How consumer insight makes or breaks a new brand (The Wise Marketer)
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How consumer insight makes or breaks a new brand (The Wise Marketer)

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How consumer insight makes or breaks a new brand

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By Jack Gordon (AcuPOLL); Bill Vernick and Bob Sukys (BrandMine)
Published by The Wise Marketer in November 2005.

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When developing and launching a new product, the brand marketer needs consumer insight to get the market positioning right. So how do you begin the process, and how have others succeeded in the past?

The kind of consumer insight needed when developing a new product or brand is all about what target consumers are saying and thinking, and what truly matters to them. With that kind of insight in hand, we can create a product that fully delivers the benefit highlighted by the insight - and then 'hit a homerun' executionally with advertising, packaging, and marketing that highlights the benefit and sells it in a believable way.

Smart and successful marketing executives know how to juggle all these factors and still end up with a great new product that fulfils the terrific idea you started off with. The key is simple: managing the consumer insight. In other words, you have to keep the insight in sight. By finding and then keeping the insight in focus, it becomes the guide - the pathway to your product's ultimate success in the marketplace. Or to look at it another way, if your product isn't relevant to the target audience, or it goes against the way they think or feel, it won't succeed.

Six steps to follow
There are six ways to set about product development and marketing, and the whole procedure always starts with the insight:

  1. Finding and identifying your insight
    The key to finding a big new insight is understanding consumer needs, wants, and how they view and use the category. Trying to "sell the consumer" on your views is seldom successful, but listening to their language and watching their actions will point you straight to terrific new insights. Ask yourself this: what is it about your product (or organisation) that triggers an emotional response stronger than the commodity itself?

    Once you have possible insights identified, these insights should be objectively and quantifiably tested to determine if they are truly bold, new insights (or just old hat rephrased). This should be done before writing concepts as there is a totally different set of questions necessary to identify the potential of an insight. Only when the insights are determined to truly have ground breaking potential should you proceed to the concept development phase.

  2. Concept development and screening
    A truly good insight has the ability to be executed in many different ways. If you can develop only one possible concept from an insight, it is simply not an insight. Insights allow for multiple executions - so when you have identified all of these directions, you can develop the concept executions and screen them to find the most compelling (and unique) delivery of your insight.
  3. Product development and quantification
    Having identified the right concept, developing the product to deliver on the promises of the concept (delivering the insight through product performance) is critical. The product must live up to the promises made in the concept, or your business proposition will fail. At this stage, your concept fulfilment, cannibalisation estimates, and volumetrics can tell you if you have been successful.
  4. Advertising development and screening
    This stage is too late for the advertising or public relations agency to get involved and start reinterpreting the product's benefits. Good marketing communications should "sell the insight". If the product's unique selling point (USP) is not conveyed properly in the advertising, it's just a waste of money. By engaging the agency in the development process they can aid in guiding the project and will be in a much better position to write copy that's true to the original insight. Working closely at the conceptual stage with the brand research and brand marketing agency is critical, as advertising is not the place for trial and error.

    Screening multiple campaigns to objectively find the one that does this best is essential as well. Not only should the winning campaign be motivating and unique, it should convey new information, communicate the features and benefits that are most important (that is, the ones that consumers have already indicated they bought into), and it should generate the emotional reaction necessary to get consumers to bond with the brand. Each element is part of a successful advertising testing effort.

  5. Packaging development and screening
    For many brands, the packaging is the primary (if not the only) advertising consumers will ever see. Packaging development needs to clearly focus on the insight and sell the benefits that come out of it.

    Like advertising, your packaging agency must understand the insight and not try to reinterpret the product's benefits. Furthermore, multiple packaging options should be considered to find the direction that is most motivating, unique, does the best job of communicating benefits, and leaves consumers with the emotional reaction you want to achieve.

