Three Ss help make consumer insight more effective

by Nigel Hollis | January 28, 2019

Last week I took part in a roundtable with some of our clients in Poland. The conversation, led by Pavel Ciacek ranged from the big picture to the specific, but when it came to making data more meaningful three things stood out.


As I have commented elsewhere on the fact that cultural fragmentation is undermining the strength of brands but, so too it may be undermining the power of consumer research. As one of the participants in our discussion noted, there is less consistency in people’s behaviour than there used to be. We can no longer safely assume that people will buy a certain type of brand simply because they buy similar ones in other categories.

Maybe this is why we agreed that when it comes to using consumer insight effectively using multiple sources of data is important. These days you cannot rely on any one data source and expect it to tell you everything you need to know to answer a specific problem. Rather it requires multiple data sources that give different viewpoints and help produce a real insight; something that transforms our understanding and helps us identify how to change things to our brand’s advantage. We talked about the fact that mining social media data can be a useful source of insight but that on its own social feedback can be difficult to interpret (never mind analyse).

Which brings us onto the next s: story. Increasingly, when insight comes from different data sources and the requirement is to produce a synergistic understanding. One that takes the different viewpoints and produces a compelling story from them. One that has a clear beginning and end, and which does not lose the audience’s attention on the way between the two. In this regard, we agreed that there was a need for more interaction between client and agency if the story was to be a compelling one. Making more time to discuss findings ahead of a presentation helps ensure that the recommendations from the research are relevant and actionable.

Last but not least we come to simplicity. I would argue that simplicity is an asset in both marketing and consumer insight. Even if people’s ability to focus on a topic has not changed – one person suggested that Millennials have an attention span of less than a second (if so, how come they can binge watch Netflix?) – brevity and simplicity help ensure that people focus on the recommendation and inspire them to take action. One client remembered a presentation done by the Kantar Czech office where the key findings were delivered in the form of posters not PowerPoint and which had made an indelible impression on the minds of those who attended.

Obviously, there is more to producing inspirational consumer insights that Sources, Story and Simplicity but what do you think would make consumer insight more inspirational? Please share your thoughts.


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  1. Nigel, February 05, 2019

    Janet, indeed!

    Carol, I believe the distinction applies within category as well. I might by premium today and value tomorrow depending on need, inclination and budget. This does not mean that shopper models are wrong, just an approximation of reality. Actual purchasing behavior depends a lot on context. 

  2. Janet Standen, January 29, 2019


  3. Carol Udell,, January 28, 2019

    Hi, Love your comment, "We can no longer safely assume that people will buy a certain type of brand simply because they buy similar ones in other categories." I think many companies have built shopper models that bucket people into savers, spenders, or various other types of shoppers, but rarely do they build shopper models by category. As you say, a saver in one category is not necessarily a saver in all categories. And this even applies to sub-categories.

    Thanks for highlighting an important distinction!

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