Corndogs And Insights

Feb 23, 2017

BY LISA BRINK – DIRECTOR, CUSTOMER STRATEGY AND INSIGHTS

Getting to the right insights can be a challenge. But a good insight can be the lynchpin to an unconventional new product or service offering, an elegant marketing strategy, or a richer, more authentic way to connect with your customers.

So, what is an insight?

Merriam-Webster’s simple definition of an insight is:

“The ability to understand people and situations in a very clear way.”

Getting to an insight requires a delicate balance between applying art and science—you have to look at the facts, augment that with additional information, ask the right questions, develop hypotheses, ask more questions, and repeat.

Let me give you an example of how this can play out. A few weeks ago I stumbled across an article about dry dog food—specifically addressing the question of whether corn/grain-based dry dog food is a healthy option for dogs. It interested me for a couple of reasons: 1) I’m a pet owner that buys Blue Wilderness for their dog (a more expensive dry dog food) and was curious about the answer, and 2) I thought it illustrated the point about getting to the right insights quite nicely.

 

THE STORY

When assessing the health of a dog during an annual check-up, a vet will typically ask an owner what they feed them. If a pet owner says that they feed their dog corn/grain-based dry dog food, and upon visual inspection the dog looks healthy (shiny, soft coat) and they don’t have other medical conditions, a vet may conclude that grain/corn-based dry dog food is a viable option for that dog. Doing this on a case-by-case basis could lead to some pretty faulty conclusions and guidance to a pet owner.

To get to the bottom of this, a group of veterinarians set up a test—they asked their questions and collected information across several annual check-ups. Upon conclusion of the test, the veterinarians observed that some dogs looked quite healthy (shiny, soft coat) on corn/grain-based dry dog foods, while others did not.

The test was inconclusive. What were they missing? What questions hadn’t they asked? They eventually got back in a room, brainstormed more questions, and went back out and tested their new questions. Bingo! They determined the vital question they were missing—they failed to ask pet owners if they fed their dog anything else other than the corn/grain-based dry dog food. By adding that simple question, they quickly discovered that the corn/grain fed dogs with shiny, luxurious coats were also being fed table scraps (bacon, chicken, and eggs). The dogs with the shabby coats were exclusively eating a corn/grain-based dry dog food diet—no table scraps. They called these dogs “corndogs.”

THE WRAP UP

In strategy work, uncovering insight is about understanding the “what” and the “why” behind a particular phenomenon or behavior. Not getting to the core of what’s going on might not get you to the right insight (as the example above demonstrates). If a marketing campaign, promotion, or public service message was to be generated from this research among veterinarians, think about the next round of research that would happen with the right group of pet owners. Mapping your marketing objectives and plans to an explicit need among targeted customers based on a human truth is powerful.

Getting to good insights is never formulaic, but there are a few principles you can put into practice to make it easier.

1. KEEP ASKING WHY—DON’T SETTLE FOR THE EASY ANSWER

Nothing is one-dimensional. Make sure you’ve exhausted all the possible hypotheses for the behavior you’re observing. It will lead you to the right questions.

2. STAY CURIOUS—IT HELPS YOU GET TO THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

Stay hungry for acquiring more information and learning about someone or a situation. Ask yourself if you’ve thought of all the possible explanations.

3. BALANCE FACTS AND PERSPECTIVE—GET THE WHOLE STORY

You may have all the facts, but without fully understanding a situation you may draw the wrong conclusions.

4. DON’T JUDGE—GO IN WITH THE INTENTION TO UNDERSTAND

Listen and observe without judging and be open to being wrong or surprised.

5. CHALLENGE YOURSELF—ASK YOURSELF IF YOU’VE UNCOVERED SOMETHING NOVEL AND INTERESTING

Have you understood something or someone in a clear and meaningful way?

Insights can seem elusive, but when you strike upon one you’ll know it—it will feel human, genuine, and explain the “why” behind a human behavior or phenomenon. It will seem simple, but we know the real truth behind it—you had to work like a dog to find it! Sorry, but I just had to end with a corny line.