Leveraging Consumer Insight & Brand Strategy
What is a Consumer Insight?
And perhaps, more importantly, why is understanding and applying consumer insights important to the development and deployment of brand strategy?
Let’s first start with a definition, then get into what distinguishes insight from data, and lastly conclude with how to activate insights to drive your marketing strategy.
A Consumer Insight is an ‘Ah-Ha.’
It’s the recognition of the ‘why’ - the story - behind an emotion or behavior.
It’s the light bulb moment that often times isn’t an explicit moment at all, but rather a pathway of light bulbs - truths - that collectively light the way towards consumer understanding.
At the heart of it, an insight is a statement of a truth, often times expressed and revealed as a tension, that unmasks the underlying emotional matrix behind a particular motivation or action.
Spin the axis in your mind on how consumer selection shows up in a given category.
Insight is not the top-down behavior.
It is the bottom’s up contextual rationale that delivers the ‘I want’ because ‘I feel/need/desire’ that eventually leads to what we see manifested in the behavioral data, the ultimate choice of ‘therefore I buy/select’.
Constructing an insight illuminates the path to the ‘why’ and is situational & circumstantial based on a confluence of consumer needs. These factors can be multi-fold and multi-faceted across a breadth of dimensions — both demographic and psychographic.
Main takeaway — Consumers are multi-dimensional and what they do, what we often see and measure explicitly, is the optical crashing waves surface of the ‘what’. Consumer insight aims to dive even further down, to the deeper levels of the consumer ocean so to speak, to where the ‘why’ lives.
This leads to the second crucial distinction of what an insight is versus is not.
A Consumer Insight Throws Light on a Data Point.
A consumer insight is not a data point. It’s an unlock of it.
Take for example the following hypothetical example — men in the U.S. between the ages of 18–24 have increased their usage of food delivery apps, growing overall from 22% to 48% (versus a year ago).
Although interesting, this observation is still just that — a raw observation. It’s a grey data point. It needs the color and context of consumer insight to be understood.
Going deeper and asking the question of ‘why’ reveals that crucial link, the cause behind the effect — it might be the case that a subset of these men turn to delivery apps because they want to maximize their time and on-demand food delivery allows for that.
For others, it might be driven by a nudge to experience and try a diversity of cuisine that is now readily accessible to them.
Yet for others, it might be a sheer value play, perhaps an inability to otherwise get access to ready-made food because of an inability or lack of desire to cook for themselves.
And for yet others, it might be a splurge to connect with others over a shared event or experience, perhaps during a larger gathering that requires this type of ‘catering.’
Those base needs across Convenience, Access, Necessity, and Connection are just the starting point of truths, the light bulbs, to dissecting how this seemingly monolithic group of ‘men ages 18–24' partners with delivery apps to satisfy distinct needs. Each group might have commonalities across, but they likely also have certain drivers of difference among - knowing what those are can act as a real enabler of clarity and growth for brands.
Often times the commercial data is just the starting point, not the finish line — it requires the drivers analysis of consumer insights to unwind an initial data view into multiple others which will together compose the ‘why’ and offer a more holistic understanding of where to play and how to win.
Main takeaway - There isn’t a blanketed, single version of the truth behind a single data point. Consumer insight aims to demonstrate the broader complexion of truths that underpin the data. Going that layer deeper is the role of insights — to assemble an understanding of the ‘whys’ and to identify, size, and define the coordinates that can provoke nuance on where there is overlap & where there is distinction in the marketplace. This matters in a world of limited resources, mobilizing insights allows brands to develop programs more strategically & action campaigns more surgically to generate impact.
Which leads us to how insights can strengthen & guide brand strategy.
A Consumer Insight Connects Brands to Relevance.
The ultimate goal of brand marketing is to deliver insulated relevance. Offering a product or service in a way that is unique and differentiated and that ultimately invites the consumer to routinely select ‘you’ above all others for a certain (and likely evolving) needs-scape.
How to do that successfully?
Brands can’t operate in a vacuum. They have to be alert. And alertness requires an understanding of the ‘why’ — at the intersection of that ‘why’ (the consumer insight outlining a need) and the ‘how’ (the brand’s role in resolving it) lives sustained relevance.
The choreography to relevance is a tricky one — the steps are mapped to different truths that combine in often intricate ways to reveal insight.
These steps to consumer insight are often rooted in an amalgam of truths, various light bulbs that must be strung together —
· The macro forces and trends impacting consumer choice (could be universal sea changes shifting outlooks, perspectives, & expectations).
· The micro forces influencing individual attitudes & preferences (could be life stage, age, gender, ethnicity, passion points, & life circumstance modifiers).
· The energy field at the physical or digital shelf impacting accessibility (could be the platforms, offerings, assortment, & mix).
All of these truths combine powerfully to provide a bridge to consumer insight creation via the exploration of the ‘why’. And that bridge converges to opportunity spaces for brand behaviors.
Stemming from consumer insight, implications will emerge for integrated brand strategy across the marketing flywheel from core positioning and creative development to media placement, channel optimization, brand partnerships, social strategy, & pipeline innovation.
Main Takeaway — Consumer insight development & examination leads to a renewed appreciation of brand implications, serving as a critical handshake between consumer needs & brand strategy. Understanding these truths - these light bulbs - and ‘throwing light on the data’ requires learning this choreography. These steps to derive consumer insight are not an outright guarantee of winning brand relevance, but they are the crucial ticket to the dance.
Shruti is a brand strategist with a broad diversity of background, expertise, and industry knowledge in marketing and consumer design.
She is the Founder & CEO of Drive Brand Strategy, LLC a brand and innovation consulting firm and has held previous marketing strategy positions at Anheuser-Busch and General Mills, and was a featured brand & media strategy contributor for The Huffington Post.
Shruti received her MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA degree in Economics from Harvard College. All opinions are her own.