Contact Us | User Login  
Program Competencies
Our Blog


PDF Version


Sunday, January 8, 2012



(un, common prefix: means not; opposite of;
negative of the base word

The January, 2012 edition of The National Geographic magazine contains a brief article on some potential new English words. More specifically, the article explains how potential new words get accepted as “official” by that bible of all English words, The Oxford English Dictionary.   The process takes some time. Paid readers spend up to ten years verifying the common usage of a potential new word before it may be officially accepted as an English word. Well, we would like to get the ball rolling on a proposed new English word of our own: unsight, noun: not an insight.

Does the English-speaking world really need a new word such as this, you might ask? Perhaps not the entire English-speaking world, but for sure the entire marketing-speaking world does. The reason is that, despite the marketing-speaking world’s lip service to the critical importance of discovering a customer or consumer insight (for developing more compelling and competitive Brand Positioning Statements, Innovations, and Communications) most of what ends up being termed an insight is actually an unsight. And it’s really time that we marketers speak the truth—that we honestly admit and acknowledge that what we are usually calling an insight is really no such thing at all.


Truth be told, more often than not what many marketers and their R&D, Market Research, and Communication Agency teammates label as an insight is really nothing more than: a known fact, a need statement, or a long accepted customer or consumer belief (sometimes abbreviated as an “ACB”). Make no mistake about it, known facts, need statements, and ACB’s are helpful to know…but, please, let’s stop giving them the added credit of being an insight! An insight may well begin with an understanding of consumer usage facts or of expressed, unmet consumer needs. But being aware of these things gives us only a good start. To end up with something our brand can exploit—as in giving our brand a competitive advantage, real or perceived—means going much deeper, going well beyond a good start. 


There are a number of reasonably good definitions of a deeper, honest-to-goodness, legitimate, and highly exploitative insight. Here’s a simple one that we like: The discovery of a previously unknown, overlooked, or under-appreciated deep-seated consumer (or customer) truth…that, when exploited, leads to a change in attitudes and behaviors, resulting in a competitive advantage for the brand. With a definition such as this, clearly, statements like the following (which we have seen labeled as “insights” by marketers on their Innovation and Communications Briefs) are more unsights than they are insights:


--“I wish there was a yogurt that wasn’t so sweet. I don’t need all the sugar.”


--“45% of contact lens wearers say they would definitely consider a color contact lens.”


--“I want my kids to have the best possible nutrition…because it’s important for me to know I’m being the best mom I can be for them.”


--“Removing deep blackheads is still one of the hardest things for me; I’m looking for something that penetrates deep into my pores for more thorough cleaning.”


The first of these is obviously a basic need statement (it even has the “need” word within it); the second, starting out with a percentage, can be called nothing other than a fact—probably lifted directly from some study; the third has been used and over-used by food and beverage marketers for decades, making it a classic ACB; and the fourth is, hmmmm, probably a need statement…but sounding more like one expressed by the Brand Manager than by the consumer (it sounds much too much like a description from the Brand Manager on how his product works).


On the other hand, when you hear or see a real insight, it’s equally obvious. There is an inherent “angle” to the insight that you instantly know you haven’t heard or, at least, fully appreciated until now. We marketers often talk about wanting our target consumers to perceive our brand in a whole new way: well, the same can be said of real insights—they make us, the marketers, perceive consumer attitudes and behaviors (sometimes even non-behaviors) in a whole new way. No wonder, then, that one of the most common, one-word definitions of an insight is simply, an “Aha!”


One category that we think has done a pretty good job of discovering and exploiting real insights (not unsights!) is the smoking cessation category. If you have never been a smoker, you might not follow this category very much. But, whether a smoker or not, almost everyone knows and appreciates how difficult it is for long-time smokers to quit. The thing is, so many of the products available to would-be quitters are indistinguishable from each other. So, with parity-performing products, where smoking cessation marketers have the best chance to gain a perceived advantage is in their Communications. And to do that they really, really need a compelling insight. Here are a couple of insights that we have seen recently—and we have also seen the successful business results (mainly significant share gains) attributed to their communication campaigns:


--“Ok, this time I’m really going to do it. But, how will I cope without a cigarette? Still, I’m going to be strong and do it! But, you know, if I could share my ‘really going to do it’ with someone—then I think, this time, I can be strong.” This insight, for the UK’s NiQuitin Brand, ended up with an original “Reality Quitting” communications campaign, in which real wannabe quitters video-recorded their daily feelings and shared them on TV and on the internet.


--“The last time I tried to quit smoking I got pretty irritable. I wasn’t really myself. I never want to go through that again.” This insight for the Nicoderm Brand in Canada led to a most engaging communications campaign that exaggerated the “personality change” so many smokers endured when they were trying (usually unsuccessfully) to quit.


So what’s it going to be for your brand—insight, or unsight? There’s no doubt that going with an unsight is easier. After all, as a fact, need statement, or ACB, an unsight is often readily available, quite easily dropped into that foreboding box on the Innovation or Communication Brief that reads, “Consumer (or Customer) Insight.” And it’s that very easy-availability that makes an unsight so…what’s the word? Un-eventful, un-inspiring, un-successful.

  1. The best way to improve your brand’s odds of discovering insights is to establish and maintain an on-going insight discovery process. At a minimum such a process would involve quarterly reviews of the latest hypothetical insights, as discovered and articulated by the entire brand team (including R&D, Market Research, and outside Agencies). Following this review, team consensus insights can then be tested for their relative horsepower among target consumers or customers.
  1. Here’s a simple checklist to separate out the unsights from the insights:

It’s probably an unsight if…


·       It contains the words “need” or “want” in its expression

·       You’ve heard or seen something like it a thousand times before

·       It talks, atypically, about how a product works or should work

·       It opens with, “Why doesn’t someone invent a better__________”?

·       It sounds like a marketer speaking, not a consumer or customer

Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney


Richard Czerniawski

430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820 fax 847.256.8847

reply to Richard: or



Mike Maloney

1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.236.0971 fax 512.236.0972

reply to Mike: or

© 2003 Brand Development Network (BDN) International. All rights reserved.

  Home | About Us | Contact Us | Site Map | Help

© 2007 Brand Development Network Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Site Web Master: Vincent Sevedge. Designed by
Call us: 800-255-9831
[Print Page]

Open 5-2008 BP&MCC Online Assessment