Great Marketing Starts With Powerful Insights: Here Are 5 Rules to Find Them

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.

A True Marketing Insight Is Like rolling a ball when everyone else is slideing a brick.

2. Dig for Penetrating, Revealing Discoveries

Remember the actual word: in-sight. Not surface observation. A good insight delves deeply, going beyond the obvious, trite no-brainers of the category. If it leaps word-for-word off the pages of a survey, it’s probably not an insight. A good one usually involves some tension, some contradiction underlying the more visible and mundane realities. “People get frustrated waiting on lines at airports,” is not an insight. “I feel like the airline takes away my humanity,” may be.

3. Focus on Human Truths

If you limit yourself to insights around your product or service, you’re likely to end up with functionally uninspiring work. Go one concentric circle out from your category and look for human truths — this is where you’ll find more resonant, catalyzing insights that will help your marketing strike a nerve. “I wish I could get Hershey chocolate in a small, bite-sized package,” is an unengaging product insight (and a bit self-delusory). “In our busy lives, we don’t take the time to appreciate each other,” is a human insight that unlocks great brand possibilities, like Kisses’ #ShowYouCare.

4. Connect the Dots

Interesting insights usually involve the intersection of two truths. Look for nuggets in the consumer behavior, purchase patterns, broader trends, and then cross-tab those with insights about your product, your category, innovation capabilities. As you do this, dig for the emotional “why” underlying that relationship? Why are consumers doing what they’re doing? Why does this issue matter to them?

5. Stay Relevant to the Brand

The final, and most important rule is to find that powerful human truth that has a credible connection to the brand. It’s not enough to be highly resonant and achingly true — there must be a valid potential role for the brand in resolving the revealed tension. This is where Pepsi went particularly wrong. Somewhere an “insight” presumed that Pepsi could unlock the goodness and oneness in people, and thereby catalyze a revolution of harmony — and that’s just a bridge too far. Heineken nailed the more appropriate aspiration for their brand in the midst of social tension — to sit down and have a chat over a beer.

Next time you’re on round six of work from the agency and you’re pulling your hair out wondering why they just don’t get it, take a pause before you get medieval on your account exec. Take a look at the insight sitting way back in the brief. Stare at it with harsh, skeptical eyes. There’s a better than even chance that you’re experiencing referred pain from an insight that isn’t one.

Author: Peter Horst

Marketing has never had a greater impact on the business, and at the same time it’s never been more complex and challenging. The CMO Viewwill dive into the wide-ranging issues faced by CMOs as they navigate digital transformation, connected consumers, disruptive competitors and the need to justify their marketing investment.

Peter Horst is a Fortune 500 CMO and innovation leader who has spent three decades driving growth across diverse industries, ranging from consumer packaged goods to telecom, cybersecurity to financial services.  His experience includes leadership roles at Hershey, where he was most recently CMO, Capital One, TD Ameritrade, and General Mills. Peter has been part of creating and building some of the world’s most iconic brands through breakthrough innovation and award-wining marketing campaigns.  Awards and recognition include Cannes Lion, CMO Club Marketing Innovator Award, being named a Forbes Top 50 Most Influential Global CMO, and #22 of the top 500 global CMOs by Execrank.  Peter now speaks, writes and consults on marketing, innovation and leadership, and is a frequent contributor to CMO.com and other publications. Follow Peter at @peterhorst.

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