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Finding New News In Old Places

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Finding New News in Old Places

By Jen Drexler

As marketers, we are constantly looking for the new “it” way to learn more about how consumers behave and feel. In the process, the industry can get distracted by what I call “sparkle ponies” - leaving behind techniques that are evergreen for a reason.

Bottom line, immersion is the bedrock of innovation.

To birth successful products or to create successful content, leaders need unfettered access to consumers’ lives. Focus groups and virtual research are valuable but it all starts with radical consumer intimacy: walking in your consumer’s shoes – or even better – side by side with them.

If you currently speak with consumers to discover the next breakthrough in mealtime, consider instead eating dinner with consumers and their families. Not watching them eat or seeing pictures of their dinner table, but cooking and serving at their side. Have your consumers supply the recipes that your CEO has to try for Sunday dinner. Look at the coupons they carry around in their purse. Examine their pantry graveyard where failed products go to die.

Want to know how people feel in your dressing rooms or at checkout? Then, experience their journey first-hand. Recently, we assigned a predominantly male leadership team to shop their women’s clothing stores for a hypothetical Saturday date night outfit for less than $50. We asked: Can they find what they are looking for? What do they notice on the mannequins or dressing rooms? Are the associates helpful or on the hunt for commission? This kind of exercise reinforced why it is important to invest in associate training, store design (those funhouse dressing room mirrors!), and product assortment.

Years ago, I was tasked to bring female business travelers to life beyond the data that my travel client had collected. So, we put male and female execs through the paces. They fielded in and out of their own lobbies and conference rooms with wheelie luggage filled with weights. They were asked to change clothing in lobby restrooms. They ordered room service and considered how safe they felt when room service rang their bell. These and other exercises lived on within the company and was the crucial key to socializing the learnings from their research.

Your takeaway: immersions can take place at different stages in the insights and strategy timeline, and should be prioritized in the process.

Jen Drexler is Senior Vice President at Insight Strategy Group.

Change Is Good, If You Change, Too: Examining Category Innovation

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Change blog graphicNEW


By Nathan Cooper

We’re living in dynamic times where new modes of consumer behaviors and attitudes have the power of shifting entire industries.

Take the music industry, for example. In the early part of the century, new technology like Napster and LimeWire introduced the game-changing concept of file sharing. The music industry resisted innovating in ways that were fresh and relevant to music listeners. In fact, they fought it - attempting to maintain their model of full price album purchases. As a result, the entire music industry endured a major blow to business. It was not until the advent of iTunes years later, and ultimately the emergence of pay streaming services like Pandora and Spotify that the music industry regained momentum and the good favor of its consumers. Today, the innovation continues as the music industry embraces change.

For other industries, the problem wasn’t resistance to change – it was simply being blind-sided by change. Also in the early part of the century, the print industry was challenged to innovate in an Internet-fueled world. Digital newspaper content was initially provided free-of-charge as the Internet was seen as a high traffic, ad-supported, and open-source environment. Yet, competitors like news blogs, search engines, and Craigslist had crippling effects on newspapers. Regular citizens even became competitors with the advent of consumer journalism and Wikipedia. The newspaper industry attempted to do right by the consumer and exist within the ethos of the Internet, but it ultimately could not survive financially. It took drastic overhauls in their online model to develop models that were close to profitable. A pioneering hybrid adopted by The New York Times in 2011 is a model that mixed subscription and pay elements. But even this model, with all its successes, can have shortcomings and growing pains.  Had the newspaper industry seen the change coming (and not relied solely on the reputation of their brands), they could have helped define the rules of digital news.

Currently, we are watching another category innovation unfold before our very eyes. Technology is generating real change in how people are consuming traditional television content. In juxtaposition to the newspaper industry, the television industry sees the change on the horizon. Yet, television is slightly behind the curve, and to-date has only taken reactionary measures to compete with original content providers like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon. Unlike the music industry, the television industry is willing to be a part of the innovation instead of fighting it. HBOGo will soon be available without a cable subscription, and similarly CBS plans to offer an all access streaming option.  

