Sunday, July 26, 2009

Insights on Insights

What are Insights, how to find them – and what makes them good.

Recently I have just stumbled across a study with the word in its title. And sometimes publicly available research studies can be quite insightful – eg. The Visa study on European consumer Insights - with learnings like „Germans feel more guilty of not brushing their teeth than having an affair.“

Insight – a completely overused word in communication, especially in planning, especially with the prefix „consumer“. I have used the term „insight“ often, but - but just recently was forced to think on a more academic level about it. This got me thinking on insights and what is behind them. And I decided to pull together all the insights I have on insights.

What is an insight anyway – the pure definition already hints that it is about understanding. And might have something to do with psychology and needs a bit of depth.

Generally and foremost, an insight gives you a thorough understanding of a brand, people or anything that is connected to your project. And nothing more. Insights are just a collection of findings – and now you have to go and search for the ones that offer more than just a bland piece of information.

Some basic rules on insights that I find true:

1. A good insight can come from anywhere. Not just focus groups.

2. Insight can be from a people perspective on their usage. But does not have to be. Insights need a context, they are often connected to people. And their view on a brand, category or else.

(Simon Law via the planning lab)

3. A good insight is a revelation. a view from a perspective that pulls stuff together. Not just a plain observation (e.g. „I drink water as it is healthier than other beverages“ „Coke should be consumed ice cold.“)

4. A good insight needs tension. It touches the „achille’s heel“ of an issue. A psychological dilemma. Something where a product or brand can help and play a relevant role.

5. A good insight is not always a new insight. A fresh usage of a known insight is sufficient to make it work.

6. Good communication can be based on insights. But does not have to be. (See a lot of examples from Cannes.)

7. And vice versa: a good insight does not necessarily make good communication. But can. (See below.)

Reverse engineering: Have a look at creative examples and hunt for the insights behind them.
At last some examples of TVCs that are good examples on how communication uses insights. No matter if they are consumer, cultural or brand insight. These few examples give you an idea on what can be done with a good insight. And some you might recognize as very common insights. In order to do so just watch television, search on YouTube. And if you need further hints, stuff like the apg UK planning awards. I did just that and hope I got it right.

a. Coke side of Life
Nice view that insights can come from the brand itself - as Coke has always played this role globally that it depicts in this campaign.

b. Rolo - Think twice
This is a classic example - with the insight of Rolo being "too good to share" - this is a very common insight that has been used over and over for snacks and sweet treats. I am not even sure if this is the first spot that used it. But at least a very fun one.

c. Marmite - love it or hate it
A good consumer insight on how specific foods can be very polarizing, and anyone who has tried Marmite and talked to others about it will know about this.

d. Burger King – Manthem
Crispin Porter Bogusky claims this to be a cultural insight on how men are fed up with “metrosexual” foods. Nevertheless I think it taps into a general insight about men and food and how they just love meat.

e. Dove – Real Beauty
An insight on women wanting great skin but not the overly perfect beauty images that come with the ads. All Dove communication reflects that from different angles. From "real curves", "evolution" to "true colours".

f. Nike Women - Tell me I am not an athlete.
The ad identifies dance as the area where testosterone fuelled Nike brand can connect with women. And uses the insight that women are fed up with men's view on dance as they do not recognize dancing as truly athletic.

g. Honda - Hate something, change something
As said, insights don't just come from focus groups. But through engaging with the brand and the people behind it as well. Wieden & Kennedy did some thorough interviews with the engineers and found a lot on their perspective on diesel engines and how they are aiming at changing the complete view on diesel.

Everything interesting has already been said by others.
As a matter of fact I found that most of my initial thoughts on this subject have been put together by others, not necessarily smarter but potentially faster people. There is lot of good stuff out there on the definition of insights, on finding and using them. Take a peek.

E.g. learn from Simon Law here - I absolutely share not only his views on insights but admire the way he putt his together in an educative, but entertaining way (some insight on what makes a good planner).

See the comments here on PINK AIR – in general a nice blog, but I most like the comments on insights - e.g. for the Jon Steel quote on passive observations vs. Active insights. Very nice thought.

The article "why is a good insight like a refrigerator" by WPPs Jeremy Bullmore offers further input on the topic - read it, it is a classic already.

Russel Davies has a more critical view on research and insight – check it out and see what you can make out of it for yourself. This post has a nice description on how e.g. creative companies such as Crispin Porter Bogusky gain insights – via cultural ethnography (even those tools are the same stuff we keep using for plain qualitative research - and I assume that they just all their planners by a different name)

Claudiu Florea from "Sparking Curious Mind" has one of the best definitions of what an insight is: "Ah, insights, everybody these days talks about insights. A consumer insight is like God - present everywhere but not seen, felt or easily understood. Verbatim judgements, linearly-observed consumer behaviour, or simply aphorisms for life are often passed off as insights. However, to get insights, you need deeper thinking. An insight is what connects the advertising idea to brand attributes via consumer life."(This quote I actually stole from a R.Davies Blog-comment by the hidden persuader)