“…once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right”

– From Scarlet Begonias, lyrics by Robert Hunter and music by Jerry Garcia

Just as music has the power to move you both physically and emotionally, a meaningful insight has the power to drive a strategy and inspire breakthrough creative thinking. This is hard work, requiring diligence, persistence and sometimes even a little imagination. Finding this deeper understanding is critical to helping you see and realize what’s possible. And, that’s why we’re here.

By Warner Bros. Records (Billboard, page 9, 5 December 1970) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

An insight can take many forms and occur in different places, but we tend to focus on audience, marketplace, and competitors. Discovering something meaningful about an audience often yields the most benefit, but it’s also the hardest to uncover. Primary research is invaluable to this quest, but with long and empathetic thinking you can intuit something from secondary research.

Long thinking ensures you cover all of the relevant contextual territories – where, when, how and why the brand enters the customer’s life. What functional role(s) does the brand perform? Empathetic thinking digs into the emotional territories. What are the mindsets, attitudes, perceptions, and most importantly, behaviors that our target has and exhibits? As neuroscience has shown us, people make more decisions based on how they feel than what they think. We buy emotionally and justify rationally. This is the area that’s hardest to get right, but when you do, the strategic and creative possibilities are rich.

Years ago I did work for the United Way. Our charge was to fight the onset of childhood obesity, and our target was 12-14 year-old boys and girls. This is a tough audience to engage and persuade on a lot of topics, but especially this one. We knew we couldn’t approach them with “exercise and eat your fruits and vegetables,” so we conducted research in order to find something that we could leverage.

Mini groups was our method – four to six kids at a time talking broadly with two adults. After several conversations, something started to emerge. There was a social benefit to being active (also known as playing). This insight led to the strategic statement, “friends don’t let friends get bored.” I realize that might appear to be 10,000 miles away from fighting childhood obesity, but indulge me one more short paragraph.

From this insight and strategy came our creative approach, which was to feature local, 16-18 year olds doing what they love to do when they are active. Here’s another insight about 12-14 year olds: they all want to be more like older kids. We conducted a city-wide casting call, which generated a ton of publicity for our campaign, and found four great scenarios that we brought to life through video and television. We had two sets of dancers, brothers who practiced judo together, and a boxer. We filmed each set doing their thing and captured not only the inspirational benefit of the exercise, but also the authentic moments of friendship and joy that occur from being active.

Insight to strategy to creative. The better the insight, the stronger the strategy and the richer the creative. Watch for future blog posts about how to uncover and use marketplace and competitive insights, but only if you like this one.