What are consumer insights?
Thomas Carlyle says it best, “Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight.”
Many researchers classify an insight as “a universal human truth” – something that tells you truly unique information about an audience.
Meaningful consumer insights form the building blocks of any solid marketing strategy.
Take advertising, for example. It wouldn’t exist without market research and valuable insights. Well, it would exist, but it probably wouldn’t be great.
Even during the pandemic, brands that have tapped into rapidly-shifting consumer sentiment and behavior were able to uncover meaningful analytics to help build their campaigns. In Q4 2021, our data showed that 45% of consumers believed helping the environment was important, and companies responded with changes that addressed this concern.
One example is the American food brand Chobani. It announced that it would be transitioning its oat yogurt to sustainable, paper-based packaging along with other consumer packaged goods like oat milk, cold brew coffee, and coffee creamers.
At a basic level, businesses need insights and marketing research to identify consumer sentiment, interests, and behavior – specifically, how and why they carry out certain actions.
Gathering, analyzing, and learning how to use the right data to make sure it’s actionable is one of the most important skills for marketers (and storytellers of any kind) today.
Why are consumer insights important?
Let’s put it this way: the better your data, the better your decisions.
Lots of brands still rely on first-party sources like browsing habits on their website, mobile app behavior, and transaction history. The problem with this is it’s too one-sided.
There’s nothing to back it up, validate it, or compare it against, and you usually only get to dive into the “what”, not the “why”; so you know what they’re doing, but not why they’re doing it.
Coupling first-party data with rich survey data that validates everything you think you know about behaviors, then shows you the motivations, attitudes, and perceptions that put those behaviors into action — that’s where you’ll uncover the good stuff.
Insights like these provide a holistic construct of the types of consumers interested in buying from your brand. The result? You deliver impactful messages, at the right time, for the best return.
But what does it honestly take to create consumer insights that drive meaningful creativity? We dive into the key pillars you ought to consider.
1. Define key obstacles
Finding the right answers starts with asking the right questions. Defining the key strategic business questions you need to answer ensures you know you can make an informed business decision.
Most marketers worth their salt will agree that to truly matter, marketing KPIs must be tied to broader business goals, like helping to increase sales or focusing on customer retention, so finding the answers to these questions is key:
- Are sales down for a particular consumer segment?
- Is there a need to shift brand perceptions?
- Are you hoping to focus on a new target group?
- Are you simply hoping to develop more of an understanding of your audiences?
This will help to inform your research methods from the outset by offering clear direction on what to look for and why.
“The biggest [factor to consider] is what the business is trying to achieve”, says Tom Primrose, strategic planner at indie agency Southpaw. “It’s about understanding where they’re at and where they want to go.”
2. Use actionable insights
High-quality data is one of the most valuable commodities in a marketer’s toolkit. In contrast, dodgy data sets drain marketing resources and limit campaign effectiveness.
Unfortunately, working with data from legacy systems with no single or unified customer view isn’t exactly unknown. That’s because customer journeys are increasingly complex due to the proliferation of devices and channels, and organizational conflicts can lead to siloed data analytics and duplicate customer records across multiple databases.
But there’s a simple solution.
Today, you can use platforms with 100% harmonized data across audiences, regions, and research waves.
3. Streamline your strategy
When it comes to authentic marketing strategies, it’s the simple ideas that have the most impact. By focusing on the simple, yet defining aspects of your consumer insight, you can hone in on the ideas that stick and improve the customer experience.
For every agency and marketing department, an insight takes a different form. For Jamie Robinson, global research and insight director at WeAreSocial, this makes up no more than a couple of sentences – something for creatives and marketers alike to continually refer back to.
This keeps their efforts on track to creating an impactful campaign, bred from a simple idea. Robinson explains, “The insight is typically no more than two sentences that you can stick on the wall. This helps to describe the interpersonal truth that we want our idea to hook onto.”
Keeping the focus on the consumer’s preference, perception or attitude will help any creative tap into the mindset of potential and existing customer behavior, leveraging the fundamental truth that’s been uncovered.
4. Create personas and customer journey maps
Sifting through customer data and looking for the things that stick is the next key step to getting to that truth.
