insight development process

Marketing Solutions to More Actionable Insights

Marketing depends upon actionable insights to satisfy and delight their customers. How comfortable are you with your own process and the actionability of the results?

Insights are the holy grail that all businesses seek but rarely find. Are you one of them? If so then I have some tips on how you can get better at developing more actionable insights.

#1. Insights take more than a single piece of market research

Does your management think that insight is “just another word for market research”? I remember one CEO with whom I had the privilege of working, saying exactly that to me. This was just before he stepped onto the stage to address the global marketing and market research teams at our annual conference! I’m sure you can imagine what a panic I was in as he walked up to the mike!

Insights are challenging to develop and rarely, if ever, developed from a single piece of market research. Each market research project is designed to gather information about a particular topic. Whilst it may enable a business to answer the questions it has, insight development is quite a different process. (>>Tweet this<<)

Insight development involves integrating, analysing and synthesising all the information you have about a category, segment or brand user. You then need to summarise all of this into knowledge and understanding, from which you develop the insight.

Single pieces of market research deliver information, not insights. It is therefore rarely successful to try to develop insight from one survey alone.


#2. All brands should have a Big Idea based on (at least) one insight

A Big Idea is a term often used today to describe a brand, product, or concept. The term is prevalent in advertising and is commonly used today to describe something unique that the brand wants to stand for. A big idea is big because it resonates with its target customers. It is a short description on which its communications and customer engagement are based. (>>Tweet this<<)

This is why insights are so important, as they are at the very foundation of the big ideas of all successful brands. For example:

  • Staples: “Low prices are secondary to a quick and efficient shopping experience for business customers.” This was turned into a new tagline “That was easy”. Staples then created the red plastic Easy Button and have sold millions of them at $4.99 each, the proceeds of which go to charity.


  • Mastercard: “Life isn’t about what you buy, but about the relationships you have with the people you care about and the special moments that you can share with them”. Most credit cards advertise their exclusivity, status and the accumulation of tangible assets that are bought with their card. This insight positions Mastercard as more of an enabler of the more important and intangible things in life.



  • Pampers: “Babies with healthy, dry skin are happier….and so better able to play, learn and develop”. The idea that babies are happier when they have healthy skin rather than nappy rash is not new. What P&G managed to do was to turn this into an emotional benefit which has inspired both innovation and advertising ever since.



Developing a powerful insight makes all brand decision-making much easier. If your plans reflect the insight, then move forward. If however, they communicate something different then you need to consider whether to revisit the original insight or the actions you are planning. Consistency is one essential element of brand success.


#3. Insights are developed from a desired behavioural change

Sales, marketing and management look to grow a category, segment or brand by changing customers’ behaviours. For example:

  • From buying a competitive brand to purchasing yours
  • From using your services once a month, to once a week
  • Moving customers’ belief about your brand from a traditional to a more modern image
  • Changing customers’ perceptions about your value from expensive to good value for money

Because insight development is based on a desired behavioural change, the most successful contain an emotional element. The emotion shown in an advertisement is more likely to resonate with customers, who are then motivated to take the identified action. The above Pampers video is a good example of this.


#4. Insight development needs more than insight specialists

Although this may sound counter-productive, insight development really does benefit from gathering input from different experts with differing perspectives. Getting to that “ah-ha” moment that is often referred to, takes time and energy, and is best delivered by a team than an individual.

A deep understanding of customers and their reasons for behaving in a certain way comes from looking at all aspects of their lifestyle. If you only review the actual moment when they choose or use a product or service, it is highly unlikely that you will develop that deep understanding. What happens before and afterwards also lead to their purchase decision and eventual loyalty.

This is why it is important to work as a team when developing insights. (>>Tweet this<<) Depending upon the issue or opportunity identified, the team can consist of people from marketing, sales, trade marketing, production, packaging, advertising, innovation, distribution or R&D. These people don’t even need to work on the category in question;

The people who make up the team don’t even have to work on the category in question. Sometimes it is by taking ideas from different categories that true insights can be developed. (>>Tweet this<<) See the next section for examples of this.


#5. Insights are usually based on a human truth

The insights that resonate best with people are those based upon a human truth. A human truth is a statement that refers to human beings, irrespective of race, colour or creed. It is a powerful and compelling fact of attitudes and behaviour that is rooted in fundamental human values. It is a fact that is obvious when quoted but is often ignored or forgotten in daily business. Human truths are linked to human needs and although questioned in some circles today,

Human truths are linked to human needs and although questioned in some circles today, Maslow’s hierarchy is still one of the most relevant sources. Examples of human truths include:

  • Parents want to protect their children.
  • Men and women want to find love.
  • Children (people?) want to be better than their peers.

The other reason that human truths work well as the foundation of an insight is because they provoke emotions and strong feelings in people. If you are struggling to find an insight, it can help to review the level of need of your target audience and see how your brand can use emotions to help answer it.


#6. Insights aren’t always category specific

Following on from the above points, it is particularly interesting that once found, an insight can be adapted and used for a different category. (>>Tweet this<<) There are many examples of this happening, particularly amongst major FMCG / CPG companies. For example:

Insight: “Parents want to protect their children so that they grow up happy and healthy”.

  • Unilever’s Omo: shows that a good mother lets her child experiment and learn – even if this means getting dirty. If you don’t know their advertising, then check out one of their latest from this long-running campaign: Unilever Omo “Dirt is Good” ad on YouTube
  • Nestlé’s Nido: illustrates this need as a mother providing the nourishment for healthy growth which allows her children to explore the outside world safely. If you would like to see a typical advertisement, check it out on YouTube HERE. Interestingly, Nestlé has used this same insight to develop advertising for its bottled water in Asia and pet food in the Americas too.

Insight: “Young women want to be appreciated for who they are, ie not models”.

  • Unilever’s Dove was the first brand to recognise and benefit from this insight. Their famous Real Beauty campaign resonated so well with young women that many other brands copied it, especially their Evolution film. HERE is one of their more recent ads that I’m sure will give you goosebumps.
  • The Swiss Supermarket chain Migros has a store brand “I am” which uses the same insight across all the health and beauty products. Somewhat unusually, the brand name itself is based on the same insight, and its advertising repeats it several times: “I am – what I am“.


So there you have six tips that will certainly help you to develop better, more actionable insights. I hope these tips inspire you to revisit your own process for creating insights. Do share any other ideas that you have found useful in developing insight in your own organisation; I would love to hear from you.


If however you believe that you could benefit from a review of your own process which may need updating or tweaking, then please contact me. C³Centricity offers 1-Day Catalyst sessions on both “Information to Insights” and “Insights to Impact”. Find out more and download the one-page descriptions HERE.


This post shows one image from Winning Customer Centricity and is an updated version of an article which first appeared here in 2013.

Co-creation leads to greater customer satisfaction

The Exceptionally Easy & Profitable Uses of Customer Co-creation

One of my clients, who is following the 50 weekly actions for customer centric excellence described in Winning Customer Centricity, asked me for some further ideas on co-creation.

