What the Best Insight Developers in the Business Know and You Don’t


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Insights are essential to business success and have become the holy grail of marketing in particular over the past ten years or so. Many clients ask me to help them to review their process or to develop a proprietary new one when they are dissatisfied with their current performance. In working on these projects, I have found a number of reasons why some organisations struggle to develop insights whilst others are more successful. Which are you?

Before going into the details of their success, let me start by explaining what I mean by an insight, so that we all agree what we are talking about.

Wikipedia has two definitions of insight; the one I prefer is:

“Insight is the act or result of apprehending the inner nature of things or of seeing intuitively”

Their other definition is:

“Insight is the understanding of a specific cause and effect in a specific context”

Having worked with many leading businesses in numerous different industries, the second one appears to be the definition that is often used, but it misses an essential element, that of the ‘Inner nature” of things, which in my opinion is primordial. Therefore I would like to also add my own to clarify what I mean and which I believe will be more useful for business and marketing:

“An insight is a statement based upon a human truth that when actioned has the power to change behaviour” (>>Tweet this<<)

This definition has the advantage of speaking about an insight being based on a human truth, the inner nature of things included in Wikipedia’s first definition. This means that it is not applicable to only one category or country, but to the whole world in most cases.

Hopefully your own definition is similar to this one. If not, then please let me know what the differences are. Assuming that mine is at least acceptable for now, let’s review what the best of the best in insight development do differently to more successfully develop them.

1. They understand that insights drive a successful business

Business success is what all organisations are aiming to achieve. It takes deep understanding of the market in which one is competing. That is why you need insight, otherwise you are just left with the job of selling something which your customers may or may not want.  As Peter Drucker is quoted as saying:

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself” (>>Tweet this<<)

 2. They know that insight isn’t just another word for market research

Over my career I have heard several executives and C-Suite members refer to insight as “the new name for market research”. No it’s not. Market research is not insight and insight development isn’t market research. However, market research findings ARE often one of the sources of information that are used for insight development. ONE of them.

3. They don’t think a fact is an insight

Those who tend to struggle with insight development often see facts as insights. Perhaps they are impatient to get to the action or are confused with what an insight is? Data and information are the foundations of insight, but it takes their integration and a whole lot more work to get to an insight.

4. They don’t expect an insight to come from a single piece of market research

Although I have known some clients who have gotten to an insight following a single piece of research, it usually happens when the work has been conducted to fill a knowledge gap. This is a powerful step in insight development and highlights the need to spend time getting to it, rather than rushing the process.

5. They know that insight development is easier in a diverse team

Insight development is often left to the market research and /or marketing departments to run. However, since insights are based on human truths, having different points of view of the information gathered, speeds up knowledge and understanding of the situation. This then sets the scene for the development of an insight.

6. They understand that an insight is developed from multiple sources of data and information

As previously mentioned, to fully understand the customer,  information on all aspects of their behaviour and perceptions from multiple sources must be used. This is why the team appraoch works best, with each member bringing a part of the puzzle.

7. They understand that an insight comes from deep customer understanding

The most actionable insights come from a complete understanding of both the target customers and the market in which the brand is competing. In addition, I encourage clients to add observation and participation in experiencing the brand from the customer’s perspective.

8. They walk in their customers shoes every day

Whilst observation and participation are recommended when developing insight, they are great habits to adopt every day. Keeping close to your customers is the best way to understand, satisfy and hopefully surprise and delight them too. It also makes insight development easier and faster when needed.

9. They know an insight is obvious when discovered

It is that infamous “Ahah” moment often described at the end of the process. Until then, someone in the team will always have something to add or change, or will not totally understand it. When it resonates with everyone, then you have found a “human truth” that your customers will intuitively relate to.

10. Whilst developed for one category an insight can often be applied to others

In closing I would like to share some examples of insights that have been used across categories, sometimes within one company and sometimes across competitors.

Insight: Young women want to be appreciated for who they are i.e. not exceptionally beautiful models, but healthy and happy individuals

  • L’Oreal’s campaign “Because I’m worth it” was one of the first to recognise this opportunity. The slogan was first used in 1973 during the rise of feminism and recognised that women wanted permission to treat themselves, even if just to a slightly higher priced shampoo. It remains as powerful today as it ever was and an estimated 80% of women recognise and respond to it positively.
  • Unilever’s Dove took this insight to a whole new level in 2004. Their famous Real Beauty campaign resonated so well with young women that many other brands copied it, especially their Evolution film. Here is one of their more recent ads from a couple of years ago, that I’m sure will give you goosebumps, even if you have already seen it.
  • The Swiss Supermarket chain Migros has a store brand “I am” which uses the same insight across all their health and beauty products. Somewhat unusually, the brand name itself is based upon the same insight, and its advertising repeats it several times: I am – what I am.

Insight: Parents want to protect their children so that they grow up happy and healthy

  • Unilever’s Omo shows that a good mother lets her child experiment and learn – even if this means getting dirty. If you don’t know their advertising, then check out one of their latest from this long-running campaign: Unilever Omo “Dirt is Good” ad on YouTube
  • Nestlé’s Nido illustrates this need as a mother providing the nourishment for healthy growth which allows her children to explore the outside world safely. If you would like to see a typical advertisement, check it out on YouTube here. Interestingly, Nestlé has used this same insight to develop advertising for its bottled water in Asia and even pet food in the Americas too.

I hope these examples inspire you to review both your own insight process as well as how you action them. Look at what others are doing, especially in their communications and try to guess the insight behind them – this also makes a great team-building exercise. Then review whether or not it is transferrable to your own category.

Do you have some of your own insight examples to share? Then please do add a comment below. The best may be chosen to be included in my next book on Insight (>>Tweet this<<). And if you are still struggling with insight development and would like some help, then give us a call. We have a one-day training that will quickly bring your team up to speed.

C³Centricity used an image from Dreamstime in this post.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Denyse Drummond-Dunn
Denyse is the Creator of the Quantum Customer Centricity (QC2™) Model. QC2™ is the New CX for organisations that want to find atomic steps that deliver quantum results, attracting, delighting & retaining more customers. Denyse is Nestle’s former Global Head of Consumer Excellence and has >30 yrs’ experience as a Speaker, Advisor and Author. She delivers inspiring keynotes, motivational talks and actionable training. Her global business consultancy, C3Centricity, has expertise in over 125 countries! Check her website and connect to discuss if she would be a great fit for your next event.


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