Monday, May 3, 2010

Insight & the Insight pyramid

As a professional in the field of ‘Consumer Insight’ I sometimes feel rather frustrated by the lack of understanding for Insight amongst other marketing, sales and general business professionals. Few understand what ‘Insight’ is, why it is important and what it brings to the bottom line. I don’t want to dwell on the reasons why… but it may have something to do with the way universities portray insight as the very dull and non exiting topic of ‘market research’ and it may also have something to do with the ‘Insight’ industry and us Insight professionals not daring to promote Insight and its important role in strategic business development.

I’ve already made a first attempt to define the word ’Insight’. Today I’ll try to put ‘Insight’ into a context. ‘The Insight Pyramid’ is my tool that I use to give Insight meaning and further definition.

At the bottom of the pyramid comes ‘Data’ – this is the raw market data that’s available via public sources or professional data providers. Data is e.g. real sales figures, Nielsen or GFK data or other forms of market and category data that you can get your hands on. Data is the essential basics behind any form of market understanding. But bear in mind, with data you’re always looking in the rear-view mirror. Only by tracking the ‘long trend’ of data, you might be able to draw a few interesting thoughts about the future. The second tier level of the pyramid I call ‘Information’. When it comes to Information, the actual gathering exercise is a bit different. Information is gathered by listening to consumers and by seeing consumers in action. How do consumers act in the retail environment? How do consumers value different kinds of packaging material? What are consumers attitudes to frozen food? The ‘Information’ questions are always many and varied and the answers to those questions are rarely 100% simple and rational. Moreoften they are highly multi-faceted, emotionally led and incredibly thought provoking. The third tier of the ‘Insight Pyramid’ I call ‘Understanding’. Understanding is the stage that comes through thorough, hard-work analysis – by continuous search for the meaning behind the data and the information that you’ve gathered. Understanding is never a one timer, it’s rather the on-going search for what makes the consumer tick and how you should develop, refine and maximise your offer to meet consumer needs and of course, make loads of money for your business. The impact of ‘Understanding’ comes when your team has got the same or at least a very similar understanding and work towards a common goal. That’s magic! But, if ‘Understanding’ is magic – my fourth and final tier of ‘Insight’ is the real fireworks! Insight is when it all comes together. It’s when you’re really engaged with the consumer, when you can identify an insight (as per my previous definition) as consumers verbalise their needs and, when you gather those insights and actively utilise them for your innovation, brand and category programmes.

Working the insight pyramid sure isn’t easy. But as you work yourself and your team higher in the pyramid you develop a knowledge that will help you steer your category and market your way, the right way. And if you are a ‘Consumer Insight manager’ you need to preach the value of the whole pyramid to your organisation. Beware of simply ending up with the first two tiers…

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