That's Not An Insight!


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A planner's rally cry to restore the meaning of the term insight.

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That's Not An Insight!

  1. 1. “That’sNot AnInsight!”By: Katiy Woolard
  2. 2. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit this work. You may not alter, transform or build upon this work. You must attribute the work in a manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work). For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.2
  3. 3. What’s Inside Me, and Why You Care The Truth About InsightsThree Things Worth Mulling Over Sew Your Own Offerings For the Road 3
  4. 4. Me, and Why You First, let’s address the obvious— I’m 25 years old and if we need to quantify it, have been in the advertising industry for a little more than three years. I am in no way claiming to be an expert of any kind. I have, however, noticed there is a fundamental issue in how our industry defines and uses the term ‘insight.’ This is my attempt to weigh in. The word ‘insight’ has become so overused in our industry that it has begun to lose its meaning. And that’s assuming there was a strong understanding of the word to begin with. Truly defining an insight is often left up to the individual. It’s completely subjective. Therefore, strategy, creative and communication more often than not suffer. Why am I bothered by this? Why should you care? Because although the definition can be subjective, marketing plans and creative strategies hinge on how insights are defined. A lack of consistency and continuity in understanding an insight leads to confusion and weak ideas. As a relatively new account planner in the agency world, I’ve quickly come to realize that both colleagues and clients use this term to represent many different things: from ideas to facts to a go-to word with which to pepper happy hour conversations.4
  5. 5. u Care We, as advertising execs, planners, creatives and clients, work in a space where people continue to operate and function without clarity on this. It’s time to use the word insight correctly. My goal: to provide definition and value to the word. And hopefully spark interesting debate and conversation in the process. 5
  6. 6. The Truth About I The best way to understand what an insight is, is to understand what it’s not. A good first distinction is knowing when an idea is a truth versus an insight. Although a truth seems pretty straight-forward, there are still many who confuse the two: 77% of men think shaving is the most important part of their getting ready routine. Moms want to feed their children a healthy breakfast in the morning. Tampon manufacturers ‘ talk to women as if they are embarrassed by their period. While all may be true, none of the above statements provide that feeling of ‘Ah-ha!’ They’re factual but flat. They lack dimension because statements like this cannot and should not live on their own in the context of an insight. Fertile insight territory isn’t a destination but instead lies in the gap between multiple points of interest. To dig deeper, I push to locate a point of tension along the way.6
  7. 7. Insights Taking one of the truths listed previously: Tampon manufacturers ‘ talk to women as if they are embarrassed by their period.. When considering this, along with another truth—women in reality aren’t embarrassed to discuss their periods, and in fact, are tired of brands talking to them as if they are—things start to become interesting. There is a clear gap between what is reality for these women and what brands think is reality, in other words, a tension. This exact tension is what I believe is part of the insight that drove a recent tampon campaign, “U” by Kotex launched in 2010 (discussed more in-depth in the following chapter). The gist: Kotex drove healthy frank dialogue and provided education around a taboo topic— menstral cycles. Kotex went beyond truth. They got to a deeper place that enabled them to not only know what to talk about but how to talk about it in a way that surpassed marketing cliches. 7
  8. 8. Three Things Wor Insight aren’t built off templates. But there are a few constructs that can be helpful in identifying that gap — or tension — between truths. Consumer Attitude Vs. Category Perception This is a great space to play — especially when you have a brand trying to break away from relatively old and dated category conventions, or if you’re tasked with laying the foundation for brand evolution. A great example that comes to mind, building upon the previous section, is Kotex’s “U” campaign. The brand, again, identified a gap between a consumer attitude and the category perception of how consumers felt, which led to an insight and essentially a really powerful (and easily activated) brand position. INSIGHT: Women in reality aren’t embarrassed to discuss their periods, and in fact, are tired of brands talking to them as if they are.8
  9. 9. rth Mulling Over 9
  10. 10. Three Things Wor Consumer Belief Vs. Consumer Behavior Another common area that can lead to insight identification is the gap between what consumers know and what they actually do — whether they are aware of it or not. When I was in undergrad, I was given a class assignment to address the issue of teens texting while driving. After we wrapped some down-and-dirty qualitative research and secondary info-digging, we found a handful of interesting truths. The first, a statistic showing a significant amount of teens stating that texting is the most dangerous thing one could do while driving. The second, another stat revealing the high number of accidents related to teens texting while driving. Clearly despite how teens felt about this issue wasn’t keeping them from continuing this risky behavior. But recognizing this disparity alone still left us asking why. It wasn’t until we ran across something we heard in the qual, when it all came together. One of the young women explicitly said that although she knew she shouldn’t, she felt anxious not being able to read or respond to text messages she received in the car. The insight we built from here: Despite believing that texting while driving is incredibly dangerous, these teens are so addicted to their phones that they continue to put themselves at risk. INSIGHT: Reward out weighs risk. The instant satisfaction of responding to a text is much more tangible than the risk associated with the act of texting while driving.10
