Despite consumer insight being hailed as the 21st Century solution and savior to effective marketing, insight – however one defines that - continues to be the poor step child to ‘humanless’ business and brand strategy, innovation and marketing.
Observation 1: Insight is applied too late to effect meaningful change.
Insight is often relegated to communications within the value chain and rarely brought to bear upfront at the business strategy stage. Insight into people, behavior and cultural fuels are arguably the best market lead and lag indicators for assessing forward looking business strategy: future growth opportunities and asset requirements or asset consolidation. Why? Insights are observable, measurable and concrete demonstrations of emergent or shifting human behavior, which explicitly impact market dynamics like demand. Identifying and applying insights at the communications stage may enhance a brands ability to connect in the short term, but misses the larger opportunity for a brand to create dominance (SOM, Equity, Competitive Barriers) in emerging or mature market spaces. Given the plethora of choice across most if not all categories, strategy development without the human factor seems like a big mistake. The continuing challenge for brands today is to respond with relevance or as Jez Frampton, Global CEO of Interbrand would say “risk detachment.” Increasing relevance means placing human insight at the front, not back end, of the value chain.
Depending on the definition of failure, 80-95 % of all new products fail. Although staggering as a percent, not surprising when you walk down the aisle of a grocery or department store. Who would buy that you ask? Good question. All too often communications, not innovation, is tasked with finding the all-powerful target market insight to drive sales, frequency, penetration and share-of-market. That is, products are developed and brought to market simply because a company can rather than should. Can because they have the production capacity and ability to do so vs. should because the innovation is based upon an insight into people, behavior and cultural fuels that embed the product itself with attributes and benefits known to deliver against an existing or unmet need or desire. Many mature categories continue to deliver growth by placing insight at the center of innovation. Yes they restructured financially, yes they divested assets, but Ford is a shining example of insight in innovation: "Even in the most tough economic times, Mulally (CEO) remarked to Smith, we are there with a new product that people really want and they value.” And they are the only big automotive without the need for bailout money.
When the dominant context for brands today is creativity, innovation and imagination, insight driven strategy can be a brands biggest competitive advantage.