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Is there a problem in your insight?



Or more directly, could you be confusing your brand’s problem with an insight? They look and sound deceptively similar. And for good reasons. They are both about your consumer and they are both about their mind/thinking.

Not surprising that so many brand conversations confuse the problem with the insight! Here are a few common ones you come across:

‘Consumers don’t care too much about brands in our category, they’d buy any known name if it is reasonably priced’

Or

‘Consumers do not understand the technology/science in this category, so they buy basis faith or results they can perceive tangibly’

At this stage you are probably thinking one or more of these –a) why aren’t these insights? b) how do you know when it is an insight and when it is a problem? c) Is this academic hair splitting or does it really matter in the real world?

Here’s a simple answer to the first two – an insight points at potentially WHY your consumer could come to your brand while the problem explains WHY NOT. Simple isn’t it, the latter is the lock while the former is the possible key!

Paradoxically, what makes this more complex is that the problem is easier to identify. Your research will point at it, as will your sales team and very often, just plain common sense.

So why isn’t having just the problem sufficient? Why can’t we treat it like an insight?

Simple – a strategy based on just the problem statement tends to become an argument rather than an idea! Have you seen such messages around you (or worse, been responsible for them!):

- ‘Do you buy xyz with your eyes closed?’
- ‘Not all brands are the same…, if you look closer (let me force feed the science now)’

Scarily, these are strategies that pass concept test and ad pre-test more often than not! Since they make an argument based on logic, it gets difficult for your respondents to say no without looking silly ? . Even when you know deep down that this isn’t quite the unlock your brand needed.

So how do insights work better? Very simply they start with something the consumer wants already. Take an everyday example – kids are fussy milk drinkers. Would you argue with them about the importance of calcium for bones or would you simply tap into what they most likely want – to be a super hero and link that to their drinking milk?

Now see the difference between ‘Kids hate milk because they find the taste boring’ vs ‘Kids want to be super heroes because they feel powerless’. The first is a problem while the second opens up a possible solution mothers and grandmothers have known for ages.

Knowing the kid’s sense of powerlessness in the world dominated by adults with more authority and brute power is the starting point of new possibilities. It tells you what you could possibly promise with your brand.

And it needn’t be limited to promising Super Heroism. That’s where ideation comes in –it could be about their wit that makes their lack of strength a non-issue, it could be escapism into a world where no one is an adult…the possibilities are endless.

As you can see, kids feel powerless is fairly obvious once you hear it (though I can imagine the disbelief on the face of some pester power punished parents!). And yet, regular market research and common sense do not usually reveal them. That’s where processes designed to look past what’s consciously evident come in.

Also, notice how it is not merely about ‘milk’, but a larger need that many categories address (yes, including Ben 10 comics and Harry Potter). At the same time you can see how it is also relevant when it comes to making them drink milk.

In light of this you can see the difference in the strategies of Colgate Total vs Pepsodent. Both promising longer lasting protection from germs, but one is clearly an argument (you don’t know there are germs on your teeth soon after brushing) while the other taps into powerful insights on the new mother.

That’s how insights are – unmet needs that are larger, yet category relevant. They help you solve problems with ideas rather than getting stuck into arguments. And therein lies the answer to the third question above. Strategies based on problems rather than insights risk wastage of marketing resources and sub optimal results.

Maybe it’s time then to revisit what your strategy articulates as insight. And see if you spot a ‘problem’ there?