What is the Value of a Consumer Insight?


By Joseph Plummer



Most marketers and consumer researchers today place a high value on discovering “consumer insights.” Many new company titles include “insights” or “consumer insights” as part of their title. A new group of research methods are emerging or becoming bundles under “insight tools.” Thus, it would be difficult to argue that the search for consumer insights is unimportant to marketers today. But how important is uncovering a consumer insight really? How much are marketers willing to do to uncover and act on a consumer insight? What is the ultimate value of having a consumer insight?
In the Winter 2008 issue of Marketing Research Marco Vriens and Rogier Verhulst provide their view on the value of consumer insights.
“Why do insights matter and how can we think about this somewhat elusive concept? Insights matter because there is plenty of evidence that supports the contention that decisions informed by insights are better decisions and are more likely to lead to a competitive advantage.”
This notion of having a consumer insight as a competitive advantage is a useful way to gauge the value of an insight – that “a-ha” experience that translates into a successful go-to-market effort. A few recent examples are instructive. Apple's highly successful iPhone is a stunning example of a consumer insight helping to create a competitive advantage in the crowded, highly competitive mobile device category. The majority of the competitors marketed their devices on the basis of price or matching a new feature, like picture-taking, introduced by competitors. Apple uncovered the insight that the most emotionally engaging part of a mobile device experience for many people was a sensory one – the touch and sight as well as sound. It was not operational features. The iPhone with its multi-faceted touch screen took the competition by surprise and delighted consumers. The global success of the iPhone has added significant new revenue to Apple (and to its partner, AT&T) and enhanced the overall market value of Apple.
The GEICO insurance brand had built a reputation for competitive auto insurance rates. The introduction of GEICO's online application site lowered already low prices. GEICO learned from research that many consumers wanted to benefit from even lower premiums but were intimidated by the thought of an online application process. GEICO's agency, the Martin Agency in Richmond, had the consumer insight that they needed to dramatize the ease of applying for GEICO's low on-line rates without insulting the intelligence of potential customers. The insight led to the now famous “Caveman” campaign – signing up with GEICO: So simple a caveman can do it. This campaign based upon a powerful consumer insight has widened GEICO's market share lead.

A final example of a company gaining a competitive advantage based upon a powerful consumer insight is Cisco. Cisco is the global leader in networking hardware and software for the internet and corporate intranets. Cisco had concerns that customers and stakeholders didn't have a strong commitment to the Cisco brand; they merely benefitted from their technology. Cisco commissioned OZA to conduct deep research with customers to see how to better engage them with the Cisco brand and strengthen their commitment to Cisco products and services long-term. Using the ZMET technique, Cisco and OZA learned that the core meaning of Cisco was enabling the internet. The insight emerged, however, that the essence of the internet was human (not technology) – connecting people to people and people to information and ideas. This led to a redesign of the Cisco logo and a successful campaign built around the insight of “human networks.” Cisco has increased its market leadership and, importantly, expanded awareness of its brand.

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