Insights play an important role in building successful brands and businesses. In the article “What is a Consumer Insight, And Why Does It Matter? (With Examples)”, I defined customer or consumer insights, provided a series of rationales for why they can be so important, and shared a few real-life examples of insights from highly successful brands. In the article “How do I know I have a business-building insight?” I share a scorecard that includes the five core dimensions of an insight.
In this article, I want to focus on how to uncover insights. Uncovering a business-building insight often requires a change in perspective on how you look at your brand, your consumers, and your business. That, in itself, is not an easy thing to do. Luckily, the ability to uncover business-building insights is also often the outcome of a systematic and rigorous process which can be divided into three distinctive steps:
- Problem definition & re-definition: As we all know, “a problem well defined is half solved” and defining your problem properly is the first step toward uncovering an insight. Professionals often skip this step, but I would argue that is it is often the most powerful source of insights. In fact, reframing your business problem often allows you to look at your assignment from a fresh perspective.
- Insight discovery: The second step, and once you’ve reframed your problem, is about going through the data and information you have with the objective of finding and uncovering insights. This step basically describes all the rocks you will want to turn over to find a relevant insight. However, because insights are always contextual, this list is meant to be a starting point to guide your initial discovery process, rather than an exhaustive list. Feel free to add your own.
- Insight harvest: Step 3 consists of using exercises and techniques that will help you convert interesting data and information into relevant insights. The exercises will encourage you to dig deeper into the human motivations underlying the data and identify potential tensions your brand can help resolve. If the data is a lemon, these tools will act as a lemon squeezer and help you extract the insights from the data.
The Aha! The Indispensable Insight Generation Toolkit”, was the inspiration for this article. This set of method cards dives much deeper into the 49 proven techniques to uncover insights. It is available in the USA on Amazon as a set of method cards and as an Amazon Kindle document outside the US.
So, let’s go through those different steps in detail.
- Problem definition & redefinition
The way you define the business problem you’re trying to solve will influence the type of solutions you’ll be able to come up with. It will also influence and guide your fact-finding process (research). In fact, each problem statement typically includes conscious or unconscious assumptions about the business and “mental fixations” or patterns for how the business works or is supposed to work. These assumptions and fixations hinder your ability to identify fresh solutions.
There are at least 8 different exercises that can help you challenge your unconscious assumptions and overcome your mental biases and fixations, and help you reframe your problem and change the lens through which you view your problem.
These exercises are:
- Assumption busting
- Re-phrasing keywords
- Challenging category conventions
- What would…do?
- The reframing matrix
- The journalistic six
- Turning barriers into opportunities
- Follow the money
Let’s use “Assumption Busting” for example:
2. Insight discovery
During the 2nd phase, the insight discovery phase, you are going through all the information you have at your disposal. In this step, you seek information that stands out, extreme contradictions, random correlations, etc. As a reminder, insights are most powerful when unexpected, causing us to reexamine standards and conventions that change how people feel and act. Our analysis of over 1200 cases of successful brand building has yielded these 37 sources of insights:
- Needs, wants, desires
- Usage context
- Life stages
- Negative perceptions
- Competitor’s Weakness
- Ideal Usage
- Lifestyle aspirations
- Standard of Excellence
- Core historic values
- Product fails
- Torture test
- Historic success factors
- Sensory experiences
- Social perceptions
- Trusted people
- Heavy users
- Category trends
- Overall trends
- Higher level emotions
- Emotional journey
- Changes through technology
- Purchase barriers
- Cognitive dissonance
- Category conventions
- Super fans
3. Insight Harvest
Insights are both an act and an outcome. The exercises in this 3rd step focus on the act and will help you probe, question, and understand the interesting facts you’ve discovered in the previous section. The exercises in this section focus on either understanding the underlying consumer motivations or identifying tensions your brand can help relieve (thus creating value).
- The laddering technique
- Resolve a tension
- Re-define your business around people’s emotions
- The persuasion wheel approach
For example, in “Resolve A Tension.”
Following this process, and experimenting with the various exercises to find out which one works best for you will significantly increase your ability to uncover a brand-building insight.
Interested in insights and how to generate them? Then the Aha! The Indispensable Insight Generation Toolkit might be for you. Available as a set of method cards in the US and as an Amazon Kindle document outside the US. Interested in training your team in the craft of insight generation via an in-person training workshop? Then, reach out to me directly.
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Interested in insights and how to generate them instead? Then the Aha! The Indispensable Insight Generation Toolkit might be for you. Available as a set of method cards in the US and as a Kindle document outside the US.
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