On writing better concepts

5-minute read

Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well”

David Ogilvy

Innovation success rates are not very high. But once we have done our marketing due diligence, and decide to test, we should give each idea or proposition the best chance to succeed. To do that, we need to ensure we have the concept written well. The goal should be to get the critical elements in there.

First off: What is a concept?

Consumers get introduced to brands through a variety of touchpoints. These touchpoints have different information about the brand, depending on their objective. A concept represents a summary of these messages and promises in a simple, short, cohesive story.

While we could be tempted to think of a concept to be similar to an ad, they have entirely different objectives.

1.     A concept helps to understand if a route is worth pursuing while an ad aims to sell.

2.     A concept informs the creative brief while the ad is derived from the creative brief.

3.     Concept is forced viewing while an ad should have stopping power

Concepts typically have largely 3 main parts, and we are listing down some guidelines for each here. You will find more details, in our downloadable deck (and if you want more, e.g., neuroscience in concept writing, you could request for a presentation too).


Some argue this is the most important part. While we think all cogs have a role to play in the overall machine, this is the part where your journey started and hence needs a lot of thought. You identified a consumer gap, felt a bit of elation, perhaps, or in some cases a mild disgust that why didn’t I think of this before, and then went about the rest of the journey. And hence, the importance of the insight, to get consumers to think that we understand them, their life situation, their desire, their need, and their want.

A good way to think of insights is in the “Life Truth-Tension-Wish” format.

An example might illustrate this better:

·      Life Truth: “I want to give the best of myself to both my family & work.”

·      Tension: “But it also means that I barely have time to get myself some breakfast.”

·      Wish: “I wish I had something that is wholesome but doesn’t take time to prepare.”

Together, it will read as follows:

“I want to give the best of myself to both my family & work. But it also means that I barely have time to get myself some breakfast. I wish I had something that is wholesome but doesn’t take time to prepare.”

Positive vs. Negative

A question often asked is with “tension” coming in, is it fine to have a negative tone to the insight. If you subscribe to Schopenhauer’s ideas, ignore the pessimism. Life is harsh but unless the insight is deeply problem solution based (toothache for example), avoid negativity. Express a life truth positively (should we say “I lack time, or I care for my family”).

Emotional, functional or both

This entirely depends on your concept promise, but emotions generally appeal immediately, lead to a connect. The trick part is to connect emotional and functional needs well and this should be our focus.

Remember, you need to cover all of these in 2-3 lines (Don’t reduce the font, stretch the margins). This is not the time for a story.

When you end the insight, the flow should be such that the answer to their wish should naturally be the innovation you have to offer.


The benefit should lead naturally from the insight.

How many benefits?

Focus on one single benefit and let the rest layer on to this single benefit. The sub-benefits should be derivatives of the main benefit, and that makes it easier to process.

We are not good at processing too many things. It is essential, as are so many things in this write-up, but probably more essential, to ensure that concepts focus on one single idea. “When you say three things, you say nothing.” Chip and Dan Heath’s quote from the book Made to Stick is valid for communications and concepts too. Concepts will have multiple elements but be crystal clear about that one thing this concept is addressing. Everything else is built around that single idea. A sub-point or corollary to this is also that we keep concepts short.

Functional & Emotional Benefits:

Here, be careful how we can layer emotional and functional benefits together.

Benefits vs. Facts or RTBs:

Do not mix benefits with scientific facts or reason to believe. As far as possible, keep the benefit clear, well connected to the insight, and properly layered in case of emotional and functional elements and then bring in the reason to believe.

Reason to Believe

Scientific terms:

There is no other place where the R&D prowess is tested more, but we need to keep the science terminologies out, and keep RTBs easily understandable for the target group. In all probability, your target groups don’t have a degree in science and that is an important fact to consider. Providing explanations to tough terms could help if your concept is short, but otherwise, write RTBs in a way consumers easily get it and it lends credibility to the benefit offered.

The Mode of Action (MoA) and the Reason to Believe:

One could use a mode of action if there is complicated benefit delivery. Images can do a good job for such mode of action and keep the concept simpler.

Finishing the concept

“Never send anything the day you write. Read it aloud next morning – then edit it”

David Ogilvy

In filmmaking, editing is an often overlooked by the viewers, but it is one of the most critical aspects of bringing the story to the audience. Spend time to link and edit so you can convey the messages in a simple, short, and coherent story.

Before you finalize the concept, answer the key questions that you expect from the consumers in the test:

·      Why should the consumer buy this?

·      What in the concept is compelling enough to make them switch?

·      What advantages will consumers see in this innovation?

·      How different are my concept options from each other?

Ready for launch?

For more on writing great concepts, download the deck here.

Connect with us for
latest thinking & insights

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.