  11. 11. rth Mulling Over 11
  12. 12. Three Things Wor12
  13. 13. rth Mulling Over Social Norm Vs. Product Truth While the other two constructs play on existing consumer attitudes, beliefs and behaviors, this last theme is about massive change: paradigm shifts of consumer attitudes and behaviors. Mini Cooper’s “SUV Backlash” campaign launched in 2003 (the height of bigger is better). A new American market entry, the literally tiny brand took note of the ‘think big,’ SUV-loving mentality pulsing through the U.S. Obviously, a clear gap in what Mini Cooper physically and attitudinally represented and the auto-zeitgeist. Instead of riding the wave, Mini set out to change the tide. As a result, Mini reached people in a compelling enough way that ignited a shift in consumer behavior and put a stake in the ground that lead the SUV backlash. Mini took advantage of an appearing consumer landscape, from which they drew an insight that wasn’t about a solution as much as it was about creating attention. The brand sparked something inside people. This example just shows that insights are more complex than only looking at consumer behaviors and attitudes. They can come from other places, like looking at a brand and how it exists within the context of social norms. INSIGHT: The automotive world was craving an alternative culture to bigger is better. 13
  14. 14. Sew Your Own Insights take work. Gap mining. Research savvy. Change levers. They take thinking. And creativity. And persistence. And more thinking. There is a misconception that you find an insight. Again, getting hung up on semantics here, but I think it’s important to put this idea to rest. Implying someone can stumble upon an insight undermines the process that in reality goes into constructing an insight. Crafting an insight takes skill. I talked about identifying a gap between two truths, but the process isn’t quite that simple; it’s much messier. Instead of two, it’s more like a wall of post-it notes full of truths you need to sift through. Let’s go back to the teens texting while driving example from the previous section. The simplified version of the insight process boiled down to those few truths. But the full story really looked a lot more like this (see next page).14
  15. 15. 15
  16. 16. Connecting truths. Intersecting att ! Di16
  17. 17. titudes and behaviors.igging deep. Navigating the story. 17
  18. 18. Offerings For the Up to this point I’ve talked a lot about defining insights versus truths. But the different uses and outputs for both are worth discussing before we conclude. The construct below is a clear way to see the different depths of output yielded by a range of inputs: from insights to truths. The outside ring, focused solely on attitudes and behaviors, produces messaging made relevant to consumers based on the fact that it consists of existing truths (how one thinks, how one shops). However, these results lack dimension and don’t always ellicit action.18
  19. 19. RoadThe next level of input is driven by instinct; a degree ofvalidity that your best informed guess (from working on aclient for years or being deeply involved in a category) willbe relevant.Until you hit that target in the middle, the product of yourwork can be superficial, reactionary and coincidental...orworse, predictable. The insight is the bullseye that createsresonance. A resounding, heart-and-mind moving messageto ensure simple truths are converted into new behaviorsand even a new way of thinking.And bringing this all back home, to get to the inner ringtakes work. It means working through those threeconstructs: mull over consumer behaviors and attitudes,analyze the brand and what it embodies, and essentiallyhow it exists within society and culture.Make a mess of research. Fill a wall with post-its and thenstart constructing ideas and insights from there. Appreciatethe process and the challenge. Because it’s understandingthis that already can make the creative work and output thatmuch better. 19
  20. 20. Sources Kotex “U” Case Study: ViewIdea?ideaid=42 popup.jpg Mini Cooper Campaign: b3985001.htm lash-5354205/ doingforfun1.jpg20
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  22. 22. About the Author A Pocket fanatic, dog lover, must have mountains. Former Missouri native, turned Coloradan. Most likely found cruising around Louisville, CO with husband Andy on their tandem bike. Katiy currently works as an Account Planner at The Integer Group®, one of the world’s largest promotional, retail, and shopper marketing agencies, and a key member of TBWA Worldwide. Client work includes insight and strategic development for Johnson & Johnson’s LifeScan and Kel- logg’s. Katiy is also responsible for authoring and managing the production of The Checkout; a collaboration between The Integer Group® and M/A/R/C Research® detailing shopper-marketing trends. In addition to the agency life, Katiy also helps guest lecture and coach students at her alma matre—the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism. Prior to joining Integer, Katiy worked in Account Management at Barkley, in Kansas City, MO. She earned her Bacherlor’s in Journalism from the University of Missouri, and graduated from the Account Planning Bootcamp at Miami Ad School.22
  23. 23. rAbout the Author 23
  24. 24. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.You are free to copy, distribute and transmit this work. You may not alter, transform or build upon this work.You must attribute the work in a manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggeststhat they endorse you or your use of the work). For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to othersthe license terms of this work.To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to CreativeCommons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.