Dorit Grueber
Feb 25, 2013

Brand-Building Series: How to develop a true consumer insight

In our continuing series of how-to articles, Dorit Grueber, director with EffectiveBrands, explains what a consumer insight really is and how to go about developing one.

Brand-Building Series: How to develop a true consumer insight

Many new products fail because they lack one key ingredient: a true consumer insight. Companies that are not consumer-centric often fail to discover consumers’ core motivations and unarticulated needs.

Deep consumer understanding is at the heart of marketing, because consumers buy for their reasons, not ours. This makes consumer insights invaluable. To develop deep consumer understanding, you need to know who your customers are; what they are looking for; what their needs, wants and desires are; and when, where and how they make their buying decisions.

The all-important question: How deep is your consumer understanding? Can you put yourself in their shoes? For instance, if you were given the role of marketing manager for Kellogg’s, do you know what it is like to run a household? If you were marketing manager for Axe, do you know what the most important things are to a young man?

Marketers are usually not an accurate representation of their consumers, thus it is important to get deeply involved with your consumer. To do that, you must understand not only what makes a good consumer insight but also how to develop one.

A consumer insight can be defined as a penetrating discovery about your consumer’s motivations that will lead to behaviour change and therefore unlocks growth for your business. Another defining characteristic is that when a true insight is shown to the consumer, she will react, "Aha, that’s exactly how I feel."

An insight goes beneath the surface of your general consumer understanding and uncovers your target’s values, beliefs, attitudes and motivations.

Be curious about your consumers and try to experience the world through their eyes. We highly recommend looking beyond your regular research data and going to meet your consumer. In our marketing training courses we regularly include exercises that allow marketers to experience the world from a consumer perspective and often let them interact with consumers beyond the regular focus groups.


The TRAC tool. (Enlarge)

How do you know if you have discovered a good insight? There are many tools we use to evaluate the characteristics of a good insight. One of them is called TRAC (right), which looks at these factors:

  • Truth: The insight builds on a fundamental truth about your consumer
  • Relevant: The insight is meaningful to your brand and business
  • Attracts: The insight connects strongly with your consumer (the ‘Aha' effect)
  • Changes behaviour: The insight leads to a competitively differentiated idea, powerful enough to change behaviour.

Let’s focus now on how to generate a good consumer insight.

The starting point is to clearly define your business and marketing objective. We often see that if you are not clear on your objective, finding a relevant insight is very difficult.

With a clear objective, the insight generation process consists of 3 steps:

  1. What (data & information)
  2. Why (understanding)
  3. Deep insight

When we teach about consumer insights we always use the visual of an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg is what you can observe from what consumers do and say (stated). The part below the water is what you don't see. But this is the really exciting part, as here we learn about consumers' attitudes, beliefs, values and desires—why consumers say what they say and do what they do (unstated).

During the ‘What’ step you will review your entire existing consumer and market data and will fill any gaps in that data. The goal for this step is to understand what your consumers do, think and believe. It is helpful to put all the data in an insight incident room as you are on the journey to uncover the insight.

In the ‘Why’ step, you will try to understand why consumers do, think and believe what they do. Here you should look for common threads and key themes.

From here you go into the ‘Deep insight’ phase, where you develop the insight through a combination of science (all your data) and art (intuition). Use the TRAC tool to check if you have found a strong insight and then turn the insight into a concept to test with your target group.

Let’s look at an example for a dog-food company. The business challenge: Convince owners of small dogs to trade up to our brand once a week and ultimately choose it as their everyday dog food.

The ‘What’ (data & information): Dogs often sleep on owners' beds. Owners often watch their dogs eat to make sure they enjoy the food.

The ‘Why’: Dogs are important as special friends or family members.

The Insight: My dog is actually my perfect child and best friend in a dog suit.

Some additional tips for uncovering an insight:

  • Be true to your data
  • Consider the whole truth, not a partial one
  • Work from the data to the insight, not reverse
  • Customize for your target, not re-write for your target

In terms of writing a strong insight it is important to:

  • Keep it short (one to three sentences)
  • Imagine it as a statement spoken by the target themselves and use ’I’ or ‘My’

To encourage you, developing insights gets easier with practice. Hence you should do it regularly with your teams, agencies and cross-functional partners.

One last tip: Your target can’t give you the insight; you have to discover it through deep understanding of your consumer.

To summarise, the insights you develop will help you to drive business results—they are not just for advertising or copy development. The insight can be utilized by everyone in the company in order to drive a business decision and change behaviour. Thus, anything that you do should be rooted in an insight. If you are taking actions that aren’t so rooted, ask yourself why you are doing that and what purpose it serves.


Please see the other installments in this series.

Dorit Grueber is a director with EffectiveBrands, a global marketing consulting firm dedicated to unleashing global brand potential. Based in Singapore. Grueber has experience with Kraft, Sara Lee, Asia-Pacific Breweries, Jet Star Asia and Lexis-Nexis during her 20 years in marketing in Asia.

Related Articles

Just Published

43 minutes ago

Unflinching sexual-violence campaign conveys harsh ...

One in seven Hong Kong women has been the victim of sexual violence, says a hard-hitting campaign for local organisation Rainlily by Dentsu International agencies.

45 minutes ago

Campaign Crash Course: How to crack B2B marketing

While most agencies have historically focused on the massive opportunity to provide marketing services for consumer-facing clients, there has been a recent surge in interest in the B2B arena. Here are important pointers to crack this emerging, but lucrative opportunity.

1 hour ago

Which UN Sustainable Development Goals matter most ...

TOP OF THE CHARTS: Finding decent work, economic growth, reducing inequality and climate action all rank highly. See which UN SDGs are of highest concern in Australia, China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

2 hours ago

The Malaysian artist who ‘paints without a brush’

INSPIRATION STATION: Red Hong Yi has been making waves with stunning, thoughtful pieces using everyday objects.