Magazine article Marketing

Helen Edwards on Branding: No Clear Line of Insight

Magazine article Marketing

Helen Edwards on Branding: No Clear Line of Insight

Article excerpt

Marketers should view with some scepticism the 'insights' presented to them by research agencies.

Consider the following phrases: 'When your clothes look good, you feel good'; 'I prefer my kids to eat healthy snacks when they get hungry between meals'; and 'The good thing about flying is the way it brings families and people together'.

If you said any of these things in conversation, you would know you were making the kind of routine observation that tends to get heads nodding They would be platitudes; comfortable, uncontentious thoughts that oil the wheels of social interaction.

If, on the other hand, any of these statements were played back to you by a market research firm, after months of engagement with consumers, they would be packaged with much greater significance and dignified by a much loftier term. They would be insights.

Research agencies used to be content with diligently providing 'findings'. Useful, occasionally revealing, always grounding reports of what consumers were thinking, or how they were actually using products and services.

Marketing teams, combining data from different research episodes, would parlay these findings into 'learnings' - general principles to guide marketing and communications decisions.

However, it seems that this is no longer enough. Virtually every research agency talks about insight generation. One or two have even stretched the noun into a verb to describe their core activity as 'insighting'.

What they don't do, in the main, is define what an insight is, or how it differs from an observation or finding. So full marks to GfK, which, while admitting a definition is far from easy, has at least had a go: 'Insight is a breakthrough of understanding with the potential to drive change.'

You can understand the desire of research companies to add gloss to what they do. Why merely probe, research or reveal when you can 'insight'? Why charge for mundane findings when you can add value through something far more precious?

For marketers, though, the trend is disquieting in two connected ways. First, most of the claimed insights are nothing of the kind. I have seen all three of the platitudes quoted at the start of this piece presented as insights, with the 'feel good' one appearing in several versions across various categories: 'When your hair/skin/make-up looks good, you feel good.'

These are simply findings or observations. …

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