All inspiring marketing rests on a powerful, catalyzing insight. Most marketing misfires stem from a miscue masquerading as an insight. As the starting point for any innovation, communication or experience effort, nothing is more foundationally critical than a sound insight for staying on-target as work progresses.
If an insight is even two degrees off at the start, by the time you’re reviewing work weeks or months down the road, you’ll likely be miles off the mark. So getting the insight right from the outset is essential to developing resonant marketing and avoiding the agony of round after round of unproductive work.
As a recent case in point, we have two examples of brands that tried to take on the issue of the polarized, strident state of our social reality: Pepsi and Heineken.
With its Kendall Jenner ad, Pepsi showed the quasi-celebrity resolving social crisis by opening a can of cola.
In World’s Apart, Heineken showcased pairs of people with wildly divergent views discovering they could talk calmly and reasonably to each other.
The Pepsi work was instantly and universally panned, leading to its embarrassing and equally instant withdrawal. The Heineken work was widely viewed as thought-provoking, moving and appropriate.
While it’s easy to pick on a variety of issues with the Pepsi ad (as so many have done at this point), I believe that the difference in the success of the two efforts comes down to the difference between how well the two brands adhered to what I consider these cardinal rules of good insights.
1. No Room for Wishful Thinking
One of the worst — and most common — sins of insights is allowing wishful thinking to creep into the mix. I shudder to think how many times I’ve sat with a brand manager who showed me a positioning statement containing an insight along the lines of, “I wish there were a breakfast cereal that was healthy AND tasted good.” This is an insight pre-engineered to invite the circular brand promise, “Only Toasty-O’s are healthy AND good tasting!” You’ve got to tune your BS meter to 11, rigorously sniff out any trace of self-delusion, strategy or aspiration, and stick to reality.