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Where do marketing insights come from?

October 26, 2010

I’ve known some people in this business who pull insights out of their (ass) day-to-day lives. They go to the location of the client and listen to people talk about the brand. Or they read the same newspaper as the target market.

In the movie “What Woman Want”, Mel Gibson the creative guy dresses up like a woman to get insights into what women want.

Since it’s a movie, I’ll go easy. But insights based on this personal interaction aren’t really much different from a client who says “this needs to read in a way that my mother would like it.”

Both are experiential on a personal level, but neither is truly close to what the target market wants.

I remember sitting in the offices of a huge multinational ad agency in the mid 90’s. I worked at the Toronto office, and every morning that he was there, I talked with a guy who had the title “Chief Insights Officer”.

I loved it.

One morning, he told me about why people buy SUV‘s. They don’t buy them to drive off-road. Indeed, many of us have watched an SUV owner drive around a tiny pot hole. They buy SUV’s ‘in case they need to go off-road”, he told me.

This was a cool insight.

With the price people were paying for SUV’s back then, it was obvious that they didn’t want to wreck their investment by taking them off-road, but they wanted to take them off-road. From that insight, the agency created a weekend getaway for an SUV current customers. The getaway included the ability to take an SUV off-road. Not their SUV, but one just like it.

It sold out in a few days. The client was thrilled.

Smart work comes from smart insights. This one came from him, and it was his job to have them. So when he briefed the team, the insight informed a decently easy promotion that fit into what we knew, so it was easy to sell.

I tell you all this for two reasons:

1. I’m part of a new department at EMA called Insight. We don’t have a Chief Insight Officer, but we do have a team of people who will go after the elusive insights. (My role will be the social media listening/fly on the social wall gatherer of data that leads to an insight, dude. Try sticking that on a business card).

2. This blog is 3-years-old today. And this blog has given me countless insights in the way people interact with my content. It’s taught me about thinking, planning, and writing. And it has informed my career path.

There isn’t anything you can get a blog when it turns 3. So I’ll just say thanks.

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