Insights: Easy to Define; Harder to Capture

Image courtesy of MMC

As director of Insights and Strategy at MMC, I’m frequently asked for the definition of an Insight and I have a standard answer: “An insight is a deep understanding of your target’s beliefs, attitudes and behaviors with regard to a given challenge – and more importantly the ‘why’ behind those beliefs, attitudes and behaviors – which will lead to an actionable strategy and a Big Idea.”  Every PR and Marketing agency has some variation of that definition that drives their planning.  But the bigger and more elusive question is, “How do you find that insight and how do you know when you’ve hit just the right one?”

So it was with great anticipation that I tuned into the Webinar, “Do the I’s Have It?:  Are Insights and Ideas the Holy Grail for Achieving Impact as Communicators?” co-hosted by our sister agency Ketchum and The Holmes Report.  The panel included an impressive array of strategists, planners and creative directors; as well as two CMOs from megabrands ConAgra and IKEA.  Among the panelists was Susan Bean, EVP of MMC’s Creative Catalyst Group.

While there was a relative consensus on defining what an insight was, there were various – and dare I say, insightful – viewpoints about where great insights come from and the best methodology for discovering them.  It begins with instilling a “culture of curiosity” that encourages people to listen to and understand the world around them.  Taking the time to probe and dig deeper to get to the heart of what makes people tick.  And while research is a cornerstone of getting to an insight, what’s more important is what you take away from the research and how you apply your own life experience to it. 

The panelists pointed out that when we ask consumers what they want, they don’t always tell us; instead relating what they think we want to hear.  So sometimes we need to go beyond just listening to consumers and actually observe their behavior.  Great insights may lie in an uncomfortable truth that consumers don’t want to admit.

The panel shared examples of big ideas that evolved from powerful insights, including MMC’s work for Procter & Gamble’s Olympic sponsorship last summer.  P&G’s challenge was making an authentic connection between the Olympic Games and its products, aimed mostly at moms with no obvious sports tie-in.  The connecting insight was based on research showing that moms identified with the moms of athletes who were there from the beginning, supporting their children as they trained for the Games.  P&G became the “Proud Sponsor of Moms” at the Olympic Games, thanking not just the moms of Olympians but moms all around the world who have given so much to raise their kids. MMC was the executive producer for 60 “Momumentaries,” short, documentary style videos that chronicled the journey to becoming a world-class athlete as seen through the eyes of their moms, which were viewed 27 million times around the world.

Susan summed up her observations on insights with a quote from a recent speech by Marc Pritchard, Global Brand Building Officer at Procter & Gamble:  “Insight without creativity to bring it to life is just boring…but in our business creativity without insight…is worthless.”   I think I’m going to put that quote up on a board at my next Insights session.