That's not an Insight

You’re Kidding, that’s not an Insight: Part I

When I meet clients who want to create a global team, or are experiencing challenges over the effectiveness of the global team there is a key action theme that is raised. Develop insights.

It is almost axiomatic with the creation of a global team that the local markets expect that the global team will deliver to them meaningful insights into the category which will help them drive their business.

As I covered in previous posts, I agree: Delivering on insights is one of the four key deliverables that I believe local markets want, and global teams should deliver, but there’s a problem. We all know how critical it is to develop our business and work around compelling consumer insights. It is accepted that it is essential that major marketing and management decisions should have good insights as their foundation. However, all too often what is provided by the global team and what passes for an insight is nothing more than soft platitudes that are essentially useless to the operational teams asked to work with them.

This is a massive cause of frustration for the local teams and can destroy the credibility of the global team. Poor quality insights result in parity performing new product development and the failure to create compelling, behavior changing creative or communication briefs. Pretty disastrous as far as ROI is concerned.

In this two part post I will first look at why I think it is that insight development has become such a hot topic and key deliverable for global markets. In the second post I present a roadmap for the creation of relevant, meaningful and competitive insight generation.

Why have insights become so important?

Call me a cynic, but I believe one reason why local markets ask the global team to come up with insights is because they know how difficult they are to find.

Here’s the scenario: Local marketers don’t want the global team interfering in their market, so they agree to the global team having responsibility to understand global category dynamics and come up with insights that will be game changers for the business. It follows then that the global team can be responsible for global product development and global campaigns.

It’s not a job they were doing themselves anyway. Add to that, the fact they are placing on this team the responsibility for one of the most challenging roles in marketing: That should keep them out of the way for a while.

If the global team comes up with something, the local markets take it and use it to their advantage, if not the standard response would be: “We never saw the value of the global team in the first place”

This means that there is a high degree of risk for the global team even before they start their work, compounded because too few marketers have actually been exposed to truly compelling insights in their careers or been responsible for their identification and development.

This leads to one of the other key reason that I believe insights have increased in importance for all marketers. With greater global competition local marketers are feeling the pinch and see the need for something that will deliver competitive advantage to them in their markets. They know insights can deliver this, but don’t have the skill set to identify these insights.

Due to my role, I have the privilege of focusing only on strategic marketing challenges every single day and gaining experience from multiple categories and industries in the process. There are a large number of marketers who have never been involved in insight development in their whole career. 

The result: inexperienced marketers don’t always see how poor the insights are that they are using or the weaknesses in the insights they are developing. Even experienced marketers create ‘insight statements’ that often deliver nothing more than accepted consumer beliefs, describe a need or simply repeat a well-known fact.

Now it’s true, once upon a time, the insight on which an accepted consumer belief is founded might well have been a true insight, but over time, what happens is that the insight gets repeated, rephrased and tweaked so many times that it enters the consciousness of the consumer target group and loses its impact.  It’s like saying that “I know that I should give up smoking. With the restrictions on smoking in public places I feel like a social outcast” is a valid insight. It’s not, that’s an accepted consumer belief.

Likewise, facts are interesting, but it’s simply not an insight to say “42% of all mothers know that children should eat 5 portions of fruit & vegetables a day”.  Excellent, what can I do with that at a local level?

Nor is expressing a consumer need a valid insight. If the best you can come up with is “I need to lose weight because carrying all this extra weight is bad for my health”, it will not be surprising if your marketing investments fail to deliver their planned or projected ROI.

Simply put, I do not think enough marketers have been sufficiently well educated in the discipline of developing ‘insights’ and as a result are prepared to accept something less.

Secondly, most global marketers are not provided with the inputs from the local markets that might help them discover real insights. Yes, they can read the market research and all the other available reports, but it is local market knowledge that holds the triggers to driving consumers to change their behavior.

Local marketers by definition are closer to the market and its drivers – and the global team needs to tap into this if they are going to be successful in identifying compelling insights applicable on a global basis.

So it’s Catch22. Local marketers want insights, but cannot really identify them and do not volunteer the inputs to empower their creation. Global marketers want to provide them, but lack the experience and skill set which offers only mediocrity.

Both agree that they are an essential element for the success of their business.

In my next post I will present a methodology to create the sort of insights that I believe marketers deserve and give some excellent examples of insights at work.

Is this a scenario that resonates with you? How strong are the insights driving your brand?

I look forward to your comments and input.

Richard Kohn