Concept Testing for a Video Series

11.01.2021 Content Strategy
Eoin Dowdall
Creative Director

Coming up with a new idea can be difficult. It takes a moment of inspiration that can’t be forced but merely coaxed out. And once you have this new idea in mind, your moment of elation can often become slightly overshadowed by doubt. Will the series really be a success? Does the content have what it takes to help your brand reach its goals? Once the brainstorming session has mustered up an idea that seems to fit just right, it might be time to give it a trial run. This is where concept testing comes in.

Concept testing is the practice of evaluating a concept by creating an impression of the idea and presenting it to others to test whether it works. This can be anything from a brand name to a style of packaging to (in this case) a video series. Concept testing allows companies to see how their ideas will be received by their customer base. It can help you judge whether the idea will be successful and what may need tweaking. It provides data to back up your concept and helps weed out any potential issues or pitfalls that you may otherwise face down the line.

There is no one way of going about putting your product through a concept test. This is no surprise given the vast array of concepts, brands, audiences and platforms in consideration. There are almost countless means of carrying out the process. In the context of video series concept tests, this typically comes in the form of a short example of how the video series would pan out. Once you’ve decided on the style and subject matter of your video series, you need to make a short example of how the episodes will pan out. It is somewhat like a pilot episode, but definitely not the same thing.

The Difference Between a Pilot Episode and a Proof of Concept

Producers of television series typically have a pilot episode lined up to truly sell the idea to their stakeholders. This has to make a huge impression, otherwise it won’t be a success with the target audience. In fact, only 86% of viewers typically return to a show for a second episode. This demonstrates how important that initial impact really is. The same principles can be said to apply for online video series.

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The videos that you create have to connect with audiences quickly, as patience is often lacking in viewers. Statistics indicate that YouTube videos lose 50-60% of their viewers by the half-way point. This initial impression is what a concept test is looking to create. However, unlike a pilot episode, it does not have to be full-length. In fact, a simple impression of the style, visuals and content of your video series will typically suffice.

It gives the stakeholders a rough idea of what the series plan will look like when becomes a reality. To see if it has any legs, so to speak. For example, it is a good means of seeing whether or not your proposed subjects have the correct on-screen chemistry. It is all well and good having a brilliant concept lined up, but if it doesn’t strike the right chords when it comes to the real deal then everything before that point can become redundant.

In terms of how best to go about testing a concept, here is a general set of guidelines that can help point you in the right direction:

The Process

Set a goal

It is nigh on impossible to create an effective means of testing your concept if you don’t initially have goals set out. Without goals, how are you going to measure success? And without proving potential success, how do you mean to prove the potential of your idea to stakeholders?

Setting the right goal outlines audience, the responses required, time needed and the type of feedback that you are after. Much in the same vein as a typical video content strategy. The best way of outlining your goal is by pondering which questions you wish to be answered and then answering them. These 3 questions can be a good place to start:

  1. What type of responses do I want?

Ultimately you want to decipher whether the video will encourage the audience to act in the way that you want them to. And if it won’t, then what tweaks can be made to help ensure that they do? You want to know your target audience’s thoughts on the concept.

  1. What data am I hoping for?

Your video series will ultimately be an effort to evoke certain emotions and responses from your target audience. By achieving the desired reaction, the video series can be deemed a success. You need to work out how your data can back up the notion of your content rousing this reaction from your target audience.

  1. How will I use the data when I have it?

This is where you use the audience’s reaction to develop your initial concept into a fully-fledged video series. If the reaction is entirely negative then it may be time to go back to the drawing board. If the reaction is a success but there are a few pointers made, then it helps you know which steps should be taken for your concept to hit the right tones. What you need to decide is how you will utilise your audience’s reactions for the benefit of the series.

Once you have fine-tuned the ultimate goal of your concept test, you can move onto the next step.

Choose the style of your concept test

Having decided on a style, set your goal and shot your footage, it’s time to decide how you want to judge the success of your concept. Testing itself can take 2 forms: qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative testing provides a more in-depth insight into the feedback that you receive. However, it typically consumes your resources faster, necessitating a smaller sample group.

Quantitative testing casts a wider net, gathering more results but without the detail provided by a qualitative test.