Since working more closely with customers is the best way to understand, satisfy and delight them, I am impressed that she is taking co-creation even further. In fact, I realised that this is an area that many of you may be interested in learning more about, so I decided to share what I told her, but first …

What is Co-creation?

The term co-creation has been around for decades. However, it is only in the last ten years or so that we are seeing a growth in co-creation in so many different areas of marketing.

According to Wikipedia co-creation is “a management initiative, or form of economic strategy, that brings different parties together (for instance, a company and a group of customers), in order to jointly produce a mutually valued outcome.”

My M&MIndividualisation, which offers higher-priced items with a customer perceived higher-value, has been popular for years. It allows customers to design their own unique products to show off their personality. For instance, customers can personalise their M&M chocolates and design their own Nike running shoes. But these are not strictly co-creation since they are designed by one person for for one person. Co-creation is designed by many for the many. (>>Tweet this<<) 

After the success of such personalised offers, organisations understood that there is value in getting input from customers. They now include them not only in product enhancements, but also in developing their advertising and even in first-stage innovation.

The practice has been further intensified by the internet, which has enabled companies to reach out to customers across the globe, virtually for free. Social media, in particular, is a great source of customer understanding, as well as for highlighting issues with current offers. This is why co-creation should include social media in some form, as I’ll share further on.

Who to work with?

Winning Customer Centricity BookAs I mention in my book, not all business managers feel comfortable exposing their new ideas and concepts to their customers. If this is the case in your organisation, then you are left with the only option of interviewing employees. This isn’t such a bad thing; after all, they too are customers, but you need to keep in mind their biasses. They probably know more about the brand than the average customer and are also likely to be more positive towards it. However, their passion for the company and its brands is a valuable asset not to be neglected.

If your management allows you to work with customers, then you will want them to be vetted for different things by the recruitment agency:

  • They shouldn’t work for one of your competitors; nor should their close friends and family members.
  • They shouldn’t work for advertising, media or PR agencies, which could tip off your competitors.
  • They should be creative and curious, but not be one of the infamous “1%ers” (the ultra-creatives) that were popular when co-creation was first used.
  • They should be articulate and be able to describe their thoughts, ideas and problems succinctly.
  • They should be well-informed and knowledgeable, even opinionated if you want to introduce some challenging into the discussions.
  • Depending upon the task you want to share with them, they should be category and / or brand users – or not.

Some suppliers may propose psychographic analysis to hone their selection process. However, this is not essential if you obey the above rules and clearly identify the type of person with whom you would like to work.

Social media again provides a great way to identify and recruit those who are both knowledgeable and passionate about the category. Another source of customers, is from co-creating platforms that copy successful job sites, such as UpWork and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.


Should you compensate customers?

Most co-creation programs compensate customers, at least some of them, for their time and even their ideas on occasions. I have found that customers are usually so happy to share their thoughts and be heard, that they don’t expect compensation other than the opportunity itself. I have often received requests from participants at the end of a project, asking to continue in the panel or online group, because they enjoyed it so much. Customers love to talk to companies about their products and services, so why not make it possible for them to do so in a safe and private environment?

Compensation is therefore not mandatory, but adding prizes and a competitive element to the discussion can encourage a greater level of participation. I give some examples of brands that have done this further on.


When to involve customers?

There are many reasons you might want to get input from your customers beyond the more common anonymous market research. Here are some of the most often used occasions when you might want to include your customers:

  • Involve your customers in co-creationchoosing their favourite names, flavours or perfumes for a product
  • getting reactions to your marketing plans
  • sharing experiences and problems encountered with your category
  • reviewing product and communications’ concepts
  • watching pre-air advertising and choosing the ending, slogans or other details
  • asking for ideas on how to improve a product or service
  • running a competition to solve an issue the company would like to address
  • voting for their favourite new product or service idea
  • creating new flavour and aroma mixes from original ingredients
  • brainstorming with R&D on new product ideas
  • sharing opinions on promotional concepts or competitions.


Examples of co-creation

In Winning Customer Centricity, I mention a few companies who successfully use co-creation, such as Nespresso’s “Le Club” and P&G’s “Connect+Develop”. Since I wrote the book, co-creation has become much more widespread and there are many more great examples. Here are just a few to inspire you to invite your own customers to join your initiatives:

Heineken ideas brewery

Source: Heineken

  1. Heineken: Their crowdsourcing platform, called Heineken Ideas Brewery, launched in 2012, asks the public for suggestions, since they believe that innovative ideas can come from everywhere. The first challenge they set was for sustainable packaging and the best idea, the Heineken-o-Mat, was rewarded with a $10,000 prize.



Lego Ideas

Source: Lego

2. Lego launched Lego Ideas as a platform to enable their customers to create and share their ideas for new sets. Other users then voted and commented on these suggested new sets.

The highest-rated ones were often developed and launched by the Lego Group. The original creator of the idea was compensated with a small percentage of the net sales revenue.


3. British Airways: Airlines make a lot of use of customer panels; after all they know all their passengers’ details, so recruitment is relatively easy. BA uses their FutureLab to elicit comments and reactions to their questions and concepts. 

Their panel is made up of a global community who discuss everything from prices, to seating, competitions to services. BA shares their plans and ideas and gets immediate feedback on what their passengers believe might work and what won’t. And all this within a few hours and mostly for free, apart from a few small monetary prizes for the most active or creative participants each month.


Coca-Cola Freestyle machine

Source: Coca-Cola

4. Coca-Cola is one example of companies using co-creation for input to their innovation process. Their Freestyle machines is a fountain dispenser which offers over a hundred products, giving the customer the opportunity to mix their own flavour combination.

An additional mobile app allows them to then save it so they can get the same mix at any other Freestyle machine. Coca-Cola saves all the mixes in their consumer database, which can then be used to learn more about new flavour ideas and consumer preferences.


Purina Dear Kitten

Source: Purina

5. The final example comes from social media, where co-creation of content has become the norm. There are literally thousands of companies using their customers and fans to share their thoughts, ideas, photos and videos on their websites.

Amongst the best is Nestle Purina who started by allowing pet owners to publish pictures of their animals. This then was followed and enhanced by Purina developing and sharing fun videos including Dear Kitten from their Friskies brand and Puppyhoodfrom Puppy Chow. We all know how popular pet videos are on the web, so it is not surprising that many of them went viral.

Making use of co-created content

Speaking of “virability“, there are recent examples of brands that invite customer input, combined with a marketing promotion or a specific hashtag campaign. These are important for viralbility on such platforms as Youtube and Instagram which are primary sources for fashion and beauty brands, because of the importance of image.

Chobani is heaven!

