Consumer insights are little secrets hidden beneath the surface, which explain the underlying behaviors, motivations, pain points, and emotions of your consumers. Your consumers may not even be able to explain the insight until you play it back to them. You want consumers to say, “Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel.” Brands must think of consumer insights as a potential competitive advantage, equal in importance to intellectual property.
As a brand leader, it is not about perfecting the consumer insight, but challenging yourself to always be on the lookout for insights, so you read, listen, observe, feel and summarize the little secrets you find out about consumers. Hopefully, you will have people around you who can perfect the insights. The hunt for insights is as important as the find as it puts you into a consumer centric mindset.
How to find smart ownable insights that will engage and move consumers
Go deep to understand and explain trends lying beneath the data. Think like a therapist: Listen, observe, collect, challenge, and carefully draw conclusions you can play back to the consumer for assurance. Use the voice of the consumer, social media, to listen and use our emotional cheat sheet to draw conclusions.
Hunt through the data to draw hypothetical insights. The dictionary definition of the word insight is “seeing below the surface.” Sort through every data point, including market share information, panel data, testing and tracking results, brand funnel, customer sales, etc. With each data point, keep digging until you see a data break that needs explaining. Ask yourself, “So what does that mean for the consumer?” over and over until you see the “Why it matters” come to life and explain the cause of the consumer’s behavior.
Make sure it fits with your consumer’s life. Try to map out a day-in-the-life, weekly life or even the life stages your consumers goes through to understand their insights and pain points. Take a holistic view of the consumer, to ensure you figure out where your brand fits in with their life. Ask questions that force you to go deeper, avoiding clichés that keep you stuck at the surface level and stop you from getting to the sincere, rich, and meaningful consumer insights.
Find something that is an inspiring connection to engage and move consumers. We need to find that magic secret, going deep below to show the consumer we get them. Insights enable brands to connect with their consumers on a deeper emotional level, showing ‘we get you.’
When you do it right, smart consumer insights get consumers to stop and listen to your brand’s promise or brand story, engage in the latest innovation and believe the consumer experiences fits perfect with their life.
Our 360-degree mining for consumer insights
Building a complete picture of your consumer by looking at multiple sources is an excellent methodology to find consumer insights. Start with market data, and then add your observations, the voice of the consumer, emotional need states, and life moments:
- What we can read: Use available data such as market share results, tracking studies, or category trends. Look for underlying explanations of the data breaks, drivers, inhibitors, as well as new trends among consumers, channels, and competitors. Tell the story beneath the data.
- What we see: Use observations of consumer reactions, coming from focus groups, product tests, advertising testing, and direct consumer engagements to add to the insights. Watch how consumers respond.
- What we sense: Listen to the voice of the consumer (VOC), assessing consumer comments on social media, brand reviews, and market research. Listen for specific word choices, tone, and phrases the consumer’s use.
- What we feel: Use observations and listening to match the emotional need states with how the use of your brand makes them feel.
- Day-in-the-life moments: Map out the consumer’s life with explanations of underlying behaviors, motivations, pain points, and emotions at any moment of the day or week. Conclude how parts of their life could impact their path to purchase.
Once you have completed all five areas of the 360-degree mining process, get in the consumer’s shoes, observe, listen, and understand how they think, act, feel, and behave. Be empathetic to their fears, motivations, frustrations, and desires. Learn their language and use their voice. Learn the secrets that only they know, even if they cannot explain. Insights are a great way to demonstrate “We know you” because the number one reason consumers buy a brand simply that “It is a brand for me.”
Case study: Consumer insights for quitting smoking
When I worked in the quit-smoking categories, I used the 360-degree mining for consumer insights. I have never smoked in my life, so all of this was new and forced me to listen, observe, and go deeper
- The starting data point was, “Studies show smokers will try to quit cold-turkey over seven times before reaching for a smoking aid to help them quit.” It speaks to how hard it is to quit, and how many times it takes to achieve success. Regarding smoking aids, it shows how the product is the last resort.
- Adding observations from focus groups, I could see how smokers become very agitated. We held two-hour focus groups and talked non-stop about what could get them to quit smoking. In the first hour, they were polite, but after one hour without a cigarette, I could see their agitation grow to a boiling point.
- When I listened further, I heard them say, “I feel guilty I can’t quit” or “I know I should quit” or “Whenever I quit, I feel I’m not myself. I get so irritable that I give up” or “I wish smoking wasn’t so bad for you because quitting smoking sucks.” These are some of the underlying feelings coming out, expressed in their words.
- Using the emotional need states, I gravitated to the consumer’s lack of optimism or confidence to quit, how smokers feel out of control whenever they try to quit, and how they feel not themselves.
- Observing how quitting smoking fits into their lives, I could see how they take their misery from trying to quit out on those around them. They linked the moment of quitting smoking with their “worst version of themselves coming out” and talked about “the monster.” Some said their spouse or friends had told them they would prefer they keep smoking rather than having to deal with this terrible version of themselves.
Consumer insight (connection point):
“I know I should quit. I’ve tried to quit smoking so many times, it’s ridiculous. I’m not myself. I’m grouchy, irritable, and feel out of control. Quitting smoking sucks!” When I shared this secret back with smokers who want to quit, they say, “Yup, that’s exactly how I feel.”
Consumer enemy (pain point):
“I fear quitting smoking will bring out the monster in me, turning me into the worst version of myself.”
How those consumer insights play out for Nicoderm
Based on those consumer insights for quitting smoking, this is a TV ad we made when I was at Johnson and Johnson. This spot was one of the highest tested spots for Ipsos consumer testing, and it won J&J’s award for best global ad back in 2009. See how we bring that “I become the worst version of myself” consumer insight to life in the TV ad.
Nicoderm Flight Attendant TV Ad
Consumer insights should show up everywhere on the brand
Consumer insights help you connect with what’s going on with your consumer. You should use consumer insights on every new product innovation concept or every creative brief. Use them with your sales teams to help them sell or service delivery teams to help them deliver exceptional consumer experiences. .
Read how your consumer insights work can help set up your brand positioning statement
This type of thinking can be found in our Beloved Brands and B2B Brands playbooks
Learn to think, define, plan, execute and analyze your brand
- You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies.
- To define the brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a consumer profile and a consumer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We explore the step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept.
- For brand plans, I provide formats for a long-range brand strategy roadmap and the annual brand plan with definitions for each planning element. From there, I show how to build a brand execution plan that includes the creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans.
- To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around creative advertising and media choices.
- When it comes time for the analytics, I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.