The bad habits that keep you from getting a great insight

This is a sort of follow up to the post on Who needs an insight anyway

Often the enemy is not the intent but the method we adopt.

Here are some of the fatal flaws in our search for that elusive insight that can unlock the brand’s potential.

So here goes.

The Habit of the Alpha-male: View from the top

The view from the top

This is the view that typically emanates from someone so far up the organization ladder that it is too far removed from the consumer to be real, yet it is so strong a voice that it goes by unchallenged. So, when someone like Ratan Tata holds a view that the common man is looking for a cheap car, the whole organization stands by in mute admiration. So for the purposes of insight it is useful to remember that the bosses aren’t always right.

The Habit of the Masochist: Data Overload

Insight Cartoon - Paralysis by Analysis

In the absence of an alpha-male CEO who is thrusting down his view from the top, some organizations scurry around collecting so much data, that even the smartest computer can never make any meaning of the sea of data. The largest FMCG companies typically knows so much about every facet of their consumers, that it weighs them down, ties them up into knots. And there is always a lot of data that contradicts a lot of other data, which makes arriving at a unifying insight that much more difficult. 49% of your consumers want it spicy, 51% want it more sweet, and 71% of your consumers are getting confused if you variant the brand and so on.

The Habit of the Schiophrenic: The E5BM problem

Insight Cartoon - Elephant and the blind men

This comes alive in the intesnse disagreements that are almost the norm when 5 blind men grapple with their individual perceptions of the elephantine consumer. The chances that the way my wife thinks, the way my colleague’s daughter feels, and the beliefs of another’s friend and the attitudes of yet another colleague’s girl-friend might all be similar is pretty remote. The impressions that our personal experiences leave on our sub-conscious minds are powerful too. Each of us perceives the world differently based on past conditioning and current exposure. Inability to reconcile different viewpoints and agreeing to disgree, keeps many brand teams from coming to a brand insight for years.

The Habit of the Deep thinker: Do-it-yourself

Insight Cartoon - The Thinker

Watch out when you are swinging away from depending on others and trying to doing it all by yourself. Many brand managers are great analysts and thinkers and can often not accept the sense of personal failure when their brand continues to sufffer from a crippling lack of a great insight. They think long and hard and often find themself burrowing into a hole of their own making. Very few brand managers or their brands emerge from these self-burrowed holes. Of course Archimedes was an exception, and that dream keeps some of us mulling over it till our hair turns grey.

The Habit of the Simpleton: Quest for superiority

Insight Cartoon - Bigger the Better

This is typically the flaw of the brand cowboys who see things in black and white and believe in cutting to the chase and love whipping out their guns and firing away a barrage of bullets.  Their impatience with negotiating thro the complex minds of consumers leads to them swinging to the other extent of oversimplification. The endless quest for whiter teeth, improved sexual power, greater speed, more savings might be good for pushing mankind towards greater technological progress, but in the absence of breakthrough innovation, this rarely builds brands. This is when the oft-quoted example of Avis comes up. “No. 2 tried harder” they say. But they were still the FIRST No.2 to do something like that, right? But if you really believe that you can be the next Samsung in your industry, you can maybe afford to skip this point.

The Habit of the Lazy: Superficiality

Insight cartoon Knowitall

The impatient urge to jump to an insight and get on with life often leads us to insights that sound suspiciously like something that others had discovered ages back. Everyone knows that “Diners love good food”, “Men love good looking cars”,  etc. How does that help you, friend? Ignoring it can be perilous, but knowing it doesnt make you the cat’s whiskers.

The Habit of the Specialist: Tunnel Vision

Insight cartoon Myopic vision

If you work in a company that makes Body fairness lotion you could be forgiven for mistaking that women with dark underarms are a special breed with unique needs that supercedes their social background, family pressures, career aspirations, etc. But there are very few categories that are so all encompassing that the brand can assume that consumers define themselves through their usage of the brand. A Harley Davidson man is real, but a Sunsilk girl might just a figment of the brand’s imagination.  This leads you to believe that the only thing that comes between the consumer’s current situation in life and ultimate happiness, success and self actualization is the usage of your brand – be it a shoe polish, fairness cream, a deodorant, or a holiday. All it gives in an insight about your intentions to the consumer, which is not such a good thing.

The Habit of the Sage: Motherhood

Insight cartoon motherhood

I have been in long and arduous insight discussions, where the wise men gradually start awakening to the truth that man is ultimately driven by a quest for happiness. They jump out of their seat and shout out loud something incredibly inane like “So what they want is Happiness!” or “She wants to be Successful!”. You can’t really question something so universal as that. But try making an ad with that insight, and it might just sound like anyone else’s brand.

The Habit of the Uninspired: Boredom

Insight cartoon Bored Couple

Have you ever doubted the depth of insight a man might have on his wife of many years? or vice-versa (just to be politically balanced)? What are the chances you would give them of sparking something new in their life? Whenever you hear someone drone on about his (or her) brand with an undertone  of “I know it all” then you know where it is headed. Yawn.

The Habit of the Meek: Comfort of the Status quo

Insight cartoon barking dog

Don’t be misled by appearance. Some of the most fearsome looking men are the meekest. A lot of their seeming courage is the bluster that comes out of maintaining status quo. They would never even know what it means to jump off a cliff. Bungee jumping is not a good proxy, as there is still a reasonably low chance of the harness snapping.  Taking a brave new look about the consumer is like jumping off without any safety net except your wits and strength. And that needs guts and courage.

So would it be fair to say that great insights emerge from a passionate love for the consumer, deep understanding, strong conviction that lends the  ability to discuss, synthesize and be open to challenge  – yet have the courage to take the final leap into the  exciting unknown?