At the FCC, the unbundling of cable packages is starting to resemble an a la carte approach to gaining a stake in consumer decision-making. Even the art form of content development is innovating to meet consumers at their needs; with writing that melds with binge viewing and that understands that quality is of paramount importance in a saturated landscape.  While there is an acceptance to change and a willingness to take part in that change, the television industry must continue to evolve alongside the consumer through innovations in order to shape the future rather than become a thing of the past.

Nathan Cooper is a Senior Quantitative Analyst at Insight Strategy Group.

Happy 15th Birthday, Insight!

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This quarter, we are revisiting our commitment to deliver you truth about what drives your consumer, possibilities for growing your business, and inspiration to act with certainty and vision. These elements play out daily in our work. Click the links below to hear a few stories from our team.

“Good” Grief

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Today's consumer is smarter, savvier, and more filled with purpose than ever before.

With so many options and brands to choose from, they have turned brand loyalty on its head by making it the brand's responsibility to prove they deserve trust and loyalty. 

Our research has shown that one way to do so is by upping the ante on how your brand delivers and promotes social good. Nearly 90% of Millennials value brands with a positive social impact, but beyond that stat, we are seeing an uptick in the importance of ethical commitment across demographics and categories from CPG to travel to fashion.

"Social good" encompasses sustainability, fair trade, trending notions of artisanship, healthy living (i.e. organic, BPA free, GMO-free, etc.), investing in quality goods rather than cheap or convenient items, etc.

 While Williamsburg hipsters craft their own locally-sourced food truck menus, this is a macro trend that we don't foresee fading anytime soon; in fact, it is increasingly cost-of-entry. Business leaders recognize that 'creating social value' has long term benefits. Harvard Business Review states, "The purpose of the corporation must be redefined as creating shared value, not just profit per se. This will drive the next wave of innovation and productivity growth in the global economy." Read more here.

What this signals is growing consumer awareness of the interconnectedness between what we buy, how it's produced, and its long-term global consequence. For businesses, this is an opportunity to engage consumers through honesty, transparency, appropriate cause alignment, and socially responsible actions that feel on-brand and credible. Ask yourself if your brand meets any of the following criteria for social good:

  • Pledges that have become reality
  • Multiple benefits associated with purchase
  • Authentic and honest messaging
  • High quality products
  • Products aligned with a cause
  • Relatable brand voice

If you don't currently check any of these boxes, never fear! It's not too late to bring social good into the fold of your brand. By standing for something, you can stand out to consumers. Contact info@insightstrategygroup.com to learn how we can help.

Ally Aleman is a Director at Insight Strategy Group focusing on current and emerging trends across fashion, retail, and media

What does it mean to be an Apprentice at Insight?

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As a client partnering with Insight, you may find yourself asking, “What the heck is an Apprentice?” As a potential employee, you might wonder, “How is an Apprentice different from an Intern?” Our favorite thing at Insight is answering questions, so here goes!

An Apprentice at Insight is a potential employee who is welcomed immediately as part of the team, allowing them to get to know the company and explore the type of brand strategy and market research work we do. At the same time, it lets the company get to know who they are and the unique strengths they bring from their experiences across industries and academic fields.

This program offers the flexibility to learn the ropes and explore how our various teams and practice areas work. It doesn’t mean there aren’t high expectations, though! Apprentices are expected to take ownership of key research tasks, contribute during meetings and brainstorming sessions, interact with clients, and have a voice throughout every project they're on.

What this means for our clients is that Insight is constantly bringing on individuals with diverse experiences, passions, and perspectives. This invigorates our research and infuses our strategy with fresh ideas and unique insights, ensuring that the best people and sharpest minds are on the job. The Apprentice model is a great way for companies to stay fresh, training up potential employees while ensuring they find their ideal path in market research!

The ‘other’ hybrid solution: creative + analytic

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Left Brain + Right Brain

At Insight, we inspire strategic possibilities through truths discovered in robust quantitative and innovative qualitative research. But, you might not know that we’re proud creatives, too. Our in-house creative team works in tandem with our researchers to deliver results that are equally as inspiring as they are strategic.

We remember a time when analytic and creative minