Consumer insights are little secrets hidden beneath the surface, which explain the underlying behaviors, motivations, pain points, and emotions of your consumers. You must look beneath the data to add context and understanding to show your target that you get them.
Your consumers may not even be able to explain the insight until you play it back to them. And when they say, “Yeah, that is exactly how I feel.” Brands should think of consumer insights as a potential competitive advantage, equal in importance to intellectual property.
Use observations to add context and understanding
Avoid relying too heavily on facts and data alone without any context or story. Too many marketers think that data, trends, and facts are insights. Here’s a data point: “People in Brazil brush their teeth four times per day, compared to 1.7 times per day for North Americans.” Do you think that is an insight? Some people do. But when you think of how little you know about this data point, you realize you need to go deeper into the context to gain an understanding.
You must start to ask more questions, by asking who, what, when, where, or asking how and even why, that’s when we begin to turn the fact into an insight.
Stereotypes and clichés are dangerous
I once heard someone say, “Women over 50 are stuck in their ways, and not willing to change their routines.” That is not a valid statement for many categories. Here are two examples of women over 50 making dramatic changes: a) Women take 8x more vitamins at 55, compared to 50 and b) The fastest growth for the Apple brand has been women over 50. Be careful you don’t stereotype; especially when you are not in the target market, you are going after.
Common knowledge offers no competitive advantage. I hear insights all the time that are not unique secrets. For instance, “Golfers wish there was a way they could hit the ball longer and straighter” offers no competitive advantage. Everyone in the golf industry knows this. Dig deeper.
Watch out that you don’t use insights just related to your product rather than about the consumer’s LIFE! Too many marketers use insights like, “Whenever I get hungry, I love eating my Gray’s chicken nuggets.” This type of statement is too blatant to be an insight, yet people put stuff like this all the time.
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.’
The 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 the way consumers respond.
- What we sense: Listen to the voice of consumer (VOC), assessing consumer comments on social media, brand reviews, or through market research. Listen for specific word choices or 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. Draw conclusions on 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
Bringing the insights to life
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.
Mapping out the Consumer insights
- 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 to write meaningful consumer insights
Force yourself to get in the shoes of your consumer and use their voice. Every consumer insight should start with the word “I” to get into the shoes of your consumer, and you should put the insight in quotes to use their voice. Here are some examples of good and bad consumer insights:
Do you know your consumer better than your competition knows your consumer?
Brands should think of consumer insights like you do intellectual property. Your knowledge of your consumer is a competitive advantage. The deeper the love a brand can build with your most cherished consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand will be, going far beyond what the product alone could ever deliver. There is only one source of revenue. Not the products you sell, but the consumers who buy them.
Consumer insights must show up at every consumer touchpoint
Knowing the secrets of your consumers can be a potent asset for your brand. The best brand communication should be like whispering an inside-joke that only you and your friend get. When the consumer insight connects, it makes consumers stop and say, “Hmmm. That’s exactly how I feel. I thought I was the only one who felt like that.” When portrayed with the brand’s message, whether through packaging, advertising or at the purchase moment, the consumer will think the brand is made just for them.
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