Hi my name is Mike and I am an insight infoholic.


How well do you know your customers?

Developing deep, actionable insight into the world of customers is fraught with difficulty for small businesses. Those huge databases chock full of accurate, well classified and richly segmented collations of relevant data sets will forever be in our hearts but not within reach of our budgets. So do we just give up and watch the big boys at play?

Not if I can help it.

I like the fact that the major players have created a natural Big Data filter for my business. It is, in fact, possible to live off the tertiary scraps of abstracts from full reports by Hitwise, Mintel, Keynote, Experian, comScore, Oracle, Adobe, Kantar, Global TGI, Ipsos, Nielsen, Brainjuicer, TNS Global, Responsys, Synovate, Anderson Analytics, Itracks, GFK and Peanut Labs to name but a few. Anyhow, who has time to read the whole report? Only the CEO’s PA is my guess.

Get out your abstract sewing kit.

Stitching together the cyber tributaries of information pouring out from data, market research, data analysts and customer insight organisations all over the world can provide you with more than enough ammo to begin the process of developing customer insight. Your biggest problem will be figuring out what to leave out.

This avalanche of published data contains so many infobytes of hints about trends, offline contact points, physical addresses, online identities, mobile phone numbers, social media and smartphone app data, age, location, household make-up, behaviour, finances and lifestyle; financial factors, current customer value, potential value and lifetime value; transactional behaviour, attitudes, core values, needs, wants and desires, customer channel and product preferences, together with the real time monitoring of segments to identify fast developing and possibly short-lived opportunities that my brain hurts. Who could possibly use it all?

The secret of developing useful, actionable insight as the data pours in is knowing when to say when you have enough to get you going. The fact us anticipating the needs of customers is as much an art as it wants to be a science.

So much data, so little insight.

But sooner or later, someone has to turn all this data-sludge into a soupcon of insight that will help us build a frequently transient and occasionally lasting bridge into the hearts and minds of consumers. If you are one of the go-to big guns of the activation world, such as Geometry Global, you dive deep into data and analyse behaviour to unearth insights that become platforms for planning and applying pitch-perfect creativity at key points of influence to reshape customer journeys.

Us small fry might have to combine data we can scrabble from the big boys and then combine that with looking at input from conversion pathway contribution analysis, onsite sales funnel activity, small survey panels, and, if we are really inventive, live webcam feeds from target homes or offices and shops that actually show us what customers do and think in the real world.

That’s when the fun starts.

We then need to focus on developing the one insight that will shape all we do. We are looking for the kind of insight that made Dove so attractive to women of all ages.

A combination of clever insight guys at Harvard, London School of Economics and Strategy One homed in on the fact that, “The beauty industry had been making women feel bad about themselves for years for their own commercial ends.” They responded to the insight with the notion that women would appreciate a brand that celebrated women just as they are.

real beauty dove women

That insight has spawned a socially responsible brand activation campaign, which has lasted for over ten years. Last year’s brilliant viral ad in which an FBI-trained forensic artists drew a woman as she described herself and drew her using a stranger’s perspective to draw attention to the difference between subjective and objective image.

More recently Dove launched the “Selfie” iteration of the “Campaign for Real Beauty” with a 7 minute documentary at the Sundance Film Festival which looks at teenage girls and their relationships with their mothers and themselves as they explore self image through the trend of taking selfies.

One hard-earned moment of insight and you get a campaign that provides a relationship map that provides an overarching sense of purpose above and beyond the mere hitting of sales targets.

It also enables Dove to continuously engage with audiences to the extent that they now know that 62% of women feel they are autonomously responsible for influencing their own definition of beauty – Looks like Gok Wan is out of a job. They also know that 55% of women believe social media is more influential than traditional media – long live the conversation.

So what is your insight?

Well that’s something you have to pay for.