Source: Chobani

One brand that was an early adopter of this and and successfully used customer generated content to both improve image and increase sales is the Greek yoghurt company Chobani. It invited its loyal customers to submit photos and videos praising their yoghurt, which were then used on their website as well as in advertising. They generated a lot of excitement with the billboards in particular, as people love to see themselves in print. 

These are just a few of the best uses of customer co-creation that I remember, but I know there are many more. If you have other examples I would love it if you would share them below.

In conclusion, I hope I have inspired you to try co-creation and to include your customers in more of your internal plans and processes. It is not only fun, it also provides you with fresh thinking and a deeper understanding of how your customers’ needs and desires are changing. Makes you wonder why you haven’t done more co-creation before, no?


Winning Customer Centricity BookIf you would like to learn more about “Winning Customer Centricity” then I am offering my loyal readers – you! – a free download of the first five chapters. Just go HERE.

The best marketers share insights

How the Best Marketers are getting Deeper Insights

Are you as busy as I’ve been, trying to deliver on all your final objectives before year-end? Stressful times indeed, but this post is a must-read if you want to start 2016 ahead of the competition!

I’ve just returned from running a two-day workshop in Japan. The topic was “Insight into Action with Impact”. One of the things that I loved about the workshop was that marketing was invited too. Even though market research and insight (MRI) groups generally report into marketing in most companies, it seems to me that they are often working on different planets! In many organisations, the collaboration between these two departments goes no further than project briefings and results delivery.

This is not the case with my client in Tokyo; this MRI group has a wonderful working relationship, not only with marketing but also with Channel, Sales, R&D, Finance and even Legal. They have understood that insight development is too important to be left to the market research team alone (>>Tweet this<<) and have worked hard to build strong relationships with all the other departments in the company.

I am sure that many of you reading this, are asking why this is so important. It is NOT important, it is VITAL! Insights are the golden nuggets that we are all searching for (>>Tweet this<<). Successful businesses depend upon deep customer insight. They understand the power of engagement built on insight to connect with and inspire their customers. And yet many companies continue to leave this to the insight team to develop and deliver on their own. It’s as if they believe that this group have some natural-born skill or magic that enables them to do it while others cannot. Don’t worry, we can all do it with the right training and a few tools.

Great companies understand the importance of insight generation and the challenges faced by everyone in developing them. This is why the best marketers search for greater collaboration. I always encourage the market researchers in my client companies to socialise with other departments, rather than sitting behind their computers all day. The best marketers already do this, do you?

So if you are struggling to develop insights that will truly resonate with your consumers or customers, I suggest you follow these tips which I shared with my client’s marketing and insight teams this week. Despite being some of the best marketers I know, they are still keen to progress their thinking and processes to embrace customer-centricity in every area of their organisation.

  1. Turn business objectives into customer-centric ones. If you are defining your objectives in terms of the business, such as increasing sales, beating the competition or increasing awareness, you are not thinking customer first. Instead, identify what you want to change in terms of your customers’ behaviour or attitude and you are likely to meet with more success. This is because you will be thinking about your customers’ objectives rather than (just) your own.
  2. Insight generation should start with customer connection (>>Tweet this<<). When was the last time you personally spoke with your customers? If it wasn’t in the last week, you’re not getting out enough! Make a habit of regularly watching and listening to your customers. They are changing faster than you may realise, so it is important to keep your finger on the pulse of market changes.
  3. Have regular contact with all other departments. It is impossible to really understand the business if your contact with other groups is limited to meetings and presentations of analyses you have conducted or plans you have written. It must become a daily habit, so you are the true voice of the customer / consumer internally.
  4. Get MRI to share their nuggets of information at every occasion. While they may present findings in formal meetings and presentations, I know that market research and insight learn new things about the business every day, so why not as’ that they share them? Every project and every analysis turns up more information than that for which it was designed. Somehow these learnings get lost, as they are not seen as relevant to the question at hand. However, ask that they make them a regular part of their newsletters, Lunch & Learn sessions, or internal “Tweets” and they will surely inspire new thinking.
  5. Get into the habit of speaking with consumers at every chance you can. Suggest to join in when research projects are being run, listen in to call centre conversations, speak to demonstrators and merchandisers, or even talk to shoppers at retail. These connections can quickly become addictive as they are for the best marketers in the most consumer-centric organisations. As an added bonus, the insight development process will become both quicker and less challenging for everyone.
  6. Ask MRI to analyse more than market research information alone. They are the best synthesisers you have and can manage multiple data sets from all available sources. There is so much information flowing into organisations today that there is more data than even the best marketers can manage. According to IBM, more than two-thirds of CMOs feel totally unprepared for the current data explosion, especially as it relates to social media. And in some research conducted by Domo, a similar number of marketers claimed to be unable to handle the volume of data available to them. Ask MRI to help and you will be better informed and feel less overwhelmed.
  7. Remember that insight development takes energy and time. Although my client’s teams got close to the perfect expression of an insight in just two short working sessions, it usually takes days, if not weeks or even months to refine, group and synthesise information down to an actionable insight. However, the right training and some simple tools can speed their development for even less than the best marketers.
  8. Insight development should involve more than the insight team, which is why it is important for them to build relationships with other departments. The alternative perspectives brought by the other groups will enhance the overall understanding of both the customer and the market situation you are looking to address.

If you work in marketing or even another department outside of market research and insight,  I would love to hear what you do to develop your relationships with them. Do they involve you in insight development or only deliver the results of their process to you? What could you and they do better to make insight development and customer understanding easier in your organisation?

For more information on our training courses in insight development and brand building, please check out our website or contact us here. Let’s have an informal chat about how we could support your brand building efforts or provide fun training days, as we already do to businesses in many various industries. We love customers, consumers and clients!

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. It is available in Hardback, Paperback, EBook and AudioBook formats. You can buy it, usually at a discount, in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and the current discount codes. The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores.

Describe your customer personas

Market Research & Insight’s New Role is Customer Centricity Champion

I’ve just returned from a trip to Belgium. Apart from the greater presence of armed military personnel, it was business as usual. On Tuesday, I presented at BAQMaR, the Belgian very innovative and forward-thinking research community. What a fantastic and inspiring experience!

My talk was on how market research and insight teams could further progress the industry and their careers, by becoming the customer’s voice within their organizations. Here are my three Big Ideas and three New Skills that will enable market research to make a bigger and more valuable impact on business.

Big Data is not the star of the show, it’s just the support act

Everyone seems to be speaking about big data these days. Not a day goes by without an article, podcast or post about the importance of big data. I don’t dispute the new opportunities that information from smart chips, wearables and the IoT provides. However, data remains just a support to business and decision making. It’s what you do with all the data, how it is analyzed and used, that will make a difference compared to past data analysis.

Business doesn’t get what it needs

One of the problems that has been highlighted by is that business leaders and especially marketing don’t get what they need. Executives still struggle with email and Excel spreadsheets whereas what they want are dashboards. They want someone to have thought about their needs and to provide them with the information they need, in a format that is easy to scan, easy to review and easy to action. They also want mobile access, so they can see the I formation they want, where and when they need it.

