A client recently asked me for my definition of insight. This was a "getting to know you" meeting and I think that she wanted to know whether I had ever thought about the question before. I laughed (out loud) and, before she could wonder whether I was mocking her, I said that the question reminded me of a never-ending discussion on Linked In that asked the same question in a Research/Insights Group. She knew of this post, and thankfully saw the humor as well.
After sharing a chuckle, I offered the following definition:
INSIGHT: defining a relationship between at least two pieces of information.
Odd you say? Most people would and have defined insight as "the aha moment" or "revelation" or, as academics have offered, the "moment of convergence versus divergence." But let's make this a little less esoteric. In my humble opinion, there is not much value to focusing the definition of insight on the "moment." Yes, it is a wonderfully magical experience when it happens, but it doesn't help us towards the actual achievement of insight. Thus, my proposal is that, instead, we focus on the concept of "insightful thinking."
So let's take a simple but profound example. Over five thousand years ago the ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first to have had the insight of pi. That is, they noticed the relationship between the circumference of a circle and its diameter as being consistently about 3. Somebody had the "aha moment" of noticing the relationship. But the real question is how did they do it? Did they simple do "thought experiments." Did they take some ropes and take a bunch of measurements? In other words, did they get their hands "empirically" dirty?
"Insightful Thinking" focuses on the process of how to arrive at insights. That's what we teach in our Insightful Thinking Workshop. #insightfulthinking
A large part of my career focused on marketing to kids, beginning when I was at P&G looking to launch a new brand in the kids juice drink category, which evolved to the acquisition and re-launch of Hawaiian Punch. "How 'bout a nice Hawaiian Punch?" I cherish the lessons learned as a kids brand manager, because they revealed some basic truths about how our brains, adult and kids, process information, which has been pivotal to the balance of my career as an insight and innovation consultant, and central to my philosophy of #insightfulthinking.
The primary lesson I learned was about Concrete versus Abstract thinking, and its consequences for branding. You see, kids under the age of 8 do not process information the same as tweens, teens, or adults. Their cognitive development is referred to as Concrete Operational. Yikes, I'm no psychologist, but I hired one who helped me understanding the significance of this concept. Dr Lang Rust is an educational psychologist, who early in his career worked with the developers of Sesame Street. The lessons he shared with me were many, but the one that really stands out for me is a simple way to understand concrete versus abstract thinking.
The exercise is this: when I say a word, I want you to tell me if a picture comes to mind, or not? OK, here we go. The first word is DOG. Do you see a dog in your mind? Can you describe it? Heck, you can probably even imagine the dog barking, or doing a trick, or whatever you want really. You might even feel some emotions based on how you feel about dogs. It's easy.
The next word is TRUST. Any pictures come to mind? Not as easy, right? If you work it you can begin to make trust more concrete by coming up with metaphors or analogies, but other than picturing big letters in your mind, there doesn't seem to be a visual representation of the abstraction of TRUST.
So, what does this have to do with brands? Everything! The fact is that while we eventually develop the ability to think abstractly as teens and adults, it doesn't come as easily, or as quickly. Literally, concrete ideas stick, and abstract ideas don't. In this regard, concrete versus abstract thinking is very much related to Kahneman's concepts of System 1 (instinctive, intuitive, fast) versus System 2 (logical, deliberate, slow) ways of thinking. See previous blog post.
How 'bout a nice Hawaiian Punch? Sure! By communicating the brand via a concrete character---Punchy--- we were able to deliver an instant cue to the brain that Hawaiian Punch is funny and fruity, but most importantly we made the brand mentally recognizable.
Moving to an adult beverage example, what comes to mind when I say Corona? Beach, bottle with lime, sun, etc. All good things. What comes to mind when I say Michelob Ultra? You get the picture! Or not.
Most brand strategies I have seen are expressed as a collection of words and phrases. These words and phrases are often configured in either a pyramidal, house architecture, or sometimes a kind of mind-map. The purpose of these structures is to represent a variety of information that branding experts have determined to be important dimensions or variables, such as brand essence, emotional benefit, functional benefit, reasons to believe or support, etc. Very few have a brand strategy that is expressed as imagery. Design theme boards or mood boards come close to a visualized strategy, but are rarely validated with consumers.
Why is this important? The answer lies in understanding how our brains process information. An Edge article (http://edge.org/conversation/the-marvels-and-flaws-of-intuitive-thinking) by Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking Fast and Slow, explains how our brains use two types of thinking, what he terms System 1 and System 2. System 1 is the thinking that is fast, instant, automatic, associatively coherent and largely unconscious, whereas System 2 is the more deliberate, effortful, rule-governed and logically coherent. I would argue that the artifacts of brand strategy are largely, if not completely, expressed as System 2 Thinking, yet the primary way in which we form impressions of brands is largely, if not completely System 1. The pair of images above from Kahneman's article easily express the difference between System 1 and 2 Thinking. Which one impacts you more quickly and more deeply?
So the real question is: Do you have a brand strategy that comprehends and expresses the visual associations and the consequential network of additional associations that ultimately comprise the meaning of your brand, both the current perception and your strategic vision?
We have developed a method to understand and develop these visual associations that is always very revealing and a powerful tool to embed your brand in a rich web of emotional meaning that is irresistible. As an example, we worked with a well established consumer brand who's key brand image attribute was "trusted." I guess that is better than being "untrusted" but it lacked the persuasive power to truly drive and differentiate the brand. We were able to illuminate how this abstract idea of "trust" could be visualized as "protection and comfort", leading to significant improvements to the business-building power of its advertising.
#Daniel Kahneman, #neuro-marketing
This blog offers stories and discussions on how to build more relevance and differentiation for brands. The author is Timothy Coffey, Chief Revolutionist of Launchforce Strategy, a consumer research consultancy that specializes in highly creative qualitative methods. His experience ranges from brand and research management at Procter & Gamble to innovation management at Tupperware to founding and leading an integrated marketing strategy agency. He is the author of three books, Innovation Myths & Mythstakes, The New Super Consumer, Mom&Kid, and The Great Tween Buying Machine.