Monday, July 9, 2012

Consumer Insight – the Key to Unlocking Growth


If a single consumer insight were able to create a $10 million business, wouldn’t every company be focusing on finding an insight? I am puzzled by this. As a commercial marketer (not a researcher) I have witnessed insights shape brands, campaigns and product development ideas, driving businesses to gain significant market share and disrupt categories. Yet uncovering insights, if considered at all, ends up a research exercise, managed at junior levels in the organization, serving to fill out this year’s marketing strategy templates.

A consumer insight is the hidden need – the central value or belief that drives consumption and motivates purchase. It is usually a short statement summing up the consumer experience (always written from the consumer’s point of view in plain language).

Hidden – because people rarely tell you what they struggle with and rarely in a way that can be used to build solutions that serve them. Difficult – because we mistake behavioral observations, reactions to product features and quantitative survey results, as insights.

A very few innovators (e.g. Steve Jobs), stopped seeking insights from consumers. They knew the process often yielded unreliable and overly logical advice due to consumers’ inability to articulate their real needs – especially around new technology and its intersection with their lifestyle. Anyway, it’s hard to inform a company what product idea will be “unexpected”. These innovators relied on their personal mastery of technology to create the future and held all product execution to their singular standard of perfection.

But for most of us (mere mortals), we must uncover the need and insight by observation and discussion with the consumer. We must observe intently, empathetically, live with them in their world, and even ask them to imagine and dream.

Some companies lack the skill, knowledge and process to uncover the insight, or lack discipline to hold every internal process up to its high bar of truth. Other companies face the pressure to hit tactical project improvements, providing lip-service only to the task (like renaming Market Research as Consumer Insights).

The consumer insight is the nugget of gold, the consumer mind is the treasure chest – but neither rigor of process nor size of research investment can be a guaranteed key to unlock the door.  More often, it is the dedication, perseverance and desire to know the consumer better than anyone else that leads to the valuable insight.

1 comment:

Craig said...

Great post. For us 'mortals' consumer insights are extremely important, often helping businesses to find and improve on weak links within the business.