5 Ways to Know If You Have an Insight or Observation

Filed Under: Best Practices, Market Research, Reporting


Robert Relihan

For as long as the phrase “Consumer Insight” has been used, I am amazed that I still see discussions of its meaning. Don’t we all know what an “insight” is by now?

Well, maybe not. The word certainly has been overused; every observation about consumer behavior and attitudes becomes an “insight.”

And, unlike a mere finding, it has an air of inevitability, not to be questioned. Perhaps, the use of “insight” is an example of language creep –using words of greater and greater intensity to describe our actions in an attempt to endow them with more importance than they deserve. It is a bit like using wind chill factors to convince ourselves that winters are re-e-e-ally cold now.

Yet, the word is useful. Who doesn’t want to get into the head of a consumer? That’s what an insight is — an authentic vision of how consumers view themselves and connect with brands or categories.

So, here’s five ways to know you have a true insight and not a mere observation.

  1. An insight is clear and simple. One short, declarative sentence is best. If you need three sentences to explain it, you don’t have an insight. Most of all, it can’t be a multi-layered, logical construct. A syllogism is not an insight.
  2. An insight is a surprise. You may discover insights, but you can’t necessarily search for them. Insights into the consumer give us new and fresh perspectives; they are unexpected. Consequently, we are more likely to discover insights by being open and not wedded to particular methods.
  3. An insight is a game changer. If an insight is a surprise, if it gives us an unexpected vision, it must drive the development of different products and different ways of communicating them. The recognition that consumers wanted small indulgences in every category transformed the coffee shop into Starbucks.
  4. An insight is often a mash up. How can you be surprised? How can you be open to discovery? If there is one rule to developing insights (I resist calling it a method), it is that you need to combine perspectives. You might never have had that “Starbuck moment” watching people getting coffee in traditional coffee shops. But, if you also observed them in bakeries and wine bars, the light would go off…insight.
  5. An insight is not immediately translatable. We have spent most of our careers looking for “actionable results.” It is a laudable goal and, in many circumstances, it is an essential goal. What good would a taste test be without actionable findings? But, if insights are surprising, game changers, they may not have a direct immediate utility. We need to be prepared to follow the insight, to push the insight to its ultimate game-changing conclusion.
  6. Check us out at C+R and discover how we can be your partner on that journey of discovery, from insight to game-changing conclusion.

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