On Concept Writing: How Consumers Consume Concepts

We spend a lot of time honing our concepts, making sure that the language is just right before going into a quantitative test. But how many of us have thought about how respondents (i.e., consumers) actually consume concepts? In this article, we’ll take a look at some R&D conducted by Ipsos InnoQuest that leveraged eye tracking to understand how consumers read concepts – and discuss the implications for when you’re writing concepts.

Follow Their Eyes

Without further ado, here are the results. What is shown is a “view order” analysis which indicates the most typical path which consumers’ eyes follow when exposed to a typical concept. Not everyone follows this exact same path, but it is the most common.


As you might expect, the very first thing consumers look at is the product image. This is not surprising – humans had used their sense of sight for survival for thousands of years before the invention of written language. There are several implications of this. First, you should always try to include an image whenever possible – it allows consumers to quickly grasp the product idea and can communicate a lot about the product based upon the package (color, art, font, etc.). Second, it underscores the importance of consistency in your concept imagery. If one concept has a fully rendered color image, while another has only a black and white line drawing, you are not putting the concepts on the same footing.

The next element that consumers typically view is the headline. I often think of a concept as a series of gates that you need to take the consumer through, with the objective being that the content is relevant enough so that consumers keep reading — if you alienate, bore, or confuse them they will stop reading and give your concept poor marks. These results suggest that the headline is that first gate and, as such, it needs to quickly grab consumers’ attention and pull them into reading the rest of the concept.

The third element consumers look at is the insight statement. I always talk about the insight as the “the BIG gateway” to the rest of the concept – I think it is relatively easy to grab a consumer with a product shot and a headline, but the insight statement is where the rubber first hits the road in terms of connecting with your consumer. And that is why it is so important. If you generate relevance (if the consumer sees themselves), they are going to read on with interest. If you alienate them, they are likely going to stop reading the concept all together. For further reading on this topic, I’ll refer you to two of my previous articles:“Your Insight Statements Suck” and “Ways That Insights Fail Consumers.”

After that, consumers most often take a look at the price and then move onto the body of the concept including the benefit and the RTB.

Implications for the Future

One of the things that really strike me about this data is that consumers do not consume concepts in a linear fashion. I guess this is not too surprising given that we give the entire concept at once to consumers, essentially letting them consume it in any order they wish. However, that runs contrary to how actual advertising is consumed real ads force consumers to view it in a linear fashion – you cannot jump around the commercial. Given that concepts are a proxy for later advertising, this feels a bit like a disconnect.

However, the exciting news is that Ipsos InnoQuest is currently undertaking R&D that looks at a variety of formats for concepts – including one that does force consumers to view concepts in a linear fashion. In my next article, I’ll share the results of that R&D – I’m sure that they will be interesting.