The Smart Researcher’s Guide to Creating Consumer Insights

Marketing
7 min. read

Lorna Keane / April 20, 2017

“Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight.” ~ Thomas Carlyle

An insight is a real truth about a customer. This fundamental truth reveals something about consumer perceptions and behaviors, underpinning a successful marketing campaign; helping a brand to create the right message for the right audience and placing it where it will cut through.

But finding this truth lies in knowing how to gather, analyze and understand the right data, turning it into actionable insight – one of the most important skills for marketers today. For this reason, teams of research and insights professionals are now forming a pivotal part of any agency or brand taking a consumer-centric approach. But what does it really take to create an insight that inspires meaningful creativity?

1. Focus on the real problems.

Finding the right answers starts with asking the right questions. Defining the key strategic business questions you need to answer ensures you know what to look for.

And according to research by Think with Google, 95% of leading marketers agree that “to truly matter, marketing analytics’ KPIs must be tied to broader business goals”, so finding the answers to these questions is key…

  • Are sales down for a particular consumer segment?
  • Is there a need to shift brand perceptions?
  • Are you hoping to focus on a new target group?
  • Are you simply hoping to develop more of an understanding of your audiences?

This will help to inform your research process from the outset – giving you clear direction on what to look for and why.

“The biggest [factor to consider] is what the business is trying to achieve”, says Tom Primrose, Strategic Planner at Southpaw. “It’s about understanding where they’re at and where they want to go.”

2. Gather the right data.

Consumers today use a myriad of devices and platforms along their path to purchase, and every step holds a vital clue as to what drives their behavior.

By collecting the right data from every possible source – from display advertising to website cookies, loyalty programmes, mobile engagement, social media and location check-ins – you can ensure your data gives you the insights you need. Relying on GlobalWebIndex for this, leading marketers are coupling global panel data with powerful analytics to get reliable truths that reflect real people.

Staying on top of the latest consumer, industry and market trends are also hugely important to help you plan ahead and to know where to focus your attention.

For the Insights team at WeAreSocial, when embarking on a social insight project, they try to answer specific questions around four key areas: the consumer, the brand, the category and the wider culture, using the right mix of qualitative and quantitative data. “We might answer those questions through social listening, audience analysis, buying a report from Intel, or by running a few focus groups”, says Jamie Robinson, Global Research and Insight Director.

Ensuring you stay informed and continue to look for the right answers with reliable data is what guides you to the truths you need.

“Those fundamental truths aren’t actually about platforms, they’re about humans”, he says. “So that’s always what we’re looking for because essentially if a campaign can tap into that insight, we believe it will work anywhere.”

3. Keep it simple.

When it comes to authentic marketing, it’s the simple ideas that have the most impact. By focusing on the simple yet defining aspects of your insight, you can hone in on the ideas that stick.

While for every agency and marketer an insight takes a different form, for Jamie, this makes up no more than a couple of sentences – something for creatives and marketers alike to continually refer back to. This keeps their efforts on track to creating an impactful campaign, bred from a simple idea:

“The insight is typically no more than two sentences that you can stick on the wall. This helps to describe the interpersonal truth that we want our idea to hook onto.”

By keeping the focus on the consumer and the perceptions within, this will help the creative to tap into the mindset of your target audience, leveraging the fundamental truth that’s been uncovered.

4. Create detailed personas and customer journey maps.

Sifting through this data and looking for the things that stick is the next key step for any researcher to get to that truth.

Using in-depth consumer data to understand who they are, what motivates them, what their priorities are in life and what daily challenges they face will prove invaluable in unearthing the insights sure to hit home.

“If you don’t have that initial ‘this is your audience’, you wind up making too many assumptions”, says Ben Sharma, PR Executive at Engage at Bell Pottinger, who uses GlobalWebIndex for any task he embarks upon to back his ideas with data he can trust.

Start by drafting real-life buyer personas; pen portraits of your consumers that serve to bring your demographics to life, and to give your data some context.

This kind of data also enables you to map the many consumer journeys you want to track and every touchpoint involved, understanding how your audience interacts with your brand at every turn.

For Joe Portman and Sharmin Rashed, Junior Strategists at Analog Folk, these journey maps play a central role in their efforts to get the level of audience understanding they need.

