What is an insight?

February 7, 2017

This post was first published on Hill + Knowlton Strategies. More on that change in my life later!

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What is an insight?

They are the things upon which multimillion (billion?) dollar decisions are made.

That entrepeneurs bet their careers and family’s lives on.

That companies are founded on.

That political leaders stake their reputations and campaign on.

But what, really is an insight? For me, the best way to define an insight is to paraphrase entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel, of PayPal fame, and say that every insight is a secret. And as with all secrets, the less people who know about it, the more powerful it is.

This especially hits home for all strategists. How long do we toil through data, through focus groups, through online behavior and through popular culture to find those secrets? How overjoyed or relieved do we feel when we find one – and how much do we subsequently protect it, polish it and decide how best to use it.

But not all secrets are the same. As we talked about this within H+K, we identified five core types of secrets or insights that we use to solve our client’s business problems.

Those we discover on our own: this is the classic secret where one person’s brilliance, persistence and intuition leads to a completely new discovery. Thiel calls this the Pythagorean secret and eventually they cease becoming secrets and start becoming convention.

Those that are commonly held but that we chose to use in unusual ways: this is the act of taking an insight from one industry or category and applying it to another. Insights gleaned from years of pitching media relations stories can be used to reshape a brand strategy. Insights into the purchase journey of buying a car can be applied to that of buying term life insurance.

Those that only we can see or understand thanks to data and analysis: this is what I would call the “Moneyball” secret. The answer is staring us in the face, if only we can interpret the data properly and get over our own inherent biases to realize that On Base Percentage (Hits + Walks) is more valuable than slugging percentage (which measures power).

Those that allow us to reframe a problem or belief. Our WPP colleague Rory Sutherland brilliantly reframes the spending of six billion pounds to shave 40 minutes off the Eurostar journey by simply making the journey infinitely more pleasurable – through the use of models and vintage wines.

Those that we can combine to make more powerful. Like the five mechanical lions coming together to form Voltron: Legendary Defender (my son’s current favourite show), the act of combining many small and powerful secrets together makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts, and allows us to solve bigger problems for our clients.

The definition of insight is something we can, and have, debated for days. However, the inarguable truth is: if you want to forge truly meaningful connections with consumers or stakeholders, your communication needs to be rooted in an insight into their lives, their needs and their behaviours…and your business’ role therein.


Is Social Media Over-rated? Is Digital Marketing Out-dated? Is Integration really the big word for 2016?

March 21, 2016

Lots of people forwarded me this video (for obvious reasons) and there was plenty of discussion about its merits within the agency. As a result, after watching it a few times, I wrote the following POV and also started following Mark on Twitter.

Mark Ritson’s talk, “Why Social Media is Over-rated, Digital Marketing is Out-dated and why integration is the big word for 2016” is more aptly named for the world of soundbites and sub-tweets, rather than the substance and smart thinking it contains.

  • If your view of social media is real-time tweets, published in reaction to something just four minutes after the fact, then yes, it may be over rated. In truth, social media is so much more than brands publishing to shared social networks.
  • If digital marketing is silo’ed within your organization, then yes, it is likely out-dated. The truth is, you don’t need a digital business strategy, you need a business strategy for the digital age.
  • If integration, and holistic media neutral thinking, are key themes for 2016, then we’re happy to have been ahead of the trend.

However, Mark’s talk had three core themes, which I picked out and fully support…nuance and all:

  1. The organic reach for social media content (as exemplified by the “dunk in the dark” tweet he referenced) is almost negligible. And by extension, a brand’s communities on Facebook and Twitter are made up of absurdly low percentages of their actual customers. For us at Tribal, this represents the importance of paid media to ensure brands enjoy the sort of scale they need to make a difference to their businesses. Since the social media platforms became public companies, and as Mark himself goes on to say, this is an advertising medium. If it ever really existed, the free ride for brands is over. Therefore we should use the tried and tested rules of creating advertising.
  1. Because Celebrities and News Media outperform almost all other brands, (most) brands in their current guise are not welcome in social media. This reminded me of the Howard Gossage quote “people don’t read ads—they read what interests them, and sometimes it is an ad.” We are all forced to consider how we can be interesting and compelling for consumers while also driving our businesses forward. This point also reminds us that owned (websites) and shared (social networks) aren’t the only media in town. Borrowing equity from celebrities, publishers and influencers, or forging “all stars” from within the organization, who can create and propagate content on the brand’s behalf has incredible value if you can reach the required scale.
  1. We need to go back to the “old” rules of marketing, answering the key questions of “who is my target,” “what does my brand mean” and “what is my budget” in a world of zero-based budgeting, media neutrality, clear distinction and proper briefings between client and agency, and performance-based compensation. At Tribal, our bias is in digital and our belief is that powerful creative ideas, which stem from a digital or social insight, have a business-changing impact, beyond digital.

Once you get past the headline and into the body copy, you’ll hear Mark Ritson say that if digital and social media works for your business, as it does for some of his clients, you should go all in, but you should let data guide you. Brands have become complacent and lazy in trying new strategies. They have lost sight of what they are trying to achieve and how to measure success. They are scared to fail and therefore scared of learning or of adapting at the speed of culture, technology and consumers. The best brands who see value from social media show a willingness to invent and be different, a willingness to be free from corporate restraint and embrace the true power of social media – not the ability to simply publish content but in creating a network around your brand.

As an agency, we believe in the power of social media as a marketing channel because we’ve done what many others have not or cannot – we have unlocked this potential for our clients.


Everyday Football Fouls and Flops

July 13, 2014

Footballers diving and feigning injury has been done before:

but not as well as this, from Fourgrounds Films of Canada, via NPR:

If we all reacted to contact in our everyday situations like football players by a film and video production company in Niagara, Canada. http://www.fourgrounds.com

 


World Cup 2014 – Best of the Best Ads

May 20, 2014

I love the World Cup. The best players in the world, the roar of the Three Lions, the heartache of England losing on penalties. The ads which can cross over into popular culture.

Nike shows a journey from footy in the park to the pinnacle of the world. One of the best things about world cup ads is that the boot manufacturers get to show off all their best sponsored athletes and we get to see them doing amazing skills.

Whereas adidas focuses on just one player, but what a player he is:

An inspiring, tear-jerking, emotionally charged piece of film brought to you by Powerade:

Samsung pays homage to one of the great series of Nike ads, “The Mission“:

ESPN makes Brazil look pretty tempting about now:

Whereas back in the UK, ITV plays on the emotions we footy fans face (well, all sports fans):

 


Life imitating art

May 6, 2014

Well, politics imitating art.

Kevin Spacey did it first

Julia Louis-Dreyfus did it again

Will Kerry Washington do it next year?


I bet he drinks Carling Black Label

April 28, 2014

We were talking about this ad at the office today – an oldie and a goodie from the UK. Its amazing to see the power of a great execution of a powerful brand idea, with evocative music.

I remember seeing the “behind the scenes” on a science show when I was younger and it was fascinating. The team trained the squirrel to move along the course over a series of weeks by placing the nuts at sequentially further spots throughout the course.


Music trends in advertising

April 24, 2014

Young female singers covering songs by older white men…and advertising agencies using them to make a strong emotional connection with “mom”.

Lilly Allen covers Keane’s “somewhere only we know” for John Lewis

Ellie Goulding covering Elton John’s “your song” (one of my favourite songs ever) for both John Lewis and Kraft Peanut Butter

Trend or observation?

 


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