Seeking insights? Start by forgetting what you think you know

One of my key tasks as a creative strategist/planner in an ad agency is to generate insights to spark great ideas. Whether that’s uncovering consumer, cultural, brand or category insights –  it’s human nature to want to be seen as being experienced, smart,  in the know – so you often see planners jump to a solution without really exploring.

The reality is that 90% of briefs flying around most agencies today are not based on deep insight or understanding of the human condition, they are merely general observations, which is maybe why there is so much ordinary work out there.  If your insight doesn’t generate at least a bit of an ‘aha’ moment, it’s not an insight. If your insight doesn’t pass the ‘so what’ test, you don’t have an insight.

I’ve noticed a generation of what I call ‘Google planners’ – young planners and suits who believe that the consumer insight will come from a quick Google search.  What they forget is that the planner across town working on the competitor brand also has Google and also has the same search results.

Don’t get me wrong I love Google. They’re the most innovative company in the world and a current client of mine here in Australia. But information from a Google search or YouTube video will never ever replace the gems that can come from face to face interaction, conversation even observation in peoples natural habitat.

In a data fuelled world, I think the same can be said for social monitoring tools that many brands use to gain insights from brand conversations on the web. They’re useful and they give you rational understanding of the conversation, but must be taken with a grain of salt in my mind as they don’t uncover feeling.  As great BBH planner Jim Carroll states in this post ‘it’s far more about empathy and feeling than logic and understanding’

As a planner it’s dangerous to assume that you understand why a person feels and behaves the way they do without actually spending a lot of time with them. Quite often we don’t even understand why we ourselves feel and behave as we do.

Finding insights is not about finding the right answers.

It’s about asking the most interesting questions.  Trying to find tensions in culture, fresh angles in on the way people interact with brands and each other.

One of the best pieces of advices I ever received was from a great Saatchi & Saatchi planner, Mike Canterbury who sadly passed away about 5 years ago.

He believed the best way to uncover a powerful consumer insight, was to assume that there is only 5% you know from scratch. It’s a far better starting point than going in thinking you have the consumer profile sewn up.

Then assume that there is perhaps 15% you know you can easily find out – who is the key brand user, their demographics, when/where/how they use., who they influence/are influenced by, how they feel about the competition etc. Things that traditional research cover and most likely other brands have as well.

Which leaves 80% you don’t even know you don’t know.

80% of child like ignorance which you can turn into deep revelations, those kind of simple striking human truths that make you think, wow…I never thought of it that way.

So, spend your time playing here. Go to work every day with a curious child like mind. Get out of the office, seek inspiration from a variety of sources, not just digital ones.

Asking WHY should become your favourite question as this will provoke you to try and reframe the consumer issue or look at the cultural landscape in a slightly different way.

It’s here you’ll find those transformative insights which unlock opportunity and growth for a brand.

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Diesel goes counter culture and encourages youth to ‘Be Stupid’

Diesel global have just launched their ‘Be Stupid’ campaign which is a sort of manifesto against culture’s obsession with being ‘smart’.

I applaud Diesel for trying something new, but I kind of feel this counter culture angle of rebelling against ‘smart’ or culture’s view of what is accepted as smart just isn’t that interesting. I’m just not feeling it at all (and trust me, I want to) I think this idea devalues Diesel position as an aspirational lifestyle brand. I see there strategy as being  subversive and counter culture and trying to align a group of people to their brands viewpoint, but I just can’t figure out who would want to belong to an idea about ‘being stupid’.  This idea will propably have some traction with the Hipster and creative class youth tribes, but other than that, I think it may fall flat. The playfulness of the idea is ‘on brand’, but it just grates at me as being low rent for such a typically dynamic and intriguing brand.  I certainly don’t get the sophisticatel urban cool feel I’ve got from previous Diesel social media initiatives. They use examples of being ‘creative’ as metaphors for being stupid which just doesn’t really make sense in terms of sparking conversations in culture amongst global youth. Realistically, the majority of Diesel’s community want to be seen as savvy and in the know, not stupid.

The most interesting part of this idea is the  social component whereby people from around the world are given the  chance to be part of Diesel’s new music video by getting them to send in footage of themselves ‘being stupid’. They’ll also use this footage as part of Diesel’s 2010 clothing catalogue and link back to these kids personal networks, so there will be self promotion built in which will certainly appeal to 18-21yr olds need for their 15 seconds of fame’.

I might be totally wrong, but this idea isn’t that engaging, however the fact kids could be part of their new music video could save it from being an epic fail.

10 Principals for Engaging Teens/20 somethings

Here are some principals I’ve been talking about recently in different presentations about the new marketing model for engaging young people…it definitely focuses on digital natives around the world.

1. It’s not just about the BIG IDEA anymore, it’s about TRIBAL IDEAS – ideas which spark a rapid mobilisation of youth via social media, they can be big or intimate, they just have to get the tribe connecting with each other QUICKLY

2. It’s about interesting and provocative BRAND BEHAVIOURS, not brand statements or promises, it’s about DOING NOT SAYING

3. Youth are not a destination or target for your messages, they are your PARTNERS IN PRODUCTION and modulation of ideas

4. Think about CREATING CULTURE not mimicking it, provide an interesting lens into their world, rather than putting a mirror up to their lives

5. COLLABORATIVE CREATIVITY is the new platform for engagement, they want to participate in brand ideas, put their own spin and co-develop brands..they know your brand better than you do

6. Spark CONTINUOUS CONVERSATIONS NOT CAMPAIGNS, ban the word campaign from your marketing plan, think about what conversations in social media you are stimulating, fostering

7. CULTURE JAM with youth, be subversive and disrupt the status quo, find something for the tribe to CHANGE

8. INSPIRE THE SWARM don’t try and talk to individuals as decision making is a team sport

9. Ideas have to be FLUID and evolve, youth are chameleons and interests/passions change on a daily basis, so your ideas should morph and evolve with what the tribe wants

10. Have a clear and compelling reason to why youth will FOLLOW YOU

If you can apply a couple of these principals to your next conversation you have with youth, I reckon you may have some success..Word.

Generation C- The Connected Collective

Hi everyone…my name is Dan Pankraz and I’m a Strategic Planner based in Sydney with a keen interest in the youth space. Here is a recent presentation I put together on Generation C- the connected collective. It’s all about how social media has given rise to a new type of consumer and the implications for marketers trying to connect with this crowd. Check it out