“There is the consumer journey that maps the purchase journey, but there’s also the day to day of that consumer’s life which influences every part of that journey”, says Joe. “Not only do the clients love to see them, it helps everyone from the creatives to ourselves to better understand our audiences”, says Sharmin.

5. Decide what perceptions you’re trying to shift.

The next step is figuring out what perceptions you want to shift, taking you all the way from the insight to the creative message.

This again comes back to the real business problems you’re trying to solve, but your idea can take on a new lease of life depending on the data you discover.

Lidl first embarked on their ‘Lidl Surprises’ campaign in a bid to shift perceptions across the UK of the brand’s produce as low-quality.

This powerful rebranding effort was born out of consumer research that revealed many Brits still think of Lidl’s supply chain in a ‘derogatory way’. This insight urged the UK marketing team to work on shifting perceptions in a way that would appeal to their target audience: real working mums and weekly shoppers. The campaign proved hugely successful in turning the brand’s negative image into a positive one.

“We’re not just recycling the same message about price”, UK Marketing Director Claire Farrant told Marketing Week. “You see real people in our TV ads and we’re changing their perceptions of our brand. I don’t see other supermarkets doing that on the same level. We use real people, they don’t. We’re not afraid to voice the feeling of the nation at the time even if that’s about addressing negativity.”

Putting this data-driven approach into practice, brands like Lidl are proving the power of marketing that reflects real people.

By maintaining this focus on the perceptions you want to shift, tying this back to the audience personas and consumer journeys you’ve just created, you can put your insight to the test with a creative message that truly resonates.

6. Arrange your customers into smaller groups.

Some data is more actionable when connected to specific segments or individuals. Choose which segments to study based on your original business goals; are you trying to appeal to a new audience, for example, or to drive loyalty among existing customers?

Grouping together personas and demographics with common attributes – ranging from age and gender to interests, perceptions, lifestyles and attitudes – enables a deeper understanding of their motivations and helps to build the level of empathy that’s needed to drive meaningful engagement.

This can also help you to identify lookalike audiences that might broaden your reach, while also pointing you in the direction of the right influencers, platforms and content types to focus on.

7. Tell the story behind the data.

Insights are not just for researchers. These fundamental truths behind your audience help you to understand what really defines them. This can play a hugely important role in driving more targeted business decisions and helping your organization to keep consumers at the forefront of everything you do.

But data can be overwhelming, especially to those who don’t work with it daily.

For this reason, presenting your most relevant findings in an easily accessible way to clients and colleagues is key.

Using visual aids like graphs and charts help to bring the stats to life, while honing in on the insights they have led you to will help you tell the story behind your data and spark the most innovative ideas that work.

8. Put your insights into context.

An insight without context is essentially useless.

The key to unlocking its value lies in aligning audience perceptions with your goals, coupling this with behavioral data to communicate the right message, at the right time, in the right place.

Having a diverse team at your disposal is invaluable when it comes to unlocking this value. By working with other consumer-facing colleagues across teams and departments, combining what they know with in-depth consumer data, you can paint a more holistic picture and trigger the ideas that make a difference. Drawing inspiration from the most powerful examples of brands putting insights into practice is one way to spark these ideas.

Samsung is one such brand that uses insights to fuel its thinking. With the help of Leo Burnett Argentina, Samsung’s latest commercial for the Latin American region aims to spread the brand’s message: ‘Do what you can’t’. As part of a continued effort to appeal to millennials, the campaign follows its Launching People campaign “encouraging people to master their fears and inspire confidence in all that they do”, with the help of powerful technology.

Using consumer data, the team found that a fear of heights and public speaking were most prevalent among their target audience, so they developed the global campaign to tackle the issue and speak to their younger audiences in a meaningful way.

“Nowadays, we all have a voice and we can express to the whole world what we feel through technology. New generations are going to live with less prejudices and barriers. This commercial is here to reminds us that fear is a thing of the past”, says Leo Burnett Argentina Executive Creative Director.

Putting your findings into context in this way, following the example of innovative marketers, you can transform a basic insight into meaningful creativity, sparking the brilliant ideas that work.

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