Writing an effective concept is an art, rather than a science. Although some basic guidelines can be adhered to in order to maximize success, one of the more typical problems I see with most client’s concepts is the “Kitchen Sink” approach. The “Kitchen Sink” concept is a derivative of the phrase “Everything, but the kitchen sink”. Wikipedia defines this as an English phrase used to denote wildly exaggerated inclusion. This is exactly what happens in the “Kitchen Sink” concept “ a marketer feels that their product or service offers so many benefits and features that he/she must include everything possible to insure that the concept will “win'” The unfortunate reality is that because a “Kitchen Sink” concept has something for everyone, it often scores incredibly well in quantitative testing, but fails to deliver in the marketplace when only one idea can be communicated in advertising and marketing materials.
Generally, four telltale signs suggest that a concept may be of the “Kitchen Sink” variety:
Consumers “cherry pick” the concept, rather than understanding the main idea – When fine tuning a concept in qualitative, hearing all the participants spark to many unique and different aspects of the concept, rather than holistically to the big idea, may suggest you have too many communication points. On the surface, it is easy to believe the concept is appealing, but having 8 people spark to 8 different elements is always a red flag. If the simple question of ‘What is the main idea?’ provides a collection of different answers, you are probably heading down the wrong path and not communicating a single-minded idea well.
More than one benefit – As appealing as it might be to offer the consumer many benefits, unless you are positioning as a 2-in-1 or 3-in-1 product, adding a laundry list of benefits will be quite difficult to communicate. Often clients like to sneak in additional benefit language in the reason to believe feeling like it offers support to the primary benefit. In reality, it actually adds another communication element. You need to be ruthless and honest with yourself when preparing concepts. Have an outsider objectively review them and circle all the benefits as a reality check before placing your concepts in front of consumers.
Includes every claim possible – Sometimes it is irresistible for marketing or R&D to include all the possible product or service claims that could support your benefit. If you concept is loaded up with all these claims, you have got too much. This often happens when the team is not sure what is most important which results in telling everything. You are always better off to tease apart the various claims into testably different concepts to see what truly resonates with your consumer.
Too many pictures – And finally, take a really hard look at the concept you are planning to place in a quant study. If you see more than twp photos/illustrations in addition to a product shot, you are trying too hard. The typical “Kitchen Sink” concepts I have seen have included several slice of life shots for emotion, a product shot so the consumer knows what is being talked about, plus depictions of usage instructions or some other dramatization of the product working. If your concept has this many illustrations, you will find it very difficult to discern what really drove the appeal. And be careful, pictures can ruin concept appeal. The wrong ones can add confusion and/or may not relate to the reader. Select what is best to fit the main idea and, if possible, qualitatively get feedback before that expensive quant test.
So the next time you write a concept, do not let yourself get lulled into the “Kitchen Sink” phenomenon. Scrutinize your work through these 4 simple guidelines and you willl be well on you way to winning concepts that you can actually execute in the market with success!