Thought leadership

From insight out – how hitting on a good idea can work wonders for marketing effectiveness

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Ah those mystical creative types with their mercurial ways, fancy iPad pens and pub-based rituals. They’d like us to think that they’re the only secret ingredient in smart, effective marketing.

Now to be fair they’re pretty important, but there is another big factor. Without a focus for the creativity – a constructive constraint to operate within – ideas can quickly move off-base. An orienting principle is needed to keep things on track with objectives, bridging the gap between business rationale and the creative mind.

Enter the nebulous concept of the insight – the sort of good, strategic yet useful idea that’s difficult to fully define but bloody obvious to spot when it’s a good one. Providing a different angle on a topic or problem that steers an ad or indeed a whole brand away from the stale fodder of the humdrum and into green pastures of fresh, untrampled relevancy.

Insight out

So let’s grasp the bull in the pasture by the horns…what is an insight?

There’s a temptation to confuse insights with the production of data. Although any kind of information might inform the creation of an insight, that’s only the raw material. Understanding the numbers around why specifiers prefer a particular type of product is important groundwork – but in itself it’s not going to give you the kind of big idea you can build an effective campaign from.

A whole load of work is needed not only to process the information, but to see it in context and find new slants on it. Insights guru Anthony Tasgal has for our money the best way of summing this up:

“Information is to be collected; insight is to be connected”

This sounds like a right load of work, I hear you say. Why is it needed and why should I bother?

There's a temptation to confuse insights with a production of data

The venerable Ogilvy has a few apposite words on this…

The essence of strategy is sacrifice.” Think back to the fundamentals of a good brief – whether from client or agency. Cramming it full of ideas, no matter how good, won’t result in great work. The best communications are single minded because we’re fundamentally simple beings – any more than one message at a time and it’s in one ear and out the other.

Those impactful, single minded ideas are gained through a good insight. Through good work to not simply analyse the available information but also to find those different angles into the topic to cut through the usual blahblahblah.

What makes a good insight?

  • Is it surprising: does it make us go “that’s funny…”
  • Does it make us see things differently (re-framing in the language of Behavioural Economics)?
  • Does it make new connections from previously unrelated facts or domains?

How do you get a good insight?

  • Look for surprise (as above). If it’s not surprising, it’s probably not an insight
  • Be an Outsider: if all you ever think about is your market, your brand, your consumer, you will become imprisoned by the conventions of your market and insight cannot grow there.
  • Serendipity: open your mind to what are called External Serendipitous Influences (you’re welcome). They will fertilise insight unconsciously.
  • Feel free to be playful, look at conventions and deliberately see what happens when you break them….

So there’s no real science to insight, in fact you could argue it’s treading pretty close to how those creative types work. But without investing the time to develop that focused, orienting principle there’s a high risk the end result won’t have the desired effect.

If you’re interested in learning more, follow us on LinkedIn, follow Anthony Tasgal on Twitter or check out his new book here: