4 tips to help you reach innovation research master status

Kelsey Sullivan

Launching a new product or product variant can be daunting. You never know if you've got a hit until it hits the market, and at that point there's a lot riding on its success. 

But if you test, learn and optimize throughout your process, you can increase your confidence and ultimately create products people love. 

But how do you get there? How can you get to a place where you’re using insights to inform decision-making? A place where you can confidently say you’re creating products people love? Where you deliver innovations that consistently meet business objectives?

That space is called reaching innovation research master status. Read on for five tips on how to get there.

1. Communicate your ideas effectively

You’ll want to get consumer input at different stages of your innovation process to make sure you’re headed in the right direction. 

Oftentimes we forget just how challenging it can be to get your ideas on paper in a way that’s easy for consumers to understand and respond to.  

You can’t get quality, in-depth feedback from consumers if they don’t fully understand the idea — but they won’t read pages of information either . 

To help keep things simple, take a look at these quick do’s and don’ts when you’re writing for concept tests: 


  • Keep it brief

  • Use language that resonates with your audience

  • Use realistic visuals

  • Offer relevant proof points to support your idea

  • Highlight distinctiveness


  • Oversell 

  • Use marketing terms

  • Go overboard on detail

  • Stray from main points

  • Mislead

2. Optimize using actionable attributes

The aim of your innovation research should be twofold:

  1. Help you optimize your idea so it will find success in the market

  2. Learn what matters to consumers so you can highlight the right features of the idea when it’s time to market it 

These are both critical to the success of your innovation and can be done by evaluating the attributes (specific features or characteristics) of your product or service. 

You can think of attributes as short, descriptive statements you want your product idea to be associated with. Your research should help you assess how much people associate each attribute with your idea. 

Your attributes need to be actionable enough to help you learn something about how to optimize your idea or which features to highlight in your marketing.   

But how do you create an actionable attribute? Here’s some tips to help you get started:

Here are some examples of actionable and non-actionable attributes:

  • Would be creamy enough to spread

  • Has an appearance that makes me think this will have a sweet taste

  • Comes in a size with the amount I would want to eat

  • Would have sustainable ingredients


  • For people like me

  • Is innovative

  • Something people will probably buy

  • Would use in specific occasions only

Each of the ✅ statements are clear and concise, avoid combinations and are specific to the consumers expectations, while the 🚫 statements are more vague, don’t give clear actions and are more aligned with measures to simply score your concepts.

When it comes to attributes, this is the opportunity for you to gather clear and actionable feedback to improve your innovation, so you should try to be as specific as possible.

3. Listen to the story your data is telling you

When you’re running research, you’re really trying to answer an important business question: How can I create products people will buy?  

To help you do that, you need to understand the trial potential of your concept, or the likelihood of people trying your product. After all, why would (and how) could you move forward with your innovation otherwise? 

This can be done by looking at your KPIs, how you’re scoring on trial potential and more importantly, the potential to improve. So if you’re not hitting your target in the first round, is there room for improvement? Are there any low hanging fruit opportunities for optimization? 

Once you’ve reviewed your research results, you can categorize your concepts into three buckets: Ready to launch, requires modification and little opportunity for success.

This will allow you to get a clearer picture of which concepts make the most sense to invest in to present to your stakeholders, based on the data at hand. After all, if you don’t listen to what your data is telling you, why bother running research in the first place?

4. Invest in an innovation insights platform

You probably have some tools and vendors you use to get insights through your innovation process, but this could be a good time to think more holistically. 

Given the length of time a traditional innovation creation process takes, it’s important to check in with consumers regularly to make sure you’ve surfaced the right ideas and that each idea is heading in the right direction. You never want to test a concept at the end of a year-long process only to find out that consumers aren’t interested in the product at all!. 

An insights platform where you can run research and access results all in one place will allow you to incorporate insights more seamlessly into your innovation process.

You can move fast, analyze and filter diagnostic data, share results with your business partners, and perhaps most importantly, access all of your data in one place. When you can view concept performance over time, you can learn from your past and spot themes that can inform your future — so you’re always getting smarter over time.

After all, your data is your most important asset. So why wouldn't you want to have a system in place that helps you improve over time?

“The old world of insights was cumbersome and put pressure on us and our teams because we only had one shot to get each innovation right. That is inherently inefficient.

We’ve started to do more iterations of tests on the same concept, to make it better. We can fit in a round of consumer input at almost any phase in the process now, which makes us much more in demand with our cross-functional partners.”

— Matt Cahill, Senior Director, Consumer Insights Activation at McDonald's

Take a look at how you run research right now and think about how it can be improved.

Do you feel like you’re getting the diagnostics to improve your ideas rather than grade them? Is your research scattered in decks through your organization so you can’t see it all at once? Do you feel like you're able to answer the questions of your business partners quickly enough to make an impact? If not, you might want to look into a platform-based approach.

Final thoughts

If you want to help your business create products people love, start by getting consumer feedback throughout your innovation process. That way there'll be no surprises when your product hits the market.  

These tips don’t necessarily make up every aspect needed to become an innovation research master, but they will certainly help set you up for success on your journey there. 

For more content on innovation, listen to “The innovation game”, our podcast episode with Cedric Steele, Assistant VP of Global Innovation at Coca-Cola's McDonald’s division.