Simon Cowell

Concept testing

Britain’s Got Talent is back and this years without Simon Cowell. Every year when the show starts I think to myself ‘How has this man-made a market research experiment so famous?’ The talent show format really does allow Simon Cowell to evaluate several acts against his desired audience before taking that act to market, thereby lowering his risk. This all while making money from the experiment. Aren’t we insight pros meant to be doing exactly that for our stakeholders?    

Is there anything, we can learn from the talent show formats when we are conducting either product or marketing comms research? After all, a lot of the time our projects take several business ideas and filtering them down to one or two so that we can recommend which would be the most successful when it goes to market. Simon Cowell obviously has had success through his methods;   

Expert filtering: The early stages of the competition there is usually ‘expert filtering’ – rather like what would happen in the internal development process. The organisation would filter out any products, messages, creatives or ideas that just don’t fit the company’s capabilities or values.

The Wildcard: Simon Cowell always let a wildcard go through. An act that everyone cringes at but is worth putting through to get a reaction. That act is there to contextualise the other good acts and helps understand if there is a market for something unknown. Something that insight professionals don’t do enough of in their market research testing. Maybe, we should be braver and take one or two crazy ideas through the later stages of testing. In my experience I’ve found that the internal stakeholders are usually more reluctant to do this than I am, but I think it is important to push these through even if it doesn’t make sense at first. You never know you might discover something unexpected (in a market you never thought you wanted). Furthermore, it contextualises the strong ideas for the respondent. Watch out: this does require you to keep the audience you test among wide. Do the Raylan test.  

Simulate, Simulate, Simulate: Simon Cowell almost always deploys a choice-based task in the process – head to heads and voting.  I’m not saying this is relevant all the time, but for simulating how you might consume music, it makes sense. So as always understanding how your ideas/products/messages are going to be consumed in real life and replicate/simulate that in your methodology, as best as possible.  

Making the research famous: Simon Cowell could have gone through the product testing process behind closed doors, instead he monetised it and made the whole process entertaining. There is something to say about making our insight projects more famous among our internal stakeholders – especially product or message testing. Could we not announce the test winner’s and losers in a more engaging way that isn’t just a boring ppt debrief? What if we created anticipation with updates via email on the result day? Really deployed data visualisation and infographics? Let’s get creative without being cheesy. Lots to think about in this space, don’t get me wrong I’m not thinking of a gold envelope reveal.   

Simon Cowell, we should you an MRS fellow.

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