Why learning to find insights is the greatest skill to master

Intuition is a gift, insight is earned. Insight actually is like Stephen Hawking’s Theory of Everything, everyone has a copy in their library, talk about it like a seasoned veteran but only a handful have actually read it. The paucity of it though makes most creatives, campaigns and strategies feel inorganic and lack sustainability. And contrary to popular belief you don’t need it only during the vetting of your big breakthrough business idea, you should have it war ready during each little stage of your brand’s growth. Insight demands unlearning as much as learning, for only in humility a leader can see the bigger picture… the diamond in the glass house.


Stage 1: Product development

Bill Gates launched the tablet PC in 2000, a decade before Jobs gave the market his iPad in 2010. In the world of technology, it was a whole generation before, yet it failed. Why? The team at Microsoft was busy making a weight friendly version of the laptop overlooking the brand new category possibility it was. They used the same operating system & look and feel, marketed it as a portable replacement for heavy office work and priced it steeper than the average laptop. Apple found the simple insight that this should be marketed to regular consumers who will use it as ‘another’ device at home, subway or commute to work. It hence developed a fast OS (Operating System) for average usage and didn’t market to people as a replacement to the work laptop nor valued it at even half of its regular Macbook cost. In retrospect, when you look at it you would concur noone wants to take their work home or on vacations. Imagine yourself going home from the office in a metro at 9 pm. Would you personally like reading that new Stephen King novel on your personal tablet or the work laptop with two gigabytes of work files and three software that you use for accounting and designing? It is not that you can’t read it on the latter but the former feels more relaxed, your me time of sorts. This need you never knew you desired was intelligently created by Apple.


The Lesson: When you’re working on your product, no matter how well funded, always find that natural need over forced positioning.


Stage 2: Pulse of changing trends

Take another example by Apple where demand is not created but by understanding the insightful wave of people’s behavior brands can adapt their products to greater relevance and profitability. First a question: Who invented the selfie camera? Nope not Apple, Microsoft or Google. Remember the good old days of Sony Ericsson? World’s first front facing 0.3 MP camera was introduced by Ericsson Z1010 in 2003. More importantly, it was done for taking business video calls. It was not until 2010 that the iPhone 4 would come with its first front camera and would soon start having a dedicated folder in the gallery for “Selfies”. A trend that a year before had already put global teenagers in a frenzy to click their own face closeups. They just realised the superlative potential of this insight before anyone else (Vivo and Oppo, looking at you).


McDonald’s famously delivers what its audiences demand by tweaking the menu across continents. McAloo Tikki in India, McLobster in Canada to McKroket in Netherlands. Coca Cola found the palpitating need of the youth to look leaner as early as 2005 and launched Coke Zero in masculine black as silver grey Diet Coke was considered a little too feminine by some. Pepsi Black joined the party just three years ago in 2017 when sugar free soda was a necessity not a strategy.


The Lesson: As a new industry entrant, you can never be too nimble and dynamic with audience research who keep evolving every quarter. Always look for the next big trend even while riding the present one.


Stage 3: Campaign Planning

The most beautiful thing about insight is its almost spiritual ability to bring absolute clarity in a moment. Dove’s now iconic Real Beauty campaign was based on the research that women globally find the glamorous standards of supermodel beauty to be both unattainable and intimidating. 3200 women were researched in 10 countries concluding that only 2% women find themselves beautiful and hence the seed of loving yourself precisely the way you are was born. Old Spice’s The Man Your Man Could Smell Like came from the research that 60% of body wash purchases for men are made through what the woman of the house prefers and Coca Cola’s Cannes Lions winning relaunch campaign Thanda Matlab Coca Cola in India with actor Aamir Khan was shaped completely by the insight - culturally rural Indian households ask for ‘thanda’ (cold) from the shopkeepers with zero incline towards any brand name. They owned the only word universally used to primarily ‘quench thirst’ and even launched a mini bottle that can come at the cost of regular Indian household drinks like lassi (yogurt and sugar blend) and chilled lemon water. Insight needs surgical precision to work best. Thanda matlab Coca Cola couldn’t have garnered half the revenue increase in urban India and if L'Oréal tried to target men with The Woman Your Woman Could Be campaign to cajole them in pushing their partner’s makeup purchase, it wouldn’t have worked in a world where women are very selective in buying their own beauty and hygiene products through personal research, experience and recommendations.


The Lesson: Advertisement isn’t about aesthetics or awards. Especially as an entrepreneur do know, in the end it is an expensive business decision and hence should be fueled with fool proof insight and not another witty idea. In a world of a million Instagram campaigns a week, you need longevity in your campaign recall, not a weekend trend.


Stage 4: Customer Interaction

There are two global arguments for customer handling - Customer knows best or that they are Jon Snow. The average audience though mostly dances in the middle somewhere and it is the job of insight to deliver what sometimes they didn’t know they wanted either. Today, can you imagine an ecommerce platform without a wishlist, be it for a Black Friday sale or upcoming birthday of a friend? Amazon, after thorough data mining of their customer surveys and feedback, introduced wishlists as early as 2002 initially as a way to let your loved ones know what kind of gifts you desire. Facebook within two weeks had tweaked the About Us section of all business pages and prompted the Admins to update temporary service changes because of Covid19 - The business is now takeaway only or temporarily closed etc. Even Uber had started their connect feature which allows users to send things like books and gifts to their loved ones during these times of necessary social distancing. Both purely insight driven product tweak, what every user needed but hadn’t articulated as yet to either giants. That’s what insight allows, being a step ahead to pleasantly surprise your audience while others duplicate your initiative after it becomes a norm. One of the most useful customer interaction driven USP recently, was helmed by India's first Unicorn wallet Paytm. Hundreds were fooling shopkeepers with fake photoshopped invoices of money paid for the item and to tackle this they brought in a live audio notification box to solve the problem. The soundbox immediately announces the amount received in the wallet for vendor's assurance even if SMS of the transaction takes a minute or more to reflect. The adoption has increased ten fold since.


The Lesson: This is where 8 out of 10 times you can lead where the MNC’s can’t. Look for niche pain points of your audience and genuinely solve them, for while the big sharks might take a month to get it live globally, you can in a smaller and far more customised scale activate the solution in a week.


There are three rules to unlock the phenomenon of insight:


I. Research the 3Cs simultaneously for decisive moments - Customer | Category | Commodity

Don’t allow the data to confuse you, just keep an eye for trigger points - why the product or service is sold most in a particular region, is it the distribution channel, local advertising or fulfilling a new need not actually marketed by the brand? The right questions as much as the right answers will bring lucidity in the bigger picture.


II. Objective clarity is key to finding the right insight - Don’t run around the football field with no idea about the goalpost, insight isn’t something you chance upon. It is always right around waiting for you to focus on it. You’re looking for new leads, strengthening brand engagement, superior R&D or original creative concepts? They all branch out from the same tree. But if you know the hierarchy of importance you would be looking in the right direction.


III. Most importantly never confuse insight with strategy and idea. One is why, another how and what.


Overall, the beauty of insight is that it makes every department elevate to its zenith. So CEO, Sales Head or just the humble brand intern, I hope you will ask each decision and idea that you deliberate upon…. why you?


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Read in Hindi here / हिंदी में यहाँ पढ़ें: अंतर्दृष्टि (इनसाइट) प्राप्त करना सबसे बड़ा कौशल क्यों है

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