the concept test, then proceed to the product prototype test.
Does this rule of yours apply to our case now? We think this agency is sincere in their recommendation and we’d really like to avoid that waste they were talking about. So what would you advise us to do?
A: We won’t say outright who’s right or who’s wrong. Instead we’d like you to consider the product-testing logic supporting your agency’s reco and our AMR seminar’s reco.
Your agency’s priority in its reco is to save you “money and time” immediately by skipping the concept test. In terms of scientific validity of data and results, this reco’s assumption is that the product concept test results will most likely be captured anyway by the product prototype test. There are of course instances when this is true especially when the product under testing is indeed superior to its target competitor product which, in this case, is Bon Chon. There are such instances but not all instances.
In our AMR seminar, our reco for you not to skip concept testing is also, believe it or not, after saving you money and time. However, that’s not immediately but eventually. Allow us to explain.
You see, there are two things that can go wrong. First with the concept test, and second with the prototype test. Suppose that after explaining to the consumers you’re testing, these target consumers still did not see or believe that your new chicken recipe can be any better-tasting and/or meatier after frying versus Bon Chon? If this happens, it means that you should first find out from the test consumers in what way or ways they will be convinced about your new chicken recipe’s superior taste and retained meatiness even after frying. Then adjust or reformulate accordingly.
Remember that the persuasiveness of your product prototype comes from how it did a good job of translating the product concept. If the concept was not believable, it’ll be hard for your target consumers to believe that the translation of that concept (that is, the prototype) is better than the concept or that the prototype outdid the concept.
But suppose the product concept did not in fact capture what the two superiorities that the prototype embodies. Still something can go wrong with the prototype testing. For example, suppose that the prototype test results showed that the percent of consumers who rated it better than Bon Chon was statistically significantly higher than zero? Higher than zero is what the science of statistics put us as the usual “norm.” However, the science of marketing insofar as product testing is concerned defines the role of product prototype development as one of faithfully translating its product concept. So the implied significance testing must be anchored on being statistically significantly better than the concept rating or score and not zero. So a prototype test can pass the statistical norm but fail the marketing product norm.
When the prototype fails the marketing product norm, if you still go ahead and launch it, that risks market failure. That’s loss and wasted money and time, not immediately but eventually. That eventual failure will come out to total to a much higher wasted money and time.
So there’s your choice. It’s a choice under risk. Are you a risk-averted marketer or a risk taker? And if you are a risk taker, which risk to you is less likely to happen: the immediate risk or the eventual risk? In the end, you will decide on the basis of your answers to these questions.
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