Information must become smarter

The current data overload means marketing are overwhelmed by the availability of data, especially from social media. They need help in organizing and making sense of it all. My suggestion is to use it to better understand the customer. The who, what, where and above all why of their attitudes and behavior. This will certainly enable them to start targeting with more than the demographics that a frighteningly high number are still using to segment, according to AdWeek.

Information needs to become useful

While big data can have many uses, it is often so complex and unstructured that many businesses are unable to make it useful for business decision-making. My suggestion would be to start by asking the right questions of it. Data, both big and small, is only as useful as the questions we ask of it. (>>Tweet this<<) If we ask the wrong question we can’t get the answers we need. Therefore start by considering what attitudes or behaviors you want to change in your customers. By bringing the customer into the beginning and not just the end of the analytical process, we will make better use of the if roast ion available to us.

Market research and insight teams need new skills

In order to satisfy and leverage the opportunity that big data provides, market research and  insight professionals need to acquire new skills:

  • Firstly that of synthesis. There are no better analysts in most organizations and while data scientists and business intelligence specialists can find correlations and differences in the data, it needs a customer expert to provide the meaning and relevance. This also means that market research and insight experts need to get comfortable integrating information from multiple sources and no longer from MR projects alone. (>>Tweet this<<)
  • Secondly market researchers need to get out more. Not only should they be visiting customers in their homes, in the stores or going about their daily lives, they should also be inviting their colleagues to do the same. There are so many ways of connecting with customers today, from care lines to social media, from promotions to websites, there is no reason for any executive not to have regular contact these days. (>>Tweet this<<) However, they need someone to accompany them to bring sense to what they are seeing and hearing.
  • Lastly, we need to surprise the business. It’s not with the dare I say boring trend reports, share presentations and trackers that we will excite business. However, sharing all the nuggets of understanding that we learn on a frequent basis while analyzing information, could form the start of corridor conversations, newsletters or “Lunch and Learn” sessions.

So synthesizing, socializing and surprising beyond mere storytelling, are the three new skills I believe the analyst of today needs, in order to make maximum use of the wealth of data and information available. These are also the biggest challenges that I think are the most important; what do you think? What do you see as the most challenging aspect of making use of data today?

For more on brands please check out our website or contact us here for an informal chat about how we support brand building efforts or provide fun training days to businesses in all sorts of industries. We love customers, consumers and clients!

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. It is also now available as an Audiobook, which can be integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service.

Developing actionable insight is the true source of business growth

The Ultimate Guide to Developing Actionable Insights

One of the biggest challenges of many marketers is developing actionable insights about the market and it’s customers.

Are you satisfied with the way you turn your data and information into understanding and then develop insights on which you can take clear actions? If not, then you will find this post tremendously useful in helping you to update your practices.

Even if you are happy with your insight development process, converting them into actions can still be a stumbling block. In January 2013 Forrester wrote an article suggesting that last year would be the year for market insights. Eighteen months on, things don’t seem to have progressed much, so hopefully this post will enable your own organisation to advance and to get ahead of the competition.

#1. Be precise in your objectives

Your objectives for developing an insight should be presented as a desired change in your target (>>Tweet this<<). For example, if you are looking to increase your market share, you could be looking to find a way to convince competitive brand purchasers to buy your brand instead.

Identifying the change you are looking to encourage is the first step to uncovering a true actionable insight. Are you identifying the change you desire in your customers? If not then this is something you should start doing; it will make developing actionable insights more focused and thus also easier.

#2. Involve a wide range of experts

Insights are not the sole responsibility of the Market Research & Insight Department (>>Tweet this<<). Everyone in the company can bring valuable information and understanding to address the identified opportunity. Therefore, involving people with a wide range of perspectives can make insight development more effective.

Gather a team of experts to provide a 360° perspective of the category or brand, including for example:

  • R&D, who can bring understanding of available internal & external technical skills
  • operations who can share current defects and development aspects
  • sales who can add retail perspectives, including distribution, packaging and shelving limitations or opportunities
  • marketing who will provide the communications, image, equity and competitive environment
  • customer services who can add current customer sensitivities, problems or suggestions
  • finance who can highlight any budgetary limitations and ensure financial goals are met

The group you bring together will be a function of the change you are looking to make. I personally believe that the exercise should be run by your market research and insights team, since it is their profession to understand people and behaviour. They also generally have the widest and most detailed perspective of anyone in the company

#3. Review all available information & knowledge

All organisations have far more information than most employees realise (>>Tweet this<<), including your market research, insight, strategy and planning teams. This highlights the need for having a group of people from different departments since they will bring alternative perspectives and information sources to light.

Once the team has been formed and the objectives for the insight development exercise have been agreed, it is time to organise a complete review of all the available information and knowledge.  You should look for recurring themes, expressions and words across the different information sources that might provide indications of the issues or opportunities around the identified objectives.

As everyone completes the review of the information, a number of working sessions can help to share the information already found and start the process of getting closer to an insight. The actual insight development exercise will take place in another meeting once all available information has been assessed and any information gaps filled.

#4. Walk in your customers’ shoes

I am always disappointed that social media has further encouraged marketers to stay behind their desks instead of getting out and meeting their customers. Is this the case in your own organisation? Although you can certainly learn a lot about your customers’ opinions and needs online, it is only when you take their place that you get the chance to really see things from their perspective (>>Tweet this<<).

Walking in your customers’ shoes can be done in numerous ways and will depend upon the issue or opportunity you have identified, as well as the understanding you have gained from reviewing all the information you have gathered. You could for instance:

  • go out shopping and purchase item as one of your target customers. This will help you understand the decision making process of your target customers.
  • compare competitive offers online for a service you propose. Is your website as user-friendly as your competitors’? Have you thought of all the important elements you need to include?
  • call up the customer service departments of a number of your competitors and ask questions about their brand’s uses, reliability etc. Do your own staff provide the same information? Are they as knowledgeable, credible, empathetic?
  • role play your target customer in using your product and identify opportunities to improve for instance its packaging. If your product is used by mothers of toddlers, is it easy to open with one hand? If your product is used in certain demanding surroundings, such as outdoors, in the car, in the country, at night, is it easy to open and consume in such situations?

Whilst walking in your customers’ shoes, you should be extremely sensitive to any pain points you uncover in considering, evaluating, shopping and using your brand. If you are looking to define a completely new offer, then it is the pain points of your competitors’ offers that you also need to consider. Taking your customers perspective, rather than just observing them, can provide a wealth of information you might not get in any other way.

#5. Fill the gaps

Having gathered as much information and knowledge about your customer as you can, including walking in their shoes, it is important to turn it all into understanding. This also enables you to identify any information gaps there may be. Never do any market research until you have first identified all the information that is already available on the topic under review (>>Tweet this<<). These gaps can be filled by running a market research project or by acquiring the required information from other sources.

