Posts tagged ‘insight’
I was in an agency internal client team meeting recently, talking about some stuff I’d been working on, when someone else in the room piped up with “and the Insight Team have come up with this document that…”. I was taken aback for a moment – after all, traditionally Planning and Insight are normally pretty inseparable and Planning stuff for this client usually falls to me. Then I remembered they were talking about what The Maths Department had come up with.
Yep, data is so important to this Northern, mid-sized integrated agency that they have an in-house department of post-grad mathematicians, or Numerical Analysts. Not just one, a team of them.
It’s a bit scary from a fairly traditional Planner’s point of view to be reminded that Insight is now so firmly routed in data analysis – for this agency I’m strictly their go-to girl for Soft and Fluffy forms of insight. My stuff does fit in neatly for this agency’s client alongside the more numerical side of things, but will Planners soon need to start reassessing who owns or leads Insight? And what Insight really is exactly?
Because if Planning doesn’t have ownership of Insight, we’re going to have to either find a territory we can own, or learn to share – and be prepared to be second fiddle.
I was at a research debrief with an agency recently and the following is more-or-less exactly how the conversation went afterwards:
Client: “I really liked your presentation”
Agency-and-me: “Erm, thank you”
Client: “Because it wasn’t all charts and numbers”
Agency-and-me: *crosses fingers that client is being serious and not sarcastic about our report based on a primarily quantitative methodology*
Client: “It told us what we actually needed to know and it did it in less than 20 slides…I don’t have time to read 100 page presentations that just sit there unread with us doing nothing anything about them. So let’s talk about Wave Two.”
So there you have it – less is more apparently. And when in doubt, leave the numbers out.
A work distraction to rival twitter landed on the doormat this morning. Stable Stereotypes is a collection of pen portraits of the equestrian eccentrics that populate the horsey world, collated from a regular feature in Horse & Hound.
Normally, I imagine this wouldn’t be of much interest to the readers of a blog about Account Planning and Advertising type stuff. But I suddenly realised that each Stable Stereotype was in fact a pretty perfect response to the ‘who is our target audience?’ bit of the creative brief.
Imagine if every creative brief had the insight of this offering:
And does this one remind you of anyone? :-)
I watched the next episode of Mary Portas: Secret Shopper last night. Not really a good idea because she winds me up, but this week’s focus was on the sofa industry and since one of the agencies I work for has a client in that sector I thought I’d better tune in.
What really set me off this time was Mary’s assertion that customers don’t want Sales. All the people Vox Popped for the programme (and Mary too) merrily declared that they were sick of sales and didn’t believe the deals anyway.
Well, that’s what they said. Like researcher Simon blogged the other day (in a post so good I’ve now linked to it twice), what people say and what they do are often different. People are inconsistent, frequently irrational and their underlying motivations are difficult to uncover.
I’ve done quite a few furniture focus groups myself recently. When you ask people what they don’t like about furniture stores practically the first thing they talk about is the never ending sales. But dig a little deeper and ask them about the stages they go through in buying furniture and stage one is nearly always “see who’s got the best deals on”.
This is where the difference between DIY research and using a trained researcher really becomes apparent. If clients start to think all they need to do is head down the local high street with a video camera for some Insight, they’re going to come to considerably different conclusions than an experienced researcher might. And yes, the same applies to agencies sending the account exec out to do some quick and dirty research as pitch fodder. As an old boss once said to me, “good researchers tell you what people meant, not what they said”.
Mary Portas persuaded CSL Sofas to move to a ‘best price permanently’ pricing model with no sales at all. I’d love to know how they’re planning on shifting their slow selling stock…
When my first ever Planning Director was interviewing me for the job, he asked “when was the last time you were on a bus?”. He had a point.
Its all very well for Account Planners and the like to say that they are ‘always listening’ (actually, I think I like that better than ‘always thinking’…), but inevitably if you’re a Planner you tend to be earning enough money to live somewhere nice and do nice things in your spare time. And most of your friends will probably be in similar circumstances. ‘Always Listening’ in the queue at Starbucks is one thing, but you won’t see many APG members in the chip shop queue in a rundown council estate on a Friday night. And Planners are probably not core target audience for things like Christmas savings clubs, bingo halls or discount retailers. So we (and the people who employ us) can’t assume we automatically understand the people who might be interested in these kind of things.
That’s why I always feel a bit uncomfortable about making insight leaps without some kind of research to work from. Unless the target audience is 30 something horse owning singletons in the North of England, I need some help to put myself in their shoes – even if its just some groups I did with the same target audience on a unrelated subject two months ago and a bit of TGI data.
Particularly now I’m freelance, there does seem to be a bit of an assumption among some marketeers that you can put a Planner on it and Great Insight will rain forth, despite the absence of any kind of data or research into the market or target audience – qualitative, quantitative, desk or otherwise.
I feel like I should put a proviso sticker on the work I produce in these circumstances – this insight is based on nothing more than my own meandering experience.
In pursuit of Insight, I’ve tried an awful lot of ways of trawling through desk research.
I’ve enjoyed access to experienced desk researchers who come back with 100 pages on everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-air-fresheners and work experience students who think Lexis Nexis is a kind of car. I’ve also done my fair share of my own desk research and produced reports for other people too.
On balance, the most interesting Insights that I’ve ever identified (without the benefit of primary research) have been when I’ve done the digging myself.
Although it is immensely time consuming, no report, however well written or thoroughly researched, can replace the dawning realisation that three or four of the things you read this morning have something interesting in common that you hadn’t considered before.
In the frantic world of agency life it’s very tempting to offload desk research onto a specialist or the nearest junior, but I’m definitely going to make a conscious effort to do more of my own groundwork.
If you want to grow great insights, maybe you have to do the digging yourself.
Interesting client feedback via a Research buddy today – one of their clients had apologised for not putting quantitative work their way recently. He explained that his role was now more about analysing his own customer data and buying in qualitaitive insight than farming out huge ‘how many and how much’ surveys.
If we accept that the world has fragmented in every long-tailed possible way (consumers, media channels, product and service distribution channels etc) and speeded up at the same time, then perhaps he has a point.
What’s the point of knowing how many potential customers there are out there if you don’t prioritise how to effectively communicate with them?
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Research and Planning and how the two interact as disciplines and benefit from each other.
There’s no doubt that the best Planners have a healthy regard for and understanding of research methodologies and the potential and limitations of research tools.
Its also now widely accepted that the best Researchers think beyond “what did they say” and even “what did they mean” to “what does this mean for the brand and business“. As enlightened researchers are acknowledging that the answer is often found more in insight than the hard data itself, the line between Planning and Research becomes ever more blurred – which I think can only be a good thing.
At my agency, the quallies and quanties and desk research specialists and planners all co-exist quite peacefully as an integrated team – and I think we are all the better for it.
Is it too easy to get hold of information? With online news and creative databases, google, technorati and consumer reviews sites like dooyoo all only a mouse click away, its easy to find yourself buried under a mountain of information.
I started as a Planner just as everyone in my first agency got hooked up to the ‘net in 1999. I’ve never known anything else. But in that same agency we suddenly had to tighten our belts and I lost access to all those juicy online subscriptions. I had to search twice as hard and be twice as creative to dig up something that was fresh and relevant. And I suppose I was more likely to actually go and talk to people, to put together a very quick and dirty focus group or literally stop people in the street.
I think there has to be a happy medium between primary and secondary information and an over and under supply of the same. Because theres a difference between knowledge and insight.