Oh the insight. The one word (besides strategy) that brings chills to your bones, a knot in the pit of your stomach and MANY sleepless nights. Why? Because YOU are the lucky sucker who got stuck with being responsible for coming up with a new life changing insight. It’s every marketing and communication practitioners’ worst nightmare. Why? Because its this vague, magical, almost mystical thing – kind of like a unicorn. Everyone’s heard of it, wish they could see one, but don’t really know if it even exists.

According to Wikipedia (I know, I know, academically speaking VERY incorrect, but seeing that its my blog, I can do what I want!) a Unicorn was a symbol of purity and grace and its horn had magical powers like healing the sick, purifying water and being a poison antidote. What a metaphor for insights! Many believe that an insight highlights the purest form of thinking – those who toiled and miraculously found a new brilliant insight into why we behave the way we do, that will solve all the client’s business problems. I have two issues with this type of approach, which leads to what I like to call “The Unicorn Syndrome” BUT first things first. Let’s start by making sure we’re all on the same page about WHAT an insight is…well according to ME anyway.

There are many different views about what it is, but for me the most logical definition is that an insight is anything that goes beyond the obvious reasons why people do what they do. Think of it like a house. Anything you can see with your naked eye is the obvious stuff. Your goal is to get to the foundation, as THAT is where the real meaty, rich, true reasons for why we do what we do lies (which some also call a ‘human truth’ by the way).

But let’s make it real, which brings me to my the first ingredient to the creation of “The Unicorn Syndrome”. Insights are not elusive. They are everywhere. You just need to know how to uncover them. Which is why I’ll share my MAGICAL technique with you. Are you ready? Here goes! Ask the simple question “WHY?” at least 3 times.

WHY did the guy buy an expensive BMW and not just an affordable car like a Ford? Because he liked the car. WHY did he like the car? Because he felt good in it. WHY did he feel good in it? 1. Because it boosted his masculinity or 2. because he had to show his family he arrived or 3. he felt insecure. There could be many more but lets leave it at these three insights.

Another example: WHY did mom buy the expensive Pampers nappies and not the house-brand’s? Because they are better. WHY? Because they keep my baby dry. WHY is that important? Because babies with a rash have bad moms or I want to fit in with my friends who all use Pampers or I don’t trust a no-name brand. Again there could be many more but we’ll leave it at these three.

Now think about the house that I spoke about at the beginning. If you focus on the fact that Pampers nappies are better or the guy liked the car, you could say that is the roof of the house. Focusing on keeping my baby dry or the car make me feel good, would be the walls of the house. None of these are insights though. They’re observations. Once you get to the psychological level, you’ve struck gold and the only way you can do that is by asking WHY or an iteration of it.

A warning: DO NOT just assume because you think, feel or do something in a specific way EVERYONE else will also think, feel or do it like you. They probably won’t, especially if you live in a multicultural country like South Africa. You need to test your hypothesis either by validating it through research, trends, articles about people’s behaviour or even a chat amongst a small group of people. It can’t just be a thumb suck. It can be a gut feel, but then prove it in anyway you can, even if it just via ironclad logic.

Please don’t misunderstand my musings. Finding an insight can be very hard, BUT not because they are hard to find, rather because its hard to find the RIGHT one. Maybe your competitors are already playing in all of the territories or maybe none of the above insights answer the business challenge.

Which brings me to the second ingredient to “The Unicorn Syndrome”: the right insight will MIRACULOUSLY solve the business problem. They can, but only if everything else delivers as promised. Bill Bernbach use to say “A great ad campaign will make a bad product fail faster. It will get more people to know it’s bad.” Well if THAT doesn’t say it I don’t know what will. As a client you should never rely on your agency to fix your internal issues such as product, distribution or incorrect pricing to name a few. The agency’s responsibility is to uncover the right insight that will get people to buy your product. YOUR job is to make sure you have all the different product or service aspects developed based on real people’s NEEDS.

Needs and insights…NOT the same thing BUT they are sisters.  You have a need to be clean, hence the reason why companies decided to make and sell soap. The agency needs to come up with a differentiated psychological motivation aka an insight, that will make people choose YOUR soap above anyone else’s.

In summary: next time when you as a client brief an agency, please make sure you tick all the people’s NEED boxes first before you brief the agency. Strategists, be smart and give your client an insight and not an observation.

I really hope I’ve dispelled “The Unicorn Syndrome” and introduced a real tangible way for you to come up with great insights that will deliver GREAT work. Happy discovery!