Before continuing with insight development, these new findings need to be summarised and integrated into the knowledge and information already reviewed. If the objectives of the project have been well defined, this should be relatively easy to do, as you had already clearly identified the need.

#6. Develop the insight

At this stage, you will certainly have a better understanding of your customer in relation to the identified issue or opportunity than you have ever had before. Insight development needs input from every member of the multidisciplinary team (>>Tweet this<<), which can take anything from a few hours to several days. Don’t hurry this process; we are often too keen to get to the action and accept to work with something that is not a true insight.

You will know when you have an insight. When you summarise it in one (or maximum two) sentences phrased as if it were being spoken by your customer, it creates what is known as an “ah-ha” moment. This is when everyone sees it is obvious and wonders why no-one ever thought of it before! I am sure you will agree with me that it is a wonderfully rewarding feeling when you get there.

Man taking the six steps to actionable insight

These are the six essential steps to developing true insight, but the most important step of all is still to come, that of actioning them. This is where the multi-disciplinary team really comes into its own. As all the team have agreed on the objectives and the insight, it is extremely easy for them to define the next steps that need to be taken. It also means that all areas of the organisation will work together to take the appropriate actions, rather than just the marketing department which may otherwise happen.

From my experience actioning insights is only a problem when not enough time has been spent at the beginning of the whole process, in understanding the change in your customers that you are looking to encourage. If you have trouble with this part of the process, then I would suggest reviewing the completeness of the definition of your objectives.

What areas of insight development do you find the most challenging? Do you have any questions about generating or improving your own insight development process? If so, then please add a comment or question below. I would be happy to answer them for you.

For more information on insight development, please check out our website at: as well as available trainings at:

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime and Kozzi.

New thinking in marketing and market research

New Thinking for Old Ways of Business

I’ve just come back from IIeX-EU (Insight Innovation Exchange – Europe) in Amsterdam, and my head is full of exciting new things to experiment. It’s strange what happens to our brains when we have the chance to get away from the office and THINK! We become more creative, less bound by old habits, and ready to try new experiences.

After these few days away, I am fired with enthusiasm to bring real changes to my own business, those of my clients, as well as to yours through this post. I’d like to share a few of the ideas which were stimulated by some of the best presentations I’ve ever seen grouped into one single conference. Read on for four inspirational ideas for you to implement immediately, to bring new thinking into your own business.

Partner for Growth

Lowe's logoOne of the first speakers at the event was Kyle Nel from Lowe’s, an American home improvement chain. He explained that business is about changing customers’ behaviour and to do this we need to constantly update our methods for understanding them. Lowe’s finds inspiration in partnering with organisations including Coke, UNICEF and NASA; how’s that for thinking outside the box? By connecting with companies in other industries, their thinking is constantly challenged, which enables them to grow exponentially, rather than in the linear fashion that most of us seem to be satisfied with. Kyle shared how Lowe’s accepts that whilst there may often be disappointments, the one in ten new ideas that truly deliver are worth all their efforts.

NEW THINKING: Find a catalyst for your own growth to bring you new ideas from external sources. Also look outside your industry for inspiration, and partner with a select few industry leaders that are trying new, exceptionally creative things (Like Loew’s!)

Know what you Know

Information & knowledge sharing is essentialGregory Short, author of “The Billion Dollar Paperclip”, suggested that it’s time we took a new look at our business and the eco-system in which it is operating. Amongst the list of things mentioned, he included identifying what you already know. This resonated with me because so often when new clients ask for help, they often already have a lot of the information they are seeking, they just didn’t know they had it!

Haiko van Lengen and Sjoerd Koornstra shared a Heineken case study which covered a similar point on knowledge sharing. They mentioned the 2009 Boston Consulting Group Insight Benchmarking study which showed that most companies are not using the majority of the information they gather.

Haiko and Sjoerd suggested that before doing any sort of information gathering, we should first assess what is already available internally on the topic. This review should include talking to all departments and definitely not just market research. You would be surprised how many companies operate in silos, each buying their own reports and information, and too often without the knowledge of their market research and insight department.

NEW THINKING: Find a way of sharing more information across your organisation, by setting up an easily accessible storage system. This could be as simple as a shared folder or as proprietary as a knowledge management system and library.

Don’t be Scared of Emotions

Plutchik's wheel of emotionsDiana Lucaci at True Impact Marketing, spoke about the surprising habit many marketers have of being satisfied with knowing just the “Who” and the “What” of their customers’ behaviours. She pointed out that it is even more important to understand the “Why” of customer actions in order to impact them.

With the rapid expansion in the use of neuroscience and biometric measurement in market research, we now have the possibility to understand a lot about our customers without even directly asking. Perhaps it’s time for you to experiment (again?). Let me know if you’re interested in trying out the leading emotional measurement tool around.

Diana also made a throw-away comment at the end of her presentation that was also later picked up by Daryl Travis during his talk on “Why emotions win the battle of the brands”. It reminds us that there are simple things we can do that can have an incredibly positive impact on our customers’ loyalty:

“Make sure that checkout, or the last action your customer makes, is a memorable and positive experience” (>>Tweet this quote<<)

Daryl also ended his presentation with another well chosen, inspiring quote from Maya Angelou, the American author and poet:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” (>>Tweet this quote<<)

NEW THINKING: Review your own customer journey maps, but this time as an emotional journey and ensure that the last step is a positive experience – or urgently correct it if it isn’t!

Customers only Care about the Benefit

Benefits are what interest customersThis links to the previous comment on emotions. Michael Bartl from Hyve, mentioned that your customers don’t really care about who or how you solve their problems, only that you have a solution. Whilst this is probably correct in general, I believe there are some customers who do care and you need to know who they are. Concerns about sustainability, sourcing and ecological impact can all be relevant for some industries and brands, so you need to check whether they are to your customers or a segment of them.

NEW THINKING: Review your advertising and see if you too spend most time speaking about rational product or service elements and less about the customer benefits. If it’s the case, make the swap to a more benefits-driven communications and measure the impact.

These are just four of the tens of pages of ideas I wrote, that were stimulated by presentations I followed during the IIEX-EU conference in Amsterdam last week. I hope they inspired your own thinking and interest in trying out some new things in your own marketing and market research. Let me know if you have any questions or comments, or if you’d be interested in getting some help in catalysing change in your own organisation.

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime and Kozzi

Fire of failed new products

This is Why your New Products “Crash & Burn”

Last month I invited readers to share some of the problems and challenges they need to address in 2014. I offered a free consultation to one lucky winner who asked the most interesting question, which could also be of interest for me to answer for other readers.

Well, the winner is Jean-Francois (JF) who has just started working with a start-up in the tech and app areas – I feel that’s more and more of us these days, don’t you? His question was:

“I would like to commercialize a new XXX; what would be the right approach to identify the consumer need and then the market potential, considering that the company has very limited financial resources?”

