That’s an Insight?!

insightYesterday, while preparing for a plane trip, I grabbed a book off my shelf called “Brand Building: New Dimensions“.  Someone (who?) sent me this book over a year ago but I had never read it.

The title of the first chapter, “Insightful? Or Just Interesting? How to Identify a Brand-Building Home Run” sounded vaguely familiar. It should have — it was based on a white paper I wrote in 2007!   The editor, A. V. Bala Krishna, sought permission to use it and sent me a copy of the book as a thank you, but I had completely forgotten both the paper and the book!

After re-reading the chapter (and deciding I used to be a better writer!) I gave some thought to how it relates to finding insights for reaching Millennials.  What makes a fact or idea worthy of building a brand or campaign around? Big ideas rarely announce themselves.  Most of the ‘facts’ about Millennials are such common knowledge they no longer sound meaningful or important.  How do you discern between powerful ideas and platitudes?

History provides some guide. In fact, many of the insights that launched great campaigns sound banal in retrospect. Consider these examples:

  • Master Card”Priceless“: “Buying things allows you to get some other place in your life that makes you feel good.” (Excuse me, but isn’t that good feeling generic to all credit cards?)
  • Dove “Real Beauty“: Only 2% of all women consider themselves beautiful, and only 5% consider themselves pretty”. (This is news?)
  • California Milk “Got Milk“: “Things just don’t feel the same without milk”. (Yawn!)

Yet each of these insights led to breakthrough marketing and advertising efforts.  Here the are five guidelines I suggested two years ago for judging insights. They still apply to Millennial marketing:

1. Insights apply more to the target, than the product or service.

Example: National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign “Above the Influence”

Insight: Teens are sensitive to influence, positive and negative from peers and the media.

Solution: Position influence itself rather than drugs as the enemy that gets in the way of what you want to do.

2. Insights are more about the category, than the brand.

Example: Jenny Craig

Insight:  Dieters truly want to believe that there is a diet that will succeed this time. They are hopeful and willing to believe if a plan has worked for others, it will work for them.

Solution: Speak to the category driver, ‘optimism’. There are few brands quite as optimistic as Jenny Craig. The strategy was brought to life brilliantly as dieters everywhere watched Kirstie Allie, America’s favorite fat actress, shed 75 pounds and return to glamour. Many strong brands are based on category insights.

3. Insights reveal more about how people want to feel, than what they think.

Examples: Brands built on insights about desired lifestyle include Nike, Starbucks, Apple, BMW, Martha Stewart, Oprah and more.

Insight: People buy brands that fit the life they want to lead.

Solution: Make users love how they feel about themselves when using or wearing the brand – loved, secure, indulged, athletic, healthy, smart or productive.

4. Insights focus more on what is enduring, than what is new.


Example: Abercrombie

Insight: While pre-teen adolescents teens say they want to be trendy, they actually are the antithesis – they want fashion that is ‘lasting’ so they will fit in.

Solution: Clothing that is a clever blend of classic styles of jeans, t-shirts and sweats with fashion following not trendsetting details.

5. Insights inspire new ideas, not the same old stuff.

Example: Payless Shoes

Insight: Men are not just women with bigger feet, they mean something different when they say they want ‘casual shoes’, something they can wear everyday with everything. .

Solution: Give men  a mix of classic and fashionable shoe styles and treat them differently when they come in the store.

There are two morals to this story. First, don’t overlook the obvious in an effort to be ‘insightful’. The answer may be hiding in plain sight. Second, if someone sends you a book, read it! You may like the author.