Go For That Promotion! Just Make Sure You Test Before You Launch

Published on Apr 10, 2024 by Kelly Manning

With a thorough, customer-centric concept testing plan in place, and the willingness to let data lead the way, you will have the confidence and results to earn that big promotion!

Have a great idea for a new product or campaign you want to launch? Before getting too excited, take a step back – and make sure you validate it through rigorous concept testing first. Bypassing this critical step can lead to marketing dollars being flushed down the drain and initiatives that fall flat with customers. Even the biggest brands have learned this lesson the hard way.

High Five Promotion

For over 20 years, I have helped top marketers evaluate new brands and variations before launch. It has been exciting to help evaluate everything from new product concepts to packaging designs, messaging, media plans and more. I have helped clients determine optimal pricing, shelf placement, and spend levels, and we tracked awareness, sales, and other KPI’s against benchmarks. Time and time again, the brands that invest in comprehensive concept testing before launch are the ones that breakthrough and succeed.  Those that charge ahead based on gut instinct alone often struggle to gain traction in market.

The Proof is in the Testing

Look at some high-profile examples that did their homework through savvy concept testing upfront – successes like Apple’s iPhone 14, Meta’s Quest Pro, Impossible Sausage, Oatly’s oat milk, and Bud Light’s “100% Hard Seltzer, 0% Beer” tagline. Each filled an unmet consumer need by designing for the customer first.

Their rigorous testing likely explored areas like: Do target customers understand our unique positioning and see our differentiated value? What pricing tiers and promotional tactics will maximize sales and profitability? How can we tailor media strategies to drive mass awareness and product trial efficiently? Does the packaging convey the key benefits clearly and stand out on shelves? By pressure-testing assumptions across every part of the customer journey, they avoided costly mistakes and iterated before releasing products that fit the market.

On the flip slide, there are failures that likely skimped on upfront testing: Gap’s baffling logo redesign that lasted a week, Amazon’s Fire Phone dud, Facebook Home’s ill-conceived and little-used Android app, and Mountain Dew’s bizarre “Puppy Monkey Baby” Super Bowl ad that drew widespread confusion and criticism.  These companies learned the hard way that making assumptions about what customers want, without substantive data to support it, is a surefire recipe for wasting marketing dollars.

Two Mission-Critical Areas for Concept Testing

So, what makes the difference for brands that get new product innovation right? Comprehensive concept testing that validates two mission-critical areas:

  1. Building a deep understanding of your customers’ mindsets, pain points, and unmet needs
  2. Rigorously pressure-testing your potential product or campaign solution from all angles before launching

Only through meticulous, iterative testing can you ensure your new offering (whether a product, service, pricing, packaging, advertising, etc.) will resonate with your audience and deliver a strong return on investment.

The Consistent Path to Innovation Success

The most innovative, data-driven brands follow a consistent best-practice framework for vetting new concepts.

First, they get up-close and personal with their core customers through quantitative surveys, focus groups, social listening, in-depth interviews and more. What are their likes, dislikes, frustrations, aspirations, and goals? What are they willing to pay? These insights should shape your entire innovation strategy from the start.

Next, they create prototypes and test comprehensively before going to market. Does the packaging convey benefits clearly and stand out on the shelf? Do real people understand our unique positioning versus competitors? Will they pay our target premium price point, or should we reframe it as a value offering? Is our media rollout plan precisely targeted for maximum impact and ROI?

Proactively addressing these questions through iterative rounds of testing, refinement, and re-testing with fresh consumer samples is crucial. Even seemingly small tweaks to things like visual design, messaging, or pricing can make or break a new launch. The most successful brands remain open-minded and willing to optimize based on continuous customer feedback.

Final Thoughts

Having worked together with global marketing leaders across categories, I have seen firsthand rigorous concept testing practices leading to game-changing innovation, and unvalidated launches that created costly flops. I've collaborated with teams diving deep into consumer insights, market dynamics, analytics and more to validate profitable go-to-market strategies.

Remember, what is glaringly obvious to you after months of internal immersion may not be obvious at all to your target consumers seeing it for the first time. It truly does not matter if your team, agency, and CEO love the new product/campaign – the customer's opinion is what will decide success or failure. That is why meticulous testing to understand their mindset from the start is critical.

I would be happy to discuss specific concept testing approaches tailored to your unique growth objectives, whether early-stage customer exploration or more in-depth. With an arsenal of innovative tactics to choose from, we can design a testing roadmap to validate your ideas, protect your budget, and maximize your chances of successfully launching something new. Just shoot me an email at [email protected] to get started.

Kelly Manning is Vice President, Business Development at Socratic Technologies. She has over 20 years of experience working with many Fortune 500 companies across the CPG, Consumer Health Care, Retail, Restaurant and AdTech industries. She has led client consulting teams in the market research and analytics space focused on the evaluation of sales, advertising, promotions, and new product launches. Kelly comes to Socratic with experience from Nielsen Media, Nielsen BASES, IRI, Catalina, and ad agencies. She has also worked with big AdTech and media partners. At Socratic, Kelly works with our expert research team to develop and deliver research that drives brands forward and increases return on investments.