2018’s Lessons in Concepts

2018’s Lessons in Concepts

Just when we think every year will be a repeat of the prior year, we remind ourselves by taking time for reflection that there’s always something different, something to be learned. And more importantly, we remind ourselves that the market is always changing, as are the needs of our concept writing clients. Here’s a look at the top three things we learned this year:

When it comes to language, your consumers (or customers for our B2B friends) are always right.

I recently got into a very lively debate with a client about some language we included in a concept. She was not keen on how we described a certain product feature, which admittedly was quite unique. She presented a solid case for why she thought it should use other language—language, that was loaded with their own R&D “speak” and not as consumer-oriented as I would aim for. And yet, as we presented our cases to each other, we recognized that in the end, it doesn’t matter if I like the language or she does—it only matters if their consumers do.

The next best step at this point is to get consumers to weigh in on our debate and utilize some timely, pointed market research to help us incorporate the voice of the consumer in our next steps.

I am reminded of the scene toward the end of “The Polar Express” when the know-it-all boy steps back on the train and is handed a ticket with the letters “Learn” punched out of it. It’s a great visual we should all keep on our desks in 2019 to keep us humble and in ‘learning mode’ forever. In the words of the Polar Express conductor (played by actor Tom Hanks): “Lesson. Learned!”

Talking about the problem a new product solves for your consumers (i.e., the benefit) is still the king of the concept.

A recent TV commercial helped bring this one to light for me…literally! The ad was for a Christmas tree light “gun” called the Lightkeeper Pro that helps identify which light on your strand is guilty for all the lights being out and fixes it magically with a few pulls of a trigger. Now, I can’t explain the science behind how it does it and why, but I can tell you that I immediately sent my husband out to buy one (he came home with two, as usual, because if one is good, two are better!), and we set to work to repair the middle strand on our pre-lit Christmas tree.

While we haven’t yet gotten it to work as magically as it appeared on TV, I’d venture a guess that it’s user error and not the tool itself. The point is, I don’t need to know how it works or why it does what it does (this all falls in the “features” bucket), or why they decided to make it a “gun” and not something else that could breathe life into my burned-out strands. All I need to know is that it solved the problem I had (or will solve it, when we can find the time to follow the directions a little more closely!).

It’s hard to solve a problem if you’re not acting on consumer insights.

There have been a handful of times this year when a client will tell us about the awesome new product the company is planning to launch and describe in great detail the features and the benefits…while we wait for the great payoff on why this thing was developed in the first place, and hear crickets. Since a great concept generally leads with acknowledging the consumer pain point (otherwise known as the “insight”), this is crucial information!

We can, and often do, hypothesize about what the insight might be, but I’d like to take this time to deliver a public service message to all companies launching a new product or service in 2019: if you can provide your writers with an insight (confirmed or not) behind why your consumers might want to buy this product, do it! This will make for a more cohesive concept from start to finish.

So, in wrapping up our year of concept writing, we’d like to say thanks to those of you who have entrusted your launch “babies” to us! We are always grateful for the trust you give us to work alongside you to bring new products to the market with stories that hit the mark every time.

Headshot of Patti Purcell, Writing by Design president

Patti Purcell brings 25+ years of journalism and marketing skills together to provide national and international companies with outstanding concept writing and marketing communications services via the company she founded in 2006, Writing by Design LLCShe and her growing team, based in Wisconsin, tie strategic thinking, efficient processes and Crystal Clear thought and execution into all projects supporting clients large and small.