An insight into insights January 16, 2020

An insight into insights

One of the most commonly heard words in marketing today is “insight”. We all want one, we sift through enormous quantities of data to find one. But the term is misused so often that it has lost meaning. So what is an insight?

The best way to think of an insight is that it provides an understanding of how and why things are as they are. In a marketing context, this understanding will allow you to communicate and connect with your target audience and prompt a particular behaviour, for example, to buy your product.

While we sometimes think of finding an insight as an “a-ha!” moment, more often than not it’s “ooh, that’s interesting”. It takes, time, work, and requires a broad knowledge of your subject matter to uncover them.

5 ways to identify an insight:

1. Insights come from connecting data.

One of the most common misconceptions is that insights are interesting statistics. In fact, while this type of information can be useful, a single number will rarely provide a deep understanding. Instead, they come from piecing together multiple data points and linking them with an explanation.

2. Insights have tension.

An insight is often characterised by an unmet need, or a contradiction that isn’t immediately obvious. This provides a “problem” that your product, service, or communications can solve.

The cliché example is “mothers are time-poor”. This is a (boring and obvious) observation, but there is no tension. A bit more work and more questioning might lead to “mothers don’t have time to fulfil the traditional maternal role, but they still feel judged by traditional standards” – which is a much more interesting insight.

3. Insights are specific.

How often have you heard someone ask, “do you have any insights on [Millennials; mothers; small business owners; fast food; gamers; or whatever]?” It’s a sure sign they do not know what they want and are looking for a short-cut. It is almost impossible to find a genuine insight without some kind of context – you need a question that you want to answer.

Real insights are specific – it’s why they are so valuable, as they provide solutions to specific problems – and they can be completely different depending on the time, market, or category you are dealing with.

4. Insights can be big or small.

While advertising agencies traditionally look for a single, big insight to hang their creative idea on, in reality these are rare. Instead, finding several small insights can provide a rich and nuanced understanding.

5. Insights are everywhere.

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that insights are like unicorns and require dark arts to find. Actually, there is no magic, although it definitely takes experience and expertise to know where to look. You might need to consider quantitative and qualitative data, cultural observations, consumer psychology, and be prepared to think creatively in order to find your insight.


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