5 tips on developing consumer insights
January 24, 2011
This a particular rich piece by Carol Phillips President of market research firm Brand Amplitude where she provides some superb guidance on what makes a great insight…
As brand strategists and market researchers, we have a strong interest in discerning potential insights from the merely interesting. Consequently, here are some guidelines to use when considering whether a finding is ‘an insight’ worthy of building a brand effort around.
1. Insights say more about the target than about the product or service.
Few anti-drug campaigns have been more effective than Foote Cone and Belding’s National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, “Above the Influence’. This campaign is based on the insight that to be effective, a campaign needs to zero in on teen lifestyles and be based on a teen point of view. The main insight was that teens are very sensitive to influences, positive and negative, from peers and the media. The message was positioned so that teens would see influence itself as the enemy, and marijuana as one of the influences that gets in their way. This insight has very little to do with drugs and everything to do with the target.
2. Insights are more about the category than the brand.
Jenny Craig is not that different from a half dozen other complete weight loss plans. But unlike the others, this company leveraged an insight about the category driver into a $462 million business. Dieters truly want to believe that there is a diet that will succeed this time. They are hopeful and willing to believe if a plan has worked for others, it will work for them. The category driver is ‘optimism’. There are few brands quite as optimistic as Jenny Craig. The strategy was brought to life brilliantly as dieters everywhere watched Kirstie Allie, America’s favorite fat actress, shed 75 pounds and return to glamour. Being optimistic has worked so well for Jenny Craig that the company was aquired by Nestle in 2006 for five times what the investors paid in 2002 to acquire it.
Many strong brands are based on category insights. Indeed, owning the category benefit is often considered an indication of brand leadership. United Airlines for many years grew based on the idea that it alone offered friendly skies. 9-Lives thrived on the insight that it alone could satisfy the finickiest of finicky cats. More recently, Google is known as easiest, most powerful search engine and is considered FedEx as the most reliable delivery service.
3. Insights reveal more about how people want to feel than what they think.
Brands are adopted because they help customers feel better, not just because they do a better job of offering benefits they think they want. We want the brands that fit the life we want to lead. Brand strategist, David Lemley, puts it this way: “Said plainly, “I love you because of who I get to be when I am with you.” Brands built on insights about desired lifestyle are among the best loved and most successful in the world. They include Nike, Starbucks, Apple, BMW, Martha Stewart, Oprah and more.
Discovering how people want to feel is sometimes more difficult than discovering what they think. Feelings go right to our deepest needs and values. People are less likely to come right out and say they want to feel loved, secure, indulged, healthy, smart, adventurous and productive than they are to say they want products that are affordable, taste good or have a longer warranty. Find an insight based one of a dozen basic emotions and it is possible to build a brand people will love, not just buy.
4. Insights focus more on what is enduring than what is new.
Enduring brands are often built on lasting values. If your insight is likely to be gone tomorrow, chances are it is not an insight worth investing in. Carhartt is a brand that prides itself on being the antithesis of trendy. For over 100 years, it has made quality workwear for people in the farm and construction industries. Workers have come to know Carhartt as the authentic brand. During the early 90’s, its work wear was adopted by the skater and BMX subcultures. Top rap and hip-hop groups were wearing Carhartt work clothing on televised videos as well as on CD covers and in performances onstage. Carhartt clothes were even featured in the pages of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Yet, Carhartt’s marketing team resisted capitalizing on this windfall, maintaining that it was in existence to serve the needs of people who work hard for living. Staying true to its core values is what has, and will, make this brand strong.
Some brands that appear to be built on fads, are actually the antithesis. For example, Abercrombie is based on the insight that pre-teen adolescents want to wear fashions that are lasting and make them fit in, not stand out. Their clothing is a clever blend of classic styles of jeans, t-shirts and sweatshirts, with trend-following, not trend- setting, details.
5. Insights stimulate new ideas and thinking, not the same old stuff.
Real insights are not just ‘good to know’; they should challenge companies to act in new ways. Payless Shoe Source ‘discovered’ the insight that men are not simply women with big feet. Men and women mean something completely different when they say ‘casual shoe’. While both expect a casual shoe to be comfortable, something they can wear ‘everyday’, they mean something completely different in terms of styling. Men mean something brown or black that will go with everything. Women are more likely to mean something that suits a variety of occasions without being boring or ‘too sensible’. This idea lead to new ways to address the merchandise needs of men (e.g., mix fashionable with classic shoe styles) and treat them differently when they are in the store.
Conclusion: Don’t reject an insight just because it seems obvious. First ask yourself:
•Does it reveal something about the target?
•Does it relate to the category driver?
•Does it capture how consumers want to feel?
•Does it speak to an enduring value?
•Does it challenge the brand to act in new ways?