This is a great question and a reminder that not every organisation has access to large market research or marketing departments and extensive budgets. In fact, in many companies these roles are being handled by one and the same person with very few resources; is that your case? If so then you will definitely find this post of interest, but even if it isn’t, I’m sure you will still find value from the ideas shared.

As I had promised, I gave Jean-Francois a one-on-one consultancy which ended up lasting several hours, as he had planned well for our session together. He also happens to be really passionate about his innovative idea, as well as in finding solutions to all his challenges.

The product JF and his team want to launch doesn’t exist on the market today, although there are some products which are unsuccessfully trying to address the perceived customer need. The proportion of product launches which fail every year is generally “accepted” to be about 95% – although why companies continue to accept such levels is beyond me! With such odds, I think it is incredibly courageous to start a whole company based around just one new product idea, but that seems to be the norm in many areas today.

Let’s start by taking a look at some of the reasons new products fail and identify ways to reduce if not completely eliminate them for your next launch.

  1. New product Process wheelThe process itself: Innovation is by definition a creative process, but many organisations use a well-worn, restrictive and uncreative process to develop their new products. They are at best most likely to come up with renovations than true innovations. The solution is to introduce some creativity into the process, and why not include potential customers in the process too?
  2. Meeting company quotas: It is surprising that with such miserable statistics concerning the likely success rate of new products, that so many companies – and which shockingly include many of the largest CPGs around – fix quotas on the number of annual new product launches. How crazy is that?! It just encourages too many new products to be launched too early, and almost guarantees failure! I believe it would be much better to seriously limit the levels of acceptance amongst all new product ideas proposed in any year, then only the best would get through.
  3. Lack of customer understanding: This is most likely one of, if not the most important reason for new product launch failures. And I don’t mean that you should ask the customer what he wants, he doesn’t know until you make it available to him in many industries. No, I mean starting by looking at a customer’s lifestyle and seeing how you can make it easier and more enjoyable for them. If you already have a new product idea, which was the case for JF, then consider how it would make the customer’s life easier or better. If it doesn’t, then you perhaps need to reassess its market appeal.
  4. Lack of category understanding: This follows on from customer understanding, in that you need to identify how the customer is currently working around or compensating for their need today. Don’t assume you are competing in a certain category until you have identified what the customer is currently doing or using. That is the way to identify your true competition.
  5. Not living up to your promises: If you promise a better, cheaper or more enjoyable experience, then customers deserve to be able to confirm this if they buy. Especially in today’s connected world, if you disappoint by not meeting customers’ expectations, your product will fail even more quickly than in the past, since early-adopters will Tweet or leave comments on Facebook, Blogs or other social media platforms for all to see.
  6. Not being sufficiently differentiated: Following on from living up to your promises, customers need a reason to change behaviours, and depending upon the category this can be costly, whether in time, money or effort. Many customers prefer to continue buying an inferior product or service than making the effort to change – think Telecom, Banking, Hotels, Air travel or Insurance as some of the most typical examples of such industries. These businesses are in a constant battle to differentiate themselves and provide a real advantage to attract new customers.
  7. Being too different: Whilst not being sufficiently differentiated can be a certain cause of failure, being too new can also meet with no success. The reason for this is that if customers are totally unfamiliar with the new product or service offering, you will need to spend considerable resources to educate them. If you are unable or not willing to invest the time and money in doing this, then you will undoubtedly fail to attract more than just a few customers who take the time to understand what you are offering.
  8. Correct pricing is key to NPD successPricing yourself out of the market: Here I’m not just speaking of pricing your product too high; being too low can also negatively impact your likely success. Understanding how much potential customers value your offer to essential to the success of any product. Getting it wrong can result in lost revenue or worse a promotional spiral leading to brand hell (read more about this in “Are you on the way to brand heaven or hell“)
  9. Inappropriate distribution: This can be the consequence of an incomplete understanding of your customer and is also linked to differentiation. Whilst you can just follow near competitors into their own distribution channels, why ignore the possibility of being available where and when your customer might buy it most? By reducing the effort necessary to change their habits and buy, you can attract more potential customers to at least try your new product.
  10. Being too far ahead of the customer: There are many examples of great products that were ahead of their time. Gillette brought out 2–in–1 shampoos with conditioners included in the early 70’s, but they were a dramatic flop. Ten years later most personal care manufacturers offered these products, and were met with huge success, even if such products have gone out of fashion somewhat since then. It took Nespresso almost twenty years to become profitable and Philip Morris has needed similar levels of patience for their most infamous of brands Marlboro, in many markets. If you can’t afford to wait for your customers to catch up with your new product idea, then you should certainly reconsider your launch decision.

These are ten of the most common reasons for new product launch failure. Which do you think is most prevalent in your own company? What are you going to change to increase the success of your own new products? Is it some other reason altogether, that I’ve missed? Let me know and share your thoughts below. 

Coming back to JF, most of our time together was spent discussing ways to collect information on many of the above points. As he has little budget for extensive market research, it was important for him to find other ways of gathering the much needed information and not to just bypass that stage; perhaps many people don’t bother to search out the information they need to truly assess the likely success of their new product, which would explain the high failure rate mentioned above.

By the end of my session with JF, he had a clear plan of action and I have since heard that he is progressing incredibly fast, so watch this space for an announcement concerning the launch of his new device.

I will be sharing the tips I gave him in a future blog post, but in the meantime feel free to continue sending me your own questions; I’m always ready to have a short Skype or phone call to assist you with your own marketing and innovation challenges.

C³Centricity uses images from DreamstimeKozzi and Microsoft

Boss expects you to know your customer

13 Things your Boss Expects you to Know about your Customers

Everyone speaks about customer centricity and the importance of the customer, but just how well do you know yours – really?

The following is a list of 13 facts you need to know about your customers. How do you score? Or if you are the boss, how many do you think your team would be able to answer?

#1. Who is your customer?

The 4 Ws of customer targeting

The 4 Ws of customer targeting

OK I’m starting off slowly, but do you know who your customers are? Not who uses your category, but who the people are that actually buy your product or service today? How much do you know about them?

Their age, gender and location are the basics, but there’s a lot more you need to know about them. Check out “12 things you need to know about your target customers” for more on what you need to know to be able to describe them in the depth your boss expects.

#2.Who are your major competitors?

Again another slow starter, but what market are you competing in and who are your competitors? Do you know as much about your competitors’ customers as you do about your own? Run a SWOT to know where you stand with them – probably best to do this when you’ve read the next eleven points though.

#3. What business are you in?

Innovate better than Apple

Although this refers more to the category than the customer, it is important to ensure you are looking at it through the eyes of your customer. Are you in the food business or the pleasure business, beverages or relaxation? See “How to Innovate better than Apple“for more on this topic.

#4. What do they buy?

What and where your customers buy your product should have been covered in #1. Now you should look at how much does your customer spends on your product or service and how much he has available? How does what he spends compares with the amount he spends on your competitors? Is your share of category and wallet growing? If not, why not?