Using in-depth consumer data to understand who they are, what motivates them, what their priorities are, and what daily challenges they face is how you can find the consumer insights to hit home.
Start by drafting real-life buyer personas that bring your demographics to life.
With this customer insight, you can also map the many consumer journeys you want to track and every touchpoint involved – meaning you know exactly how your consumers interact with your brand.
For Joe Portman and Sharmin Rashed, junior strategists at indepedent agency Analog Folk, journey maps play a central role in their efforts to get the level of audience understanding they need.
“There is the consumer journey that maps the purchase journey, but there’s also the day to day of that consumer’s life which influences every part of that journey”, says Joe.
“Not only do the clients love to see them, it helps everyone from the creatives to ourselves to better understand our audiences”, says Sharmin.
5. Zero in on the data
The next step is figuring out what feelings, perceptions, and trends you can use to transform the consumer insight into a creative message.
Your idea can take on a new lease of life depending on what you discover in the data.
Creative agency Zulu Alpha Kilo embarked on a recent social media campaign for snack company Goldfish in a bid to connect with a teenage audience. They created a Snapchat AR lens that allowed them to make a game out of challenging their target consumer’s attention span. If viewers were able to focus on a goldfish cracker moving for more than 9 seconds, they would be rewarded with an exclusive discount on products.
This entertaining effort matches up with our data around the latest trends among Generation Z – social media and gaming.
By putting this data-driven approach into practice, brands like Goldfish are proving the power of marketing strategy that reflects real people and their passion points.
And the result — if you do it right —is a creative message that truly resonates.
6. Filter your consumers into smaller groups
Some data’s easier to use when it’s connected to certain segments or individuals.
Choose which target market segments to study based on your goals. Are you trying to appeal to a new audience, for example, or to drive loyalty among your existing customer base?
Grouping together personas and demographics with common attributes like age, gender and interests can give you a deeper understanding of their motivations. It can also help build the level of empathy you need to drive meaningful engagement.
This can also help you identify lookalike audiences to broaden your reach or point you in the direction of the right influencers, platforms, and content types to focus on.
7. Tell the story behind the data
Consumer insights are not just for researchers. These fundamental truths behind your audience help you to understand what clearly defines them.
This plays a hugely important role in driving more targeted business decisions and helping your organization keep consumers and the customer experience at the forefront.
But data can be overwhelming, especially to those who don’t work with it daily.
This is why presenting your most relevant findings in an accessible way is key.
Using visual aids like graphs and charts helps to bring the stats to life while honing in on the consumer insights they have led you to will tell the story behind your data and spark innovative ideas that work.
8. Understand that context is king
An insight without context is pretty much useless.
It’s only useful once it sits in place with your own goals, coupled with behavioral data to pinpoint its right message, timing, and placement.
Working with multiple departments is invaluable when it comes to unlocking this value.
By working with other consumer-facing colleagues across teams and departments, combining what they know with in-depth consumer data, you can paint a more holistic picture and trigger great ideas.
Drawing inspiration from powerful examples of brands that are putting consumer insights into practice is one way to spark these ideas.
A great example: Essity, #PainStories
In its latest campaign, Essity, home of Libresse and Bodyform, has looked to its core audience, women, to speak up about the terrors of endometriosis.
Endometriosis is experienced by an estimated 1 in 10 women worldwide – but is still thought to be hugely under-diagnosed.
In a custom research report which collated interviews with women across the world, the brand presented a jarring view of what women suffering from this condition have experienced, from huge levels of pain and anxiety to a lack of sufficient or appropriate medical care.
One theme that kept reappearing was the lack of understanding of women’s pain.
According to Tanja Grubner at Essity, the team found that “women’s pain is systematically overlooked… dismissed, ignored and misdiagnosed.”
In response to the findings and existing data, the brand launched its #PainStories campaign.
It comprised creative assets like a ‘pain museum’ and a ‘pain dictionary’ to educate the public as much as possible, and to showcase an issue many women struggle with in silence.
It’s a strong example of a global brand using third-party data and harvesting its own insight to pinpoint the message its consumers truly want to see. And, as a bonus, the campaign brings about the possibility of change – at the moment, the average diagnosis time for endometriosis is 7.5 years.
Here’s hoping that will change.