Master Class Consumer Insights by European Institute for Brand Management (EURIB)

Presented by Pamela Pauwels, Director of Insight Management at Philips Lightning.

Insights are hot…

The session started with an attempt to define insights:  a number of interesting definitions came up during the discussion.  Pamela interpretation looks as follows:  “The ability to transform consumer  and market data into clear, recognizable consumer needs that can form the basis for new business  initiatives”. 

An introductory illustration of the process of looking for insights is when you give a present to someone of your relatives or friends:  to succeed your gift, you  need to know the receiver quite well and have a good idea of his/her field of interests, leisures, life style and personal situation.  A gift voucher is of course the easy way out, but does not necessarily meet the need of being personal and original. Let’s be honest, we all like to give the most original (read differentiating) and preferred present …

The popularity of insights is due to a number of reasons:  failure of the majority of innovations, lack of differentiation between products and an ever increasing empowered and informed consumer.  At the end of the handout, a Harvard Business Review article of John T. Gourville about “eager sellers and stony buyers” nicely describes the process of new product adaption.  According to this article the mismatch between what innovators believe consumers want and what consumer truly desire is of 1 to 9.  A huge challenge in other words since a successful innovation should aim for outperforming the actual standard by 10.  A good innovation or communication typically starts with a good insight build on a deep understanding of your the end consumer…

Insighting as a verb…

The process of looking for insights is built on 3 pillars: collection of data/information, analyses and the person. The latter are probably the most vital in the process whereas the sheer collection or possession of data is becoming less and less valuable. The importance of an interdisciplinary team is underlined. A mixture of project members not only leads to better insights as a result of multiple angles, but also lays the groundwork for a common sharing and understanding throughout the organization.  With regard to the analyses, Pamela mentions that it takes a lot of transpiration before you actually come to inspiration. It is most of the time an iterative process that takes time to evolve. There should also be sufficient openness to challenge existing knowledge and views.

A good insight should always be looked at with a focus on the target group and the context of use.  A simple illustration:  the preference for either an apple or an orange will vary if you are at home or in a traffic jam in your car…

A good insight should be SCAM: Surprising, Credible, Actionable and Measurable. Moreover, it should trigger a sparkle both with the consumer and your internal team.

A 360° insight sources to overcome the insight paradox

In the era of the video recorders, consumers probably could have come up with the idea of fast rewind themselves but would have been visionary to think of DVD or even Blu-ray.  Even more back in time, consumers would have asked for a quicker horse and never have thought of an automobile.  ‘Post-it’ has never been tested by the consumer…and yet quite successful.

The key challenge is that consumers often cannot tell us what they want so we need to go beyond the traditional surveys. In this context, Pamela refers to a multitude of sources that can be used to fuel the insighting process : observation (life or internet), fringe consumers, semiotics, trends, experts, competitive landscaping, retail visits, emerging passions, global category trawl, R&D treasure hunt and last but not least the academic sources that are sometimes completely overlooked in business life according to Paula’s experience.  At Philips Lightning they have been experimenting in a successful way with new online approaches such as bulletin boards, communities and online discussion groups to further enhance the outside-in thinking. A major achievement in a multinational company that used to be highly technology driven in the past.

A McKinsey research is referred to in this context revealing that high performing companies actually use newer approaches than non-high performers and are increasingly looking at ways – and building capabilities – to link this hard and soft data sets together to generate insights.

At InSites Consulting, we fully embrace this 360° approach and have been heavily investing since more than 2 years with our R&D team in what we call ‘fusion’ research:  in more and more of our current projects, we merge both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, both offline and online. We believe that fusion research will help our customers to better connect with their consumers enabling them to solve a part of the ever evolving insight paradox.

The last part of the session was formed by a number of interesting illustrations of successes and failures ,both from Pamela’s FMCG and consumer electronics background,  explained by the understanding or lack of consumer insight.  An inspiring and illustrative session in my view that was definitely worth the visit. 


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