#5. What does your customer need?

I’m not speaking about what he says he needs, but what he actually needs; what would surprise and delight him? What does he need that he doesn’t even know he needs until he sees it? Apple again is one company that seems to be very good at getting at peoples’ unarticulated needs.

They have people queuing up to buy one of their new products even when they already have a perfectly functioning older model. Do they really need this new version? No. Do they want it? No! They desire it, they crave it!

#6. What do they think of your price?

Balancing customer cost and valueHere consider not just the price they pay, but also the cost to them of the actual purchase. Do they buy online with packing and shipping costs extra? Do they have to drive out-of-town or even further to be able to purchase? What is the total cost to them of buying your offer? And how does the price compare to the total value they place on it?

#7. What do they think of your packaging?

Packaging today goes far beyond protecting the product inside and making its on-shelf presence impactful. It is a further medium for communications and also for showcasing your value and USP (unique selling point). Read “Is your packaging product or promotion” for more on this.

#8. What do they think of your product?

The ideal product sells itselfProduct testing is an often overlooked essential of concept development. Even if a product is tested before launch, and supposingly does well (or it wouldn’t have been launched, I hope) competition is constantly changing so you need to keep an eye on performance over time. Annual measurement at the very least and preferably also of your major competitors is the minimum, to keep your finger on the pulse.

#9. What do they think of your advertising?

Communicating your value through advertisingAs with product testing, this is an on-going need for performance metrics. In addition, the earlier you start testing within the development process, the less money you will waste on multiple advertising concepts.

I have known companies who develop three or more ads to almost airing quality before making the final choice. Your ad agency will never complain about you working in this way, but couldn’t the money be better spent elsewhere? I highly recommend you check out PhaseOne‘s unique tool for early stage, confidential communications testing.

#10. What do they think of your online presence?

It’s not so much what they think here, but more do they even notice. Unless you know your customers’ habits online, you are unlikely to be where and when they are ready to receive your message.

Red Bull LogoInstead of choosing and using just the most popular online websites like everyone else, from your work completing #1. you should now know which are the most popular with your customers. For some brands an online presence is of minimal importance, whereas for others it actually replaces more traditional forms of advertising. Think of RedBull as just one example of this.

#11. What do they think of your SM personality?

You can’t hide your personality on social media. The words you choose for a Tweet, the ideas and information you share on FaceBook, all build to a picture in the minds of your customer. What image do you think the following Tweet built in the minds of people?

Nestle customer service on Twitter

Treat your online communications in the same way as you would any other form of communications and use the same tone and spirit. Just because it’s new media doesn’t mean it is less important or serious. As the above example shows mismanagement of customer connections on such platforms cannot be removed – even if as Nestlé, you take it off your own website – it will always be there to haunt you.

#12. Why do they buy?

There are many “why” questions I could have added here, but this is fundamentally the most important. If you know why people buy and how you are satisfying their needs, the more likely you are to satisfy them.

In addition, if you continue to monitor their changing needs and desires, the more likely you are to continue doing it. And don’t stop at trend following alone; develop the trends into plausible future scenarios and you’ll be years ahead of possible changes in customer desires – not that’s a true competitive advantage! Read “Turning trends into future scenarios and the 10-step process you need to do it” for more on this topic.

#13. Why do you sell?

I’ve saved the best for last. Why are you in the business you are in? Are you looking to grow the products’ sales, increase distribution for your other products, make a different product more attractive, or are you just milking profits? All of these are valid reasons, but you need to be very clear on why, in order to know how to answer all the other questions. So why don’t you start again at the first one, when you’ve answered this one? Your thoughts might just have changed or at least been modified as a result of this new perspective.

Well these are my 13 questions you need to be able to answer to your boss, should he ever inquire. And if you happen to be the boss, why not ask your subordinates how many they can answer? Let my know your score below; can anyone answer all 13?

Need help in knowing and understanding your current or future category customers? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here

C³Centricity used images from, Red Bull and Apple

Marketer struggles to answer a marketing question

10 Ways to tell if you’re Customer Centric: And what to do about it if you’re not

Summer is a great time to reflect on the progress we have made to date on our plans, be they personal or professional. Having finally completed the “nth” revision of my latest book –the formatting not the content! – it was the perfect occasion for me to review what I wanted to achieve in the coming six months.

This got me thinking about how organisations too need to take a step back and review how their plans are going and what changes need to be made to ensure their completion over the remaining six months of the year. So here are my ten ways to tell if you are well on your way to becoming truly customer centric – and what actions you can still take to go further along your journey.

#1. Identify the category in which you are competing

This may sound strange to you, but many brands are not competing in the category in which they first thought they were. Think soup which is now a meal replacement, or laptops which are now entertainment platforms.

Action: Review how your product or service fits into the customers’ daily life and how they compare and decide between options. This will help you identify your real competitors and the actual category in which you are competing.

#2. Understand your primary target

Boston MatrixKnowing precisely who the customer is for each of your brands is the first essential step to satisfying them. Use the BCG Matrix to help select the best group. Do you already work with this matrix, or do you have a better system? Please share your own best practice below, so I can learn.

Action: Review the target audience for each of your brands and ensure you have information on their +4Ws” – Who, What, Where and Why: demographics, purchase, usage, media use, places of purchase, consumption, connections to communications, their values, usage motivations and emotions when doing so.

#3. Watch and listen to your customers

Personal experience of your customers is essential to putting them at the heart of your business.

Action: Ensure everyone has regular – ideally monthly – contact with the customer, whether by listening in at the call centre, watching market research interviews & discussions, or observing customers as they shops and use your product / service.

#4. Know what current trends could mean for your business

Many organisations follow trends, but they don’t provide any competitive advantage unless they are turned into future scenarios.

Action: Identify the most relevant trends for your brand and then project them into the future to develop two axes of uncertainty and four plausible future worlds. These will help prepare the business for future opportunities and challenges.

#5. Reinvent your innovation

Example of innovation leversMost organisations innovate based upon their current knowledge or technical skills. This keeps them boxed into a narrow band of categories.

Action: Take your NPD thinking outside its box, by making use of all relevant innovation levers, including, but not limited to, packaging, channels, sourcing, communications, branding, services.


#6. Follow your image

It is amazing how many companies don’t follow their brand images on a regular basis. Image trends are a great way to be alerted to possible sales issues before they appear in the numbers.

Action: Identify the major image attributes of both your own and competitor brands, and measure them regularly (annually for fast moving categories, every two to three years for slower moving ones).

#7. Turn your information into insight

Whilst information and knowledge are essential to gather, it is only when they are turned into understanding and insight that they become truly customer centric.

Action: Review your insight development process and ensure decisions about customer satisfaction are based on them and not just on information. Insights ensure your communications resonate with your customers and your product / service delights and sometime surprises them.

