The Difference Between Product & Positioning Concept Testing

Summary: Knowing the difference between product and positioning concept testing is important to determine whether to test features or benefits. The insights resulting from each type of test are used to support different business decisions related to marketing and product development.

2 minutes to read. By author Michaela Mora on September 28, 2021
Topics: Concept Testing, New Product Development, Positioning Research

The Difference Between Product & Positioning Concept Tests

The difference between product and positioning concept testing is subtle, but an important one. Knowing what that will help you set the right test for your business objectives and save you time and money.

Product Vs. Positioning Concept Testing

There are two main types of concept tests:

Product Concept Testing

This type of concept testing involves understanding reactions to the product or service explanation, including its features (e.g., personal computers: 12MB RAM, processor X, DVD burner, etc.).

Product concept tests are useful in product development and optimization to determine which features we should include in the product or service.

However, testing product features in a vacuum without context about the usage occasion and the benefits they bring provide limited insights on product adoption.

Positioning Concept Testing

In positioning, concept testing we look for reactions to the benefits offered by the product or service. In other words, we explain how the product or service meets the customer’s needs and what product features will support that benefit and make it believable.

For instance, a benefit from the latest computer model of a brand may be “increased productivity.”  To support this benefit, the computer may include product features such as a large RAM (12MB) and the fastest processor there is to process data in a manner of minutes.

Positioning concept testing focuses on understanding what benefits we should communicate.

Once you have a list of product features, doing positioning concept testing can help prioritize further which ones should forward to development or production.

Using benefit positioning as a guiding principle in product development allows us to match the brand promise with the user experience.

Why The Distinction Is Important

In positioning concept tests, results will depend to a great extent on how you write the concepts. Sometimes clients mistake a product feature description for a product positioning, and test results are often disappointing.

In general, customers don’t care about the product features per se. They just care about what they gain from buying a product with such features.

Positioning concepts should reflect the product benefits and reasons to believe them. Therefore,  you should involve your advertising agency in the process. You need good copywriting for this.

Customers always favor clear and simple positioning messages. Having too many benefits listed is likely to lead to choice overload and dilute its effectiveness. Consequently, if the product or service has several significant advantages, you should test them separately to understand which one has the highest traction.

In short, don’t make assumptions about what positioning would be most appealing without testing it. Concept testing can help you grow your business beyond your expectations.

For more on which decisions you need to make to design useful concept tests, check: 6 Decisions To Make When Designing Product Concept Tests

(A version of this article was originally published on June 29, 2012, by the Dallas Business Journal. The article was last updated and revised on September 28, 2021.)