    Out of interest, the brand packaging firm should be brought into the equation early in the process - before final concepts are designed - allowing the packaging firm to offer experience and advice on how to execute the idea efficiently, effectively, and at the best cost level. The best idea, if unable to be executed (or if executed at tremendous cost) is not a bargain!

  6. Introductory marketing/promotional materials
    These should also be true to the insight. Having focused on this winning consumer insight so long, why risk it by not telling consumers that it's now in their power to buy it? Introduce the product as the breakthrough it is, not just another line extension.

So remember that you owe your insight to the consumer, who should always drive your efforts. If you get off track and the consumers tell you, you must listen. This is the reason you have to keep checking with them, to make sure you have stayed true to their original guidance. Simply listen to consumers, because it's the best way to improve any new product, advertising, marketing, and packaging.

Keep an Insight Manager on board to keep all these development efforts focused on the insight and its benefits. Sometimes, depending on your corporate culture, this can be an internal manager, and sometimes it is best accomplished by having an outside agent come in on the project - and that's what Cincinnati-based consulting group Insight Manager does.

Our top ten insights
To finish off, let's take a look at some examples - ten of the best we know of - that worked just they way they should:

  1. Folgers Coffee
    Until the "Best Part Of Wakin' Up" came along, we all thought that the ability to brew a good-tasting cup of coffee for our annoyingly picky friends was an effective measure of our self-worth. But then the people at Folgers uncovered a simple, obvious, but nevertheless earth shattering insight: Coffee is mostly about waking up, and we wake up to the smell of the coffee before we even get to take a sip. This insight drove the business from a 17% to 36% market share.
  2. Oreo Cookies
    How do you increase sales volume for what is already a national institution? Well, the people at Oreo told Americans to "Eat the middle first and save the chocolate cookie outside for last". Was the campaign the actual insight itself? Not quite - the insight was actually that children love what they instinctively discover for themselves: this is simply the best way to eat an Oreo. The clever part is that tens of millions of individual Oreo eaters still think they came up with the idea first, and they love when the adverting reminds them of their apparent genius. This also led the company to create Oreo Double-Stuff for those who just can't get enough of the creamy middle bit. Brilliant!
  3. Quaker Oatmeal
    Remember Wilford Brimley telling the world that "It's the right thing to do"? (If you're not American, you'll have to take that on trust.) What most people don't know is that insight behind this was that many consumers were being told, "You're doing the wrong thing! You're eating wrong and you're not listening to your doctor - or your mother!" But eating Quaker Oats was as healthy as anything you could eat, it was easy to make, and it was a hallmark of old-fashioned traditional values - a way of finally "getting it right". Furthermore, when someone as honest as Wilford Brimley says it, you know you're doing the right thing. The genius of the choice of spokesperson was that Wilford Brimley = Trustworthy.
  4. Whiskas Cat Food
    The insight provoking question is this: If you could give your cat US$10 and send him off to the grocery store to buy cat food, what would he bring home? The answer (albeit theoretically) is: Live meat! Now, that insight propelled the Whiskas campaign "Cats would buy Whiskas" into Effie Gold by doubling awareness, getting consumers to try buying it, and setting record sales for the brand in a category that was fast becoming commoditised in the early 1990s. And to bring the notion alive even further, Whiskas featured a "spokesbird" who represented the gold standard for what cats love (the live meat). Hungry cats joyfully devoured Whiskas, ignoring the irreverent bird who stood next to the bowl of cat food extolling the virtues of the brand.
  5. DeBeers
    When you watch those intriguing Diamond commercials, who are they aiming at? Men or women? Actually, it's both. That's the beauty of this particular insight: The woman thinks: "If he really, really cares for me, he'll give me a diamond," while the man thinks: "If I come home with anything other than a diamond, I'm history." The brilliantly executed "A diamond is forever" campaign will forever be on our top ten insights list.
  6. Jif Peanut Butter
    How do you maintain market leadership for over 25 years without ever changing your benefit? The answer, in Jif's case, was to find an insight based on a fundamental human value, such as nurturing. Mothers want only the best for their families and they're very picky about what they feed them, so why would they settle for anything less than the peanut butter that tastes most like fresh roasted peanuts? That's why "Choosy Moms Choose Jif". It's an insight that will never stop delivering results.
  7. California Milk Processor Board
    We've been told about the virtues of drinking milk for a long time: it's wholesome, builds strong bones, and helps to keep us healthy. Yet milk by itself can be a little boring. But pair it with your chocolate chip cookie, your favourite fudge brownie, or your health breakfast, and it becomes the exclamation point to a favourite snack or meal. Without milk, it's just a cookie... So think of how devastating it is when you go to the fridge with your cookie in hand, only to discover there's no milk. That's the insight the brilliant minds at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners came up with when they asked milk drinkers if we were sure that we "Got Milk?".
  8. Volkswagen Beetle
    Think back to the gas-guzzling giant monsters (many with tailfins!) prowling the highways of 1950s America. Suddenly this small, strange-looking car arrived, getting 50 miles to the gallon (and fuel was US$0.19 per gallon). They told America to "Think Small". But their insight wasn't small at all. It wasn't just the need for a smaller car - there was a sizable group of people who needed to be different and didn't express themselves based on the size of their car. A later variety of this same insight - appealing to individuality against all odds - is Apple's "Think Different" campaign.
  9. Life Cereal
    If you tell a child that something's good for them, they'll never do it, eat it or listen to you. And so it goes with breakfast cereals. But the child who hates everything that's healthy hungrily devours Life Cereal, which claims "It's s'posed to be good for you". Mothers are told not to tell their kids that Life Cereal is nutritious. It's reverse psychology at it's best: Don't say it's healthy, and they'll defy you and eat it anyway.
  10. Dannon Yogurt
    In another "must be good for you" story it was noted that many men and women in Soviet Georgia live past the ripe old age of 100. Many of these citizens eat a lot of yogurt and so, because trying to uncover a "fountain of youth" is a fundamental human endeavour, tying a particular habit to longevity tends to make it very attractive to the consumer. The French drink red wine, the Italians use olive oil, and Soviet Georgians eat yogurt. "Just ask Temur Vanacha who has been eating yogurt for 105 years! Stuff must be good!" - and that insight was good for Dannon. Sales grew for 14 years.