#8. Share your information and insights

Companies spend a lot of money gathering data and information about the market and customers. However, in most cases they spend far too much money, because the information that is needed is actually already available somewhere in the company.

Action: Review your organisation’s information needs and negotiate contracts and access company-wide rather than by department. Make your information and insights available to everyone in the company through a library or database with appropriately managed access rights.

#9. Evaluate your progress

Business DashboardAs the infamous quote from Peter Drucker says “What gets measured gets managed”. Besides brand image, are you following other KPIs to measure your progress on your journey to customer centricity?

Action: Identify the three to five most important areas you want to improve and then measure them consistently. If the numbers aren’t trending up, act – see #10. below. The actual metrics you follow will depend upon your industry, but may include market comparison (shares), availability (distribution or out-of-stock) communications impact, competitivity, value.


#10. Plan for action

Once you have identified the KPIs to follow, you need to take action to improve those that are trending downwards and perhaps also those which are stable.

Action: Since your KPIs are the most important metrics for your business, plan actions as soon as their trend changes and don’t wait.

These ten steps should ensure your organisation remains focussed on the customer and doesn’t get lost in the day-to-day issues of the business. After all, as I have been quoted many times for saying:

“There may be customers without brands, but there are no brands without customers”

Think about it; do you have the right priorities? How do you know? Have I missed an essential step off of my list above? If so, let me know. Please also share which of your actions towards customer centricity you are struggling with the most. Together we’ll find a solution.

If you would like to  know how customer centric your organisation really is, then why not complete the C3C Evaluator? Check it out on our website:

Need help on your journey to customer centricity? Let us help you catalyze your business; contact us here.

C³Centricity uses images from and

Finding gold in your information

Increasing your Information ROI: Turning Knowledge into Gold

We all gather information about our customers. What do we do with it? We (hopefully) use it to inform our decisions and then it gets filed away. In some cases this is vertical (i.e. thrown away) but usually it is horizontal, to gather dust on a shelf somewhere that is soon forgotten. I think it’s time we changed this and turned our information investments into gold!

There are many, many ways to gather information about the customer: observation, listening, market research and external reports. I recently wrote about all the information on our customer that we should have at our disposition in a post called “12 Things you need to know about your target customers”. We need a lot of information to really know and understand our customer and it clearly will not come from one single market research project or report. Therefore that knowledge must be built up over time and that is where the problem lies.

Often we forget we already have the information and go out and buy it again. This is particularly common when the marketing department changes its lead or members – which seems to be every year or two in many organisations these days! Everyone thinks they need more information, when they actually most likely need more insight. (I have written several posts on insight development, including “Are you into insights or information?”) Therefore I thought it would be a good idea to share some ideas on resolving this situation, so that your hard-fought budget gets spent on gathering information that you don’t have available and really do need.

#1. Review what you’ve got

Data, information and knowledge are only useful if they are analysed and converted into understanding and insight. In today’s data-rich environment, this is often where companies struggle the most. Next time you need information about your customer, start by reviewing the information and knowledge you already have, and also ask other departments who may need similar information, if they have it, before commissioning further research or report purchases.

#2. Share what you’ve got

One of the reasons companies spend money on gathering information that is already available internally, is because they don’t know it is! To help reduce this overspend, which unfortunately most suppliers will not inform you of, you need to make sure that everyone who might need the information is made aware of it and has access to it.

For one of my clients, we discovered that some external reports were being bought separately more than 20 times within the organisation! As if that wasn’t bad enough, several different departments were also buying access to the same databases, and others were doing almost identical pieces of market research at approximately the same time.

To avoid this:

  • make a review of information needs across the organisation, or across the region or globe if yours is an international business
  • make one person responsible for negotiating company-wide deals with suppliers; the savings made may even cover the cost of this position and is therefore well worth the investment
  • share plans for market research projects across businesses and look for opportunities to combine for further cost savings

#3. Store what you’ve got

Despite all the actions specified in #2. above, you may still find that there are times when unplanned information needs crop up. This is where a knowledge database or library becomes effective. It can be as simple as a folder on a shared drive or as complex as a bespoke platform, or anything in between. What is important is that is meets the needs of those looking for information and that all relevant people have easy access to it.

Whichever size of storage you decide on, I suggest first making an audit of information needs. This should cover both what is available, as well as what is needed and why. However be careful to distinguish between what people would like to have and what they actually need; I have found a wide difference between the two in many cases.

#4. Build your Library

Once you have identified the real needs of your organisation, it is time to build your Library. And don’t think once you have built it that people will immediately start to use it! They need to be encouraged to share their knowledge. In my experience, this can sometimes be met with concerns about the confidentiality of the information stored:

“I would love to see what everyone else has gathered, but of course my information is confidential and can’t be shared”

One possible solution to this is to provide right of use only to those who share their knowledge and information, ideally at similar levels to their access.  “Greedy outliers” who take more than they give should then be easy to identify.

Another issue that can crop up with open sharing is management’s worry about leaking information to the competition, especially when employees leave the company. Although this is often an exaggerated risk, in most cases this can be significantly reduced by controlling information download. If certain projects, especially new product development, are considered to be too high a risk to share, then these can have a confidential “as needs” basis rule, or a time limit set on them before being made public.

#5. Mine the gold

The real gold from information sharing comes quickly once it starts to be a reality. Even for smaller knowledge libraries, I have found that within six months the available information starts to replace planned research projects or report purchases.

Once the Library is up and running, the next step is to start sharing your insights too. As mentioned in “Five ideas to improve your insight development” insights can often be used across more categories than the one for which it was developed. In the post I share a couple of examples of them:

  • INSIGHT: Parents want to protect their children so that they grow up happy and healthy used by:
    • Unilever's OmoUnilever’s Omo and its “Dirt is Good”; see one of their ads on YouTube here
    • Nestle Nido logoNestlé’s Nido; check out one of their ads here. Interestingly Nestlé has also used this same insight for its bottled water in Asia and pet food in the Americas.


  • INSIGHT: Young women want to be appreciated for who they really are i.e. not models used by
    • Unilever Dove logoUnilever’s Dove was the first brand to recognise and benefit from this insight with their infamous Real Beauty campaign; see one of their more recent ads here
    • Migros IamThe Swiss Supermarket chain Migros has a store toiletries brand “I am” which uses the same insight across all their health and beauty products, even using it for the brand name itself and advertising copy: “I am – what I am“.

The power of information sharing goes a long way to increasing the return on information investments. Reviewing what you’ve already got, sharing and making it accessible to all, and then developing a library platform will all help increase its use whilst at the same time reducing the costs of market research and information gathering. So, what are you waiting for?

Have you developed your own system or library for information and insight sharing? If so please share your experiences and horror stories in the comments below. Everyone would love to know what some of the challenges may be for them when they follow your example. 

Need help in negotiating your information contracts or in building an information / insight Library? Why not call us to discuss just how much you could be saving and increase your information ROI. No obligation, just INSPIRATION!

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