Insight or simply "Seeing"

OK, that's definitly a big one.

When talking with clients we use the term "insight" all the time. Every brief does have this paragraph. Even the client's brief does have it in place. The one that's written in captions and starts with the word "I", thus imitating a consumer speaking.

When did you have your last insight that lead to an idea and then to a campaign? When did it start with the word "I" the last time?
I haven't had a big one since months and even before it never started with "I , the consumer...".

Let's forget what an insight is used for or why it is important to have one, let's think about what exactly it IS and how to get one.

What an insight is:

An insight is a psychic event in your mind. It is not something in the consumer's mind. You even get paid for having an insight. It happens within you!
And yes, an insight is an event, not a statement. It is the event of seeing and becoming able to express something you have not been able to see/express before.

Exactly like Buddha. He gained insight into Human Nature and the Nature of the Universe! Not too bad, is it. And his budget for market research was quite scarce at that time, too. Just like mine always is. No envy here, but he just had more time than we normally have for this Universe thingy. Especially given his personal concept of "time".

This is all banal? Yes. And not at all! Most people I know assume an insight is "information about the consumer and his motivation". My point is: it is NOT that! An insight is about the limitations of your acknowledgment being dissolved for a moment. Whatever the limitations are - insights are all about those limitations, not about consumers. Side note: That's the nice thing about Disruption (TBWA) - the change of perspective is considered to be more powerful than information about the consumer.
So if you need some kind of standardised beginning for an insight statement try this one: "We first thought that ..., but then we realised that ...". But better don't use any form at all.

Still don't know where to start? Me neither. Espceically the starting point is the one with the most panic involved. It's comforting to know that e.g. in the Hermeneutic Circle we are instructed to start "somewhere" to gain insight. In other words: just start. In my case: I just start talking. In your case it might be googling, or sth else.

What sometimes helps me with insight is a bunch of obscure techniques I have developed over time. Here are two of those contemplation techniques.

The first notion is called "Distinctions". No, not differentiation. Distinctions in a wider sense. It's all about drawing distinctions and comparisons between concepts, things, points in time, etc. Start thinking by finding the most promising distinctions & comparisons. Why were sales higher at point in time Y then now? How is Whisky different from Vodka? And is Whisky different from Whiskey? You get the point.
It's a very simple and broad notion but it can be powerful. So don't ask just "why do people buy X" but try "What is the difference between times when people buy X and those when they don't?". Even in consumer research: help respondents by letting them compare two or three things. You know this cat food insight: "Cats are loved because of their disobedient character"? That could have come from a comparison of cats to dogs.

The second one is the opposite of Unique Selling Points. It's about The Generic & Obvious. What is NOT the hidden but the most obvious, essential thing in the category? As you know in cosmetics it's - .... Yes, exactly, so if you start from "Beauty" you can arrive at "Real Beauty". In Vodka it's ... no, not clarity, more obvious ... getting drunk, maybe. Probe from there. Is getting drunk a no-go theme? Interesting!

There are several other approaches, of course. Maybe You'd like to share those You like best with us? Then write a comment below, please.



Mistrust Crosses

This is not going to be an anticlerical one although this a critique of an almost sacred and unquestioned positioning technique.

Here is a brief summary why positioning crosses are stupid.

First of all: what's good about them? Everybody understands them quite instantly if the axes make sense.
What's bad then? Same answer: Everybody "understands" because the axes make sense. So you try to make them make sense, don't you. Junior Planners keep coming and offer solutions and you go "no, give this one another name", "what about this brand here, it doesn't fit the logic", etc. So basically you do not think about reality any longer. You just try to make the axes fit the brand logos somehow. You make things up. That's alright if everyone is aware of its fictional character but noone ever is.

It's important to understand four things about such crosses.

1) The world is not two-dimensional; a powerpoint slide is.

2) It might very much be the case that the particular slice-of-world you are looking at is not dimensional at all! This means that positioning might not be about finding a space on a continuum or being "somewhere between A and B". Simply because there is no "space" with a coordinate system similar to the physical space we live in. An example might help here: Seeing your DYI market as a place with widest product range & best advice (OBI) is simply a different kind of thing than seeing it as a transformational offer for personal development (Hornbach). There simply IS NO continuum between them to slide along, and if you make one up it will not help much. Just like there is not much land to build your house on between Ireland and Iceland. (I hope this is geographically right.)