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Copyright 2005 AcuPOLL; Brandmine / The Wise Marketer



About the author...

AcuPOLL Research and the Brandmine division of MRA Services have teamed up to create Insight Manager - a painlessly efficient process that helps companies learn how to create, identify and manage consumer insights. According to Jack Gordon, Insight Manager is a process that helps companies uncover "terrific consumer insight, ensure that it is indeed terrific, and most importantly maintain the magic of that insight throughout product development, marketing strategy, advertising, and package development." The whole process can also be taught to any marketing organisation.

Along with Gordon, BrandMine consultants Bob Sukys and Bill Vernick developed Insight Manager after identifying the problems and finding instances where the original consumer insight was consistently upheld throughout development and delivery of the products and strategies. The group highlights the Folgers' Coffee "Best Part Of Wakin' Up" campaign as an example that clearly shows that remaining true to an insight can reap years of rewards.

With headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, AcuPOLL Research Inc. is a global brand building research agency that uses a patented system to provide companies with clear business recommendations, based on a thorough analysis of customised data. AcuPOLL provides fast, predictive, and accurate research methodology. AcuPOLL has successfully predicted the success of new products, services, mail order catalogue items, retail concepts, advertising, promotions, and business services. The company has offices in the USA, Asia, Europe, Mexico, and South America. AcuPOLL can be found online at

BrandMine is a division of MRA Advertising/Production Support Services Inc., created to help companies improve the effectiveness of their insights, ideas, and advertising, and to grow brand share by driving revenue and increasing shareholder value through the creation of strong brands and persuasive brand messages. The company can be found online at


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