8 Immutable Truths About Insights!

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 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 a 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).

I recently launched the ‘Aha! The Indispensable Insight Generation toolkit” a set of 49 methods cards designed to help you mine, uncover and identify business, brand and communication insights. The cards are divided into 3 sections, each representing a path to insights:

  • 8 “Problem Definition” method cards to help you reframe your stated business problem, look at it from various perspectives and help you challenge the inherent assumptions built into every problem statement. Defining your business problem correctly is usually the first step toward uncovering a powerful insight and will help guide your fact-finding process.
  • 37 “Insight Discovery” cards, which will point you to 37 proven sources of insights and thus accelerate your insight mining process. This section is like a roadmap to insights.
  • 4 “Insight Harvest” method cards that will help you convert interesting data and information into insights. These proven exercises will encourage you to dig deeper into the human motivations underlying the data as well as identify potential tensions your brand can help resolve. If there is an insight in your data, these exercises will help you uncover it.

The cards are available on Amazon (4.5 stars reviews).