The Link Between Device-Neutral Concept Testing and Behavioral Economics


This is ostensibly supposed to be a blog article encouraging you to come hear Ipsos speak at the upcoming Marketing Research in the Mobile World (MRMW) conference. The conference is being held May 19-22 in New York City, and Jiongming Mu (Ipsos Marketing Sciences VP and forecasting guru) and I are presenting Ipsos’ revamped approach to concept testing. Specifically, we’ll be talking about how it leverages mobile research capabilities in a presentation titled “Give the people what they want – Concept testing on the consumer’s terms” on Thursday, May 21 at 9:30 AM. You can find the entire conference agenda here. You can even get a 20% discount on your conference attendance, just for clicking on this link and using the discount code you’ll find on Ipsos’ website.

But what would be the fun in giving you the highlights of our presentation? It’s like when a movie trailer gives you all the best parts of the film, and then when you actually get around to seeing it you already know exactly what’s going to happen.

Instead, I want to approach the same topic from a slightly different perspective.

Ipsos’ Revamped Approach to Concept Testing

The basis for Ipsos’ presentation is our revamped approach to concept testing. Recognizing that traditional concept testing approaches were losing relevance with businesses and consumers, Ipsos embarked on a 12-month R&D odyssey to understand how consumers respond to concept tests today and, more importantly, how concept testing has to evolve to maintain its place in marketing research’s future state. Highlights include (a) Device neutrality is a must, (b) A revamped concept stimulus is required, and (c) The survey must get shorter with no loss (and hopefully a gain) in analytical power. Rats, I just gave you the high points of our presentation.  I’m now backing away from the keyboard.

That said, I think a second (and more surprising) outcome of our R&D was how closely our revamped approach to concept testing aligns with some of the most fundamental tenets of behavioral economics (BE).

BE Smart about Concept Testing

There are three main ways in which our revamped approach to concept testing better reflects the principles of behavioral economics:

  1. It reflects the reality of short attention: Concepts aren’t just competing with other similar communication; they are competing with every other thing a consumer could be doing at that moment. In exploring multiple approaches to concept presentation within the R&D, Ipsos identified a revamped stimulus layout that increased the time consumers spent reading concepts by over 50%. That is breaking through the clutter, and capturing attention.
  2. It harnesses the power of the default option: In most product categories, consumers have developed a default option, and the goal of any new, in-market offer is to displace this current option among a large enough population to create a sustainable business. The truth is, if comparing to a concept testing database in the past made sense (debatable), it makes absolutely no sense today given the proliferation of new products and store brands. As a direct outcome of our R&D, Ipsos identified how to use the power of technology to best identify the correct default option in the consumer packaged goods space to which a new innovation should be compared. This isn’t a new idea for Ipsos, but instead one we were able to refine further.
  3. It features intuition over cognition: Consumers are cognitive misers, making intuitive choices on a comparative basis as opposed to monadic choices that lack competitive context. By unlocking the full capability of technology, Ipsos identified how to use shorter surveys and direct comparisons via slider scales to deliver results that are more reflective of consumer decision-making – without sacrificing predictive power.

BE smart about concept testing, indeed.

But Wait, There’s More

For those of you who’ve made it this far, I appreciate it. As my way of saying thanks, I want to highlight one more concept testing module that’s directly aligned with behavioral economics – Implicit Reaction Time (IRT).

We know as researchers that getting predictive results means we need to understand both what people say and what they believe, and IRT helps us get a little bit closer to that goal. Intuitive decision-making relies on both previously obtained knowledge and underlying emotion. Incorporating Implicit Reaction Time into our findings allows Ipsos to provide a measure of that emotional resonance, and allows us to gauge the intensity of consumer response.

Implicit Reaction Time testing measures unconscious associations, which can be compared to more direct stated responses.  Here’s how it works:

  • A series of short, unrelated questions are asked to establish a respondent baseline for response speed.
  • A series of attributes are asked of both the concept and the replacement product, measuring both the response given and response speed.
  • Comparing Implicit vs. Explicit results (see the adjacent figure) reveals the conflict or consistency between unconscious and conscious motivators.


Come Hear Us Speak Anyway

Like a kid who wakes up early on Christmas morning and unwraps all his presents before his parents get up, I just couldn’t wait – I’ve given you more about our MRMW presentation than I intended. And I’ve tacked on a broader POV about how our revamped approach to concept testing better aligns with the principles of behavioral economics. But I do hope you’ll come by to hear us speak anyway, then afterwards engage us in conversation about what your business needs are. Because while it’s enjoyable to talk about the R&D Ipsos conducted and its general applications, it’s much more interesting to apply it to your specific business issues. Hope to see you at MRMW.