LONDON: Too many customer insight managers are still data gatherers, rather than knowledge-appliers, according to an industry figure.

In a Warc Best Practice paper, How to deliver consumer insights, Merry Baskin, of planning consultancy Baskin Shark, stresses that insight is not synonymous with market research and that "the crucial question in insight mining is 'why?'"

"Neuroscience, behavioural economics, semiotics, sociology, anthropology and ethnography provide new opportunities to garner, hone and apply insight beyond the traditional group discussion or segmentation study," she notes.

The advantages of several of these research techniques is that they introduce greater customer-centricity and remove the preconceptions and biases that can creep into traditional surveys.

But as the methods of collecting and collating consumer information evolve, Baskin says that "it becomes even more important to be able to integrate findings and distil them down from key themes into actionable insights".

And that is the key point: the primary purpose of an insight is that it is actionable.

"It is a fresh and thought-provoking perception (about the consumer, the category, the brand and so on) that can be applied to improve a business solution, to challenge a marketing strategy, stimulate a different communication idea.

"It can aid the development of a new product, the writing of a creative brief, or make an executional element resonate."

If it can't do any of those things then it's not an insight but just a curious factoid or a bit of relevant data.

Market research is just one activity involved in developing consumer insight. Marketers need to start by developing some hypotheses about the comms tasks ahead of them and the people they are targeting, Baskin advises.

A data gap analysis and study of existing research and online resources may or may not lead to the commissioning of further research – simple informal observation could be enough – aimed at unearthing the emotional heart of the issue in hand.

All this data then has to be sifted for relevant nuggets and patterns identified. Baskin recommends using tools such as "laddering" and applying different "lenses".

But always she comes back to the "why?" and makes her point with the example of disposable nappies: continually asking why illustrates the huge role emotions such as guilt and love play in something essentially practical and convenient.

"The marketer can stop at various stages on the ladder, reflect upon, consider and share the various product, strategic and communications options," she says.

Data sourced from Warc