Choosing between the 2 depends on the sort of data you want to gather. Here are some examples of testing techniques that you can undertake:

Qualitative Testing:

  • Focus groups – Getting a group together (typically 8-10 people) and have a discussion on the concept in question. Ideally hosted by an experienced leader, focus groups are a brilliant way of developing new ideas and gauging emotional impact. Attendants tend to bounce ideas off each other in a natural way, leading to fun and interesting insights.
  • In-depth interviews – Going a step further than a focus group, interviews allow you to dig deep into the mindset of your audience. It is a good means of getting insight from people from different segments of the target audience but is also time-consuming. This means that typically only a few individuals can take part.

Focus group discussion

Quantitative Testing:

  • Soft release with video metrics – Release your concept video online and take advantage of the website analytics available. Analytics functionality on host sites provides useful data that allow you to map out the actions of your viewers. Although, this doesn’t always provide an idea as to why they are acting the way that they are.
  • Questionnaires/surveys – Ask a wider audience an array of questions that will help answer the questions mapped out in your overall goal. Whilst it won’t have the in-depth insight of a focus session, questionnaires and surveys allow you to reach a wider segment of your video’s audience.

Decide where to host your concept video

Hosting a video was once a matter of choosing a location, an audience and having to co-ordinate a physical screening. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, there are easier options available.

Websites like YouTube allow companies to host their concepts with minimal effort and cost. However, YouTube may not be an ideal option if you are looking to keep the initial concept private. In this case, websites like Vimeo provide better options for private screenings. You should consider which format will best suit the style of testing that you wish to carry out. Quantitative testing is easily done via the internet. On the other hand, qualitative testing may benefit more from a face-to-face environment.

The other thing to consider is who you want to view the concept video. Options include stakeholders, colleagues, loyal customers, a sample selection of the target audience or even your nearest and dearest. The choice of audience depends entirely on what you want to achieve from the test.

The Benefits of Testing

Once your test has been completed and results compiled, you can apply the findings to prove the worthiness of the concept to your stakeholders. Alternatively, the reaction can allow you to add to or adjust the video series concept, ultimately making it more applicable and therefore making it more pertinent.

The video test is a chance for you to see what works and what doesn’t. Through the reaction, you can set a course for the future of your concept. It can answer questions regarding who should be hired, whether the style is well suited, how it should be shot etc. In some industries, using concept testing has been shown to improve campaigns in a variety of different ways. Research has shown that, when compared with campaigns that haven’t taken recommendations from concept tests, adjusting according to results can help campaigns retain attention and last longer in the memory, as well as earning a more positive reaction.

Concept tests also have the benefit of acting as a practice run for your team. A rehearsal of sorts. If the concept does eventually become fleshed out and fulfil its original purpose, then the team will have a greater idea of what needs to be done. This smoother operation will ultimately lead to better quality content.


Concept testing can be a valuable tool. A trial run, a sample video and a learning process rolled into one. The final step before creating your video series that can make or break a campaign idea. But a concept test isn’t always a necessary step in the video series production process.

If you are certain that your idea is a viable one, then a concept test may not be worth it. There are scenarios where companies and stakeholders agree to such things without a need for sample footage. In this instance, concept testing becomes an unnecessary expense. There is also the matter of taking available resources into consideration. Smaller budgets may negate the opportunity to create a concept test. However, there are ways around this issue.

One lower-budget variant of the concept test is a storyboard. If detailed enough, a storyboard should provide enough visual aids and detailed information to give stakeholders a vivid depiction of your idea. A good means of doing this is providing a shot-for-shot walkthrough of your initial episode. If executed properly, storyboards can prove to be just as effective as a concept test.

For more tips on adding value to production without a budget, read our blog here.

Another thing to consider when presenting a concept test is that it is not a given that it will lead to your idea becoming a reality. Far from it in fact. Making a significant first impression with your audience is no mean feat. Statistics show that around 95% of product launches never reach breakout success. So don’t become disheartened if your concept video doesn’t result in your series becoming the next big thing, as you envisioned. Instead take lessons from the experience and apply what you have learned to your next idea.

If your concept test does prove to be a success, remember that you can still learn from the series once it is launched. Use the statistics and feedback to ensure that your next campaign is even better. This way each campaign can become finer tuned and more targeted, leading to superior results further down the line.

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