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At Writing by Design, we believe that powerful marketing begins with potent language. Our blog is your source for tips and insights into the world of market-minded communication.

Save Innovative Ideas from Going Down the Kitchen Sink Drain

Image of a kitchen sink filled with dishes and soapy water and text over top that says, "Avoid a concept mess"

I’ve been working in the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) world since 1995 and I’ve often wondered just how many new product ideas didn’t see the light of day simply because they failed in concept. While I don’t have a count for you on that number, I do have some tips for how to save your own innovative ideas from going down the drain by eliminating kitchen-sink concepts.

What’s a kitchen-sink concept?

When a company prepares to launch a new product, it’s easy to get excited about all the bells and whistles that come with it. A new product that comes complete with a new material, new design, new technology, new color and more lends itself to the creation of a concept that includes everything but the kitchen sink. If all those new features ladder up to one single benefit, then, by all means, feel free to talk about them. However, as is usually the case, only some of the features will be important to your consumer, and only some will speak to the same benefit. So, if you’re listing all the features and all the benefits in one concept, then what you’ll get is kitchen sink soup (also known as garbage), which actually ends up down that proverbial kitchen sink drain.

Why do kitchen-sink concepts fail?

You might think that kitchen-sink concepts should be good because they have everything in them—an exhaustive list of all you’ve ever wanted to tell your consumers about the new product you’re launching. How can that possibly be bad? You’ve been thorough. And detailed. But what the consumer wants—and needs—is a single-minded idea about your new product. One thought. One insight. One small list of digestible features, laddering to one benefit. Yes, one, thread-the-needle-from-insight-to-benefits-idea. And that, my friends, is where most concepts tend to fail.

In fact, we believe that many new product ideas fail to launch simply because of this one, single thing. We don’t think that R&D is off creating new products that really aren’t great. We think that more often than not, a product idea fails because a company hasn’t clearly told its story, creating a need for additional costly testing of an idea—a concept—that stinks because it smells like all that stuff you threw into the kitchen sink (er, your concept). Pee-yew.

Tips to help save your new products from the kitchen sink drain

  1. Force yourself to create multiple concepts, not just one. How many ways can you slice and dice the features and benefits related to your new product? Is there more than just one insight that brought your product to life? If so, be prepared to explore how these things work together to create different stories about your new product. Separate your features and benefits instead of throwing them all into the same concept (or you’ll end up with kitchen sink stew again!).
  2. Test your ideas (concepts) with consumers. Once you have a variety of stories to tell about your new product, consumers will tell you which ones they like and which ones they don’t. Utilize in-person or online qualitative research to get some directional feedback about which stories resonate with your consumer base and revise accordingly.
  3. Remove the waste. Cut out any unnecessary words or visuals that aren’t helping you bring the ONE idea to life. If there are sentences in your concept that sound clever but don’t deliver on the ONE idea, send those sentences and/or words down the drain to save your concept—and your innovative new product—from certain death.

Want to see how Writing by Design helps companies like yours develop Crystal Clear℠ concepts? Watch our video on why new products fail and what tools we offer to help keep your concepts and ideas from heading down the kitchen sink drain!

Headshot of Patti Purcell, Writing by Design presidentPatti Purcell brings 25+ years of journalism and marketing skills together to provide national and international companies with outstanding concept writing services via the company she founded in 2006, Writing by Design, LLC. She and her growing team, based in Wisconsin, have written hundreds of concepts and achieved many successful A.C. Nielsen BASES test scores over the last 10 years using their Crystal Clear™ concept writing methodology.

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