Monday, September 12, 2011

Insight – does the content always match the label?

If someone asked me today, "What is an insight?" I have to ask back first "Who wants to know?".

In my personal perception, there is no other word that has taken a faster rise on the market research hype cycle than insight.
And the faster the rise, the larger becomes the range of possible meanings.

Photo by Thea Kamilla
To the same extend differentiating power and accurate meaning of insight has suffered. Insight planning, insight management, consumer insights, strategy insight, insight-based segmentation,etc.; in German and other non-English languages these sound fantastic (they are not translated into locallanguage). That in fact might contribute to the confusion and disorientation.

For me it has always worked well to define the insight-concept, depending on the discussion partners and their backgrounds (target group-oriented approaches are known to have never hurt anyone ;-) ).
From my experience with clients from various industries, it makes sense to distinguish especially between how an insight is generated on the one hand and how it is than utilized and implemented on the other hand.

You will find alot of different definitionsof insight. However what all definitions have in common, is: An insight…
- has to be unexpected and previously unknown
- is strong enough to create change
- can be used for unique benefits and / or brand or product USPs.

The following definition is a little more related to market research: "An insight is a key piece of in-depth understanding about a target audience thatwill unlock a true business potential"

Regardless of which direction one goes or what definition one sets, it becomes clear, that for well founded insights it is necessary to think outside of the research-box.
How else would you be able to estimate insights' business-potential?  
How else would you evaluate whether an insight is unexpected or new?

Therefore we always emphasize to clearly consider all aspects of a certain project's context, such as market, competitors, former communication in the category, etc. (for more details about "insight and context" read here)

It is in the nature of insights that they need time to evolve, spontaneous moments of Heureka are very seldom. Market research here only contributes parts of the insight (the rest is strategy consulting, advertising, PR, marketing & sales, etc.). Interdisciplinary skills are needed and much appreciated.

Clearly not every research without insights is worthless – because not every research is designed to gather insights. Many market research studies remain at the level of results and answers, and that is more than okay.

But if this is the case, please avoid the word "insight", let's call it result, finding, information, … 
In order to keep things simple it is important to deal with the term "insight" in a responsible way.

Insights in general are going to be on the agenda at “The Market Research Event” in Orlando, Florida this year, which is organized by the IIR. I'm very curious about the discussion.

About the author: Christian Dössel is blogging about market research in German language here and here. After having worked for TNS, TBWA\ and other strategy and market research agencies he now holds the position of Senior Research Director at MM-Eye in Hamburg / Germany with special responsibilities for MM-Eye's new media and online research approaches.

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