Some insights on insight

: Thursday, May 12 - 2005 @ 09:32

Borrowing an analogy from the world of diamonds, data is the equivalent of an uncut diamond. It holds value inside it, but in its present form, it is not of much use to anyone. When you cut and polish that piece of stone, you start to see its brilliance: the equivalent of information in the world of market research. Information emerges from cutting and polishing the data – it helps us see the value that the data holds. But, it takes you only so far. You can see the brilliance…but you still can’t really do very much with it. It has value; you can trade it. But, in its present form, you cannot use it.

So what do you do with the diamond? You set it in a ring. Now it is beginning to make sense…you don’t just see the brilliance, you actually can see a use for it. This is the equivalent of translating information into knowledge. Information has now been made useful – knowledge is the application of information. By itself, information is nice to have but unless applied, unless set in a relevant context, a “ring”, it remains just that…nice to have, but not very useful.

So, is that how far market research should take you? From data, through information, to knowledge? Well, that is a good start …you now have a diamond ring. Useful? Yes. But, is it good enough for something to be useful? We are not going far enough if we just collect things that are useful, but don’t actually use them. What is the point of a useful diamond ring in your pocket unless you find the right girl on whose finger you put that ring! Now we are talking business. Now, we don’t just have a useful diamond ring, we have actually used it. This ‘finding the right girl’ is the equivalent of translating knowledge into insight.

No word in the field of consumer research has been as over-used recently and as abused as the word ‘insight’. That is because often what passes off as insight is just cut and polished stones. Go one rung up the ladder from data and pass it off as insight! Most often what is sold as insight is just information. Sometimes, what is sold as insight does go beyond information to knowledge. Rarely do researchers go all the way to ‘finding the right girl’ before jumping up and shouting ‘Eureka!’

Insight usually emerges from looking at information from different parts of the research….and even from different pieces of research. Diverse pieces of data, seemingly unrelated, often have hidden relationships. Uncovering those relationships is where the gems of insight lurk. Rarely do insights jump out of a single piece of data – almost always they lie hidden inside relationships.

Let’s look at an example from a habits & attitudes survey on soft drinks.

From one part of the survey we know that Brand X has an association with music in consumers’ minds – consumers believe that Brand X promotes music. From another part of the survey we know that consumption of soft drinks peaks in the second half of the day, not in the morning. A third part of the survey tells us that most soft drink consumption happens at home – while watching TV or with meals…but it doesn’t happen while listening to the radio. We also know, from the media habits part of the survey, that consumers listen to the radio in the morning. These are apparently unrelated parts of the survey with no common thread. But is that really so?

Put these seemingly unrelated bits into the melting pot and out pops the insight. People listen to music on the radio in the morning, but they do not drink Brand X in the morning. So, get Brand X to sponsor music programs on the radio in the morning. Consumers will listen to music, will make the connection with Brand X, and will drink Brand X while listening to the radio – hence extending soft drink consumption into the hitherto unexploited morning radio listening slot.

Now that calls for a ‘Eureka!’

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Thursday, May 12- 2005 @ 9:32 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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