Recently I walked away from an inspiring consumer insights summit in Madison, Wisconsin with three important takeaways for brand insights professionals.
Discussion #1 – The True Definition of an Insight:
How many times a day do you say the word “insight”?
Have you ever paused to think about what that word means?
Cherri Prince ran a fantastic session on the 7 habits of highly insightful people and shared some of the key properties of an insight.
- Is an undiscovered, unexpected, yet strangely familiar truth that is not obvious;
- Provides a clearer understanding to a complex situation;
- May have elements of a revolution within it;
- Acts as a springboard to new thinking; and
- Reveals a deep, intimate understanding of human behavior.
Cheri went on to describe how insights are different from, and deeper than, facts. When a person is exposed to a fact they are likely to react with a dull sense of curiosity, perhaps responding with “Really? I didn’t know that”, whereas a person being exposed to an insight would likely react with a great sense of having uncovered something that was hidden right under their nose with “Yes! That’s so true!”
Discussion #2 – The 4 Stages of Evolution for Insights Teams:
How evolved is your insights team relative to other organizations?
There are different levels of sophistication that an insights team can achieve and this impacts how much influence they have within their organization.
Mario Simon from BCG offered an excellent framework in mapping out the evolutionary path of an insights team and suggested that even if you are still in the early stages of your evolution (i.e. Stage 1 or 2), there are steps you can take to evolve to the higher stages (Stage 3 or 4) and have more impact and influence within your organization.
Each Stage shows an evolution of how the insights team is perceived by their stakeholders:
- Internal Market Research Provider (Stage 1)
- Business Contributor (Stage 2)
- Strategic Insights Partner (Stage 3)
- Source of Competitive Advantage (Stage 4)
At one end of the evolutionary scale, Stage 1, the insights team is led by the organization and is reactive, tactical, and very activity focused. It conducts “research” projects based on the requests of its stakeholders and is perceived as an “internal market research provider”.
Contrast this with the other side of the spectrum, Stage 4, where the insights team now leads the organization, and is proactive, strategic, and growth focused. It delivers knowledge that accelerates short and long term brand growth and is perceived by stakeholders and the organization to be a “source of competitive advantage”.
The most interesting stat related to this framework was that only 20% of organizations feel that they are at Stage 3 or 4. That said, this has doubled from 10% of organizations that felt this way in 2009. We still have a long way to go as an industry, but we are headed in the right direction. The call to action from this discussion was finding ways to influence your own insights team evolution and ensure that it has a seat at the executive table and decision making aperture.
Discussion #3 – Marketers Must Embrace and Adapt to Transience:
How are you adapting to and dealing with the disruptive world we are in?
Kathy Sheehan from GFK discussed the “New Era of Transience” sharing several examples demonstrating just how transient our lives are and offered suggestions on how to face non-permanence.
Some of the consumer themes she touched on were the shift to short-term thinking, living in the moment, life by subscription, and the rise of micro-moments. One colleague I discussed this with, a global insights leader at a leading CPG company, suggested that this topic made her pause and re-evaluate how consumers think about the future and how this might influence her marketing communications. She suggested that for consumers, the view of the future is “no longer a year, two years, or five years, but rather tomorrow or this weekend”. One can see how applying this deeper consumer understanding can influence our innovations, communications, shopper-based design and in-store marketing.
In closing, consumers, marketers, and insights leaders are facing incredibly transient times, and permanence will only continue to shrink as we move into the future, a future measured in fleeting micro-moments. That said, times of change and disruption will unearth new opportunities for insights leaders, so it is a perfect time for us to dig deeper into our craft to proactively pave the path forward, one micro-moment at a time.
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