3) The axes are derived from the objects / brands analysed. So they vary depending on which brands you throw in. This is even more striking if you have crosses derived by quantitative methods (MDS, Factor Analysis etc.) They simply vary with every brand you add or take away. But what the picture of the cross suggests to the viewer is something different: it says "there is a space prior to the objects located in it". That's just the metaphor of "space" working in our brains: Space must be prior to and independent of objects. Well, that is exactly the way a positioning cross is not be read!

4) By using such a cross you just build a box you then try to think outside of.

So beware of positioning crosses when you see them! Be much more sceptical if market researches present them ... as valid representations of reality, of course.
We actually don't need a space between brands. Just care about the chunks/clusters more than about the dimensions inbetween. Al Ries just picked a wrong word. What he meant is "owning a concept in people's heads". By calling it "positioning" he evoked the space metaphor which does not help much.

If you enjoy reading about "The end of planning as we know it"... please read about it somewhere else!

Opening Confession and Mission Statement.

At the place I work... planning is still quite an unexplored territory and undefined undertaking - and now it's already declared dead. I don't even "know" planning - like most people around don't - and now what I don't know is already wrong... Confusing this is, indeed.

There are more or less thought through explanations why planning as we know it is dead. These are summarised briefly & slightly satirically below:
1) The mediascape has changed so the consumer has changed so we have to change. This is the most common and - as you will admit (in private)- most meaningless mantra we have to nod to all the time. Bascially, what is suggested here is "Audiences can not be reached through old channels (=TV). We have to master new touchpoints to stay relevant." Given the fact that account planning never has been about message placement but about the message itself, this is not very relevant, yet...
2) The search of a short positioning message (the Big Essential Idea) has been an adpatation to an ancient media landscape - some say wisely. We had to target an unscattered audience via expensive "airing" of a message. The simpler and more repetitive this was the cheaper and memorable it got. This is said not to be the case today. Some have proposed lots of small ideas instead of one Big Idea. & that sounds interesting, actually. The term "Long Tail" has been borrowed for that - and then forgotten ...mostly because of its phallic associations. The "Integration" discussion became less about uniformity but about complexity management & diversity.
3) The need to plan for Interactions instead of Messaging requires a different aproach to planning. Yes, obviously. Lots of Big Ideas like e.g. "Think Small" or "Keep Walking" are of limited use for the development of apps, social network activations, mobile promotions & "experience platforms".
4) There are more message senders and content providers out there than ever. Everybody is sending and recieving messsages! This is called the Conversation Age. So audiences either will stop being "audiences" at all or at least it will be difficult for brands to get heard because there's just so much private chatter going on.
5) Since budgets are being shifted away from "classical", "non-classical" thinking is the thing to be into. Well that's remarkably honest. We do have to adapt to that, don't we.

Scary shit if you really think about it! People who don't get scared at this point are either...
a) not really responsible for coming up with strategic ideas
b) or work in disciplines that benefit from the budget shifts (That's luck not virtue by the way)
c) or are wise enough to know that propaganda always sounds like this and tries to scare you (it's oversimplified, biased & in denial of the present day in favour of a new world to come)

Now, as we are a bit scared and have heard partially good arguments why planning as we know it must die ... soon at least. What shall we do? How shall we change our input and output now? Well, here we are left on our own by the prophets of the new world. There is hardly ANY advise on that out there despite the proclaimed spirit of "open source" and sharing. And let's be honest, why advise someone who's already dead? We simply don't need that old planning any more! It's time for something new. In most cases this rhetorically means "it's time for someONE new". Now you're scared, aren't you.

In this blog I will try to transcend the duality of "Old" and "New" planning without ignoring the changes of media landscape & agencies' output. I will not pretend to "know" planning - I don't. I will try to write for planners who need and want to do planning not those who dream of being somewhere else (with google & apple mostly). I will write for planners who have their permanent problems with performing the planning task - because it's a bloody tricky thing to do. ...& I will change my opinion & style whenever I want to or you convince me to change it.

Happy to have you here.