8 Immutable Truths About Insights!

Understanding what Insights are and are not.


This list is a by-product of a project I’m currently working on. I hope that it helps demystify a little the buzz around “insights”, a highly coveted concept in marketing but also a term that is all too often misused and or misunderstood. I also hope that this list shows that “generating insights” is something that can be learned and a skill that can be honed. Insights don’t just fall off trees, even though that’s what some 'marketing ninjas' or 'business mavericks' want you to believe.

1. Insights are generally understood as 'consumer insights' but the fact is that there are many different kinds of insights that can unlock a business opportunity. BMW films, for example, are based on a media insight.

2. An insight is only an insight when it feels fresh (new) and when it triggers an emotional reaction (the 'Aha' moment). Else, it is merely an interesting observation or a fun fact.

3. The primary purpose of an insight is to create a new brand, communication, and business opportunities, i.e. an insight needs to open new perspectives and be actionable. Else, it isn’t an insight.

4. Insights don’t just fall off trees or into your lap when reading a research report or listening to a focus group for example. They are generally the outcome of a systematic process where the quality of the process determines the quality of the insight.

5. The best insights emerge from the application of specific mental frameworks (on how communication, brands, and businesses work) to information and data. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-fits-all framework, except maybe for the 'why? laddering' exercise.

6. There is a huge gap between the type of information market researchers (or consumer insight groups within organizations) seek (rich details, texture, etc. summarized in 60 page research summaries) and the type of information brand people and business leaders want (holistic, contextual and action-oriented). The ability to turn information and data into insights is the best way to bridge this gap and align both groups.

7. Organizations are able to generate genuine business-building insights when the research methodologies are tailored around the in-going hypotheses rather than the other way around. Unfortunately, most market research groups still work and start the insight generation process with a prescribed and predetermined set of methodologies (all too often focus groups). Best point in case is the insight behind the 'Got Milk' campaign which was only uncovered because the methodology was tailored to the team’s evolving questioning.

8. How an insight is expressed is as important as the insight itself. A great insight expressed in cumbersome and boring business or marketing language will be less powerful than an insight expressed in an easy to remember and catchy way (making it easier to socialize and share) that energizes and excites (remember it is about unleashing and creating excitement for new business opportunities)

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