Three characteristics of a good insight

What is the difference between Loop Earplugs and Coca Cola’s New Coke? It’s not the product alone, but what lies underneath; the consumer insight.

A side profile of someone wearing earplugs
A side profile of someone wearing earplugs

Tom De Ruyck

06 March 2023

3 min read

You can organize as many creative brainstorms as you want, but if you don’t have a good insight at the basis of your brand (and innovations) than your idea will end up in the failed innovations graveyard just like 99% of all introductions yearly. One good insight is worth more than a thousand great ideas. 

Take a brand like Loop earplugs, who revolutionized the earplug market in 2020. The ‘insight’ that lays at the basis of innovation and communication concepts for the brand is all about reducing ear damage caused by excess noise, without affecting clarity of sound; and to create an accessory that not only performs well but looks great too. Loop started after one of its founders, Maarten, returned from a party and experienced tinnitus. The ringing in his ears drove him mad which started his quest for earplugs that not only protect against ear damage but look stylish too. 

As obvious as it might sound, many innovations do not have an insight at the basis. ‘Insight(s)’ is one of the most misused terms in marketing and market research, so when do you have a strong insight?

Formula for a good insight

1. It’s me

A good insight is relevant – where people either personally identify with it or can see others close to them, recognise it.

When testing an insight’s relevance, it’s vital to get as close as possible to your target audience. An example is how we immersed in the lives of Gen Z consumers in Hong Kong for Nike to gain an in-depth understanding of what defines this generation: their beliefs, their values and their attitudes.


2. Aha!

As Steve Jobs said: “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want, until you show it to them”. A strong insight brings this ‘Aha’ moment: a combination of surprise and something familiar. It is something that is there subconsciously and you only realize is true the moment you hear it.

A creative and multidisciplinary approach can get to these ‘Aha’ moments. For Chiquita, for example, we ‘activated’ consumers and ‘deprived’ them from their normal behaviour, in support of the launch of their smoothies. We asked consumers with a healthy lifestyle to temporarily stop eating fruit, whereas consumers with a less healthy lifestyle were sent a fruit basket and asked to introduce fruit in their daily diet. By taking consumers out of their comfort zone, we learned a lot about the role smoothies could play on a mental and physical level.


3. Emotion

Behind every strong insight lies a need to improve an existing situation. It’s not just about being relevant, there needs to be a desire for a potential solution. This could be related to a friction or a problem that consumers want to solve. But it could also be a desire for something new. A good example is Dollar Shave club who disrupted the shaving industry in 2011 by delivering “f*cking great blades at an awesome price, right at your door” tackling the frustration that comes with buying razors.

An insight is not a hypothesis, nor is it an observation. It’s also not an idea, but it can be the start of possibly hundreds of ideas. A strong insight is thus a springboard for innovation. Madonna is a good example. For years, she was at the top of the music entertainment sector. She innovated all the time, but never stepped away from one strong insight: “I want to escape the limitations of a daily routine and enjoy the activity of fantasizing about alternative identities, lives or positions”.

But you might also recall the failed launch of ‘New Coke’. Every taste test showed that the new Coke formula was better than the familiar Coca-Cola flavour (it did have some Aha!), but the relevance and tension were missing. Consumers were not really looking for a new Coca-Cola flavour. It’s key to have all three insights components in place.

So, what’s your brand’s insight?

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