Sunday, 11 May 2008

Insights out

Back in 1995, when I worked for Saatchi & Saatchi, I was in the full throes of the "Insights Net European Tour" on behalf of my then-clients Procter & Gamble.

With an alarming evangelism and armed only with a rudimentary Powerpoint presentation and a few spiral-bound A5 booklets - one of which I still have in my possession - I was on a mission to tell the world of Saatchi & Saatchi and P&G about the brave new world of Insights.

A lot has happened in the last 13 years. There are now "Consumer Insight Directors" in client companies running huge departments of Consumer Insight Executives or whatever Market Researchers call themselves these days - although I have always thought that the term "Consumer Insight" was in itself not particularly insightful! For a good few years now, we've seen a lot of "Brand Aid" brands find their insight (no little piddly "product insight", this, but the huge holy grail of a "category insight"), pump it up into a Cause and go forth to Save the World with their Brand.

In a lot of cases, this is good and admirable and has broken new ground - I would be churlish to criticise Dove, for example. But when everybody tries to do it, particularly in a "watch out, your strategy may be showing" kind of way, those pesky "consumers" begin to see through you. It brought me right down to earth recently to sit through some Group Discussions to look at an internationally-developed campaign of the "social problem - solved by Brand X" variety. If not done well, this sort of stuff is depressing and met with bored cynicism. I am not saying that we should give up on Insights but rather that taking our brands so seriously is not always the only way. Sometimes people just want to escape and to be entertained - by a drumming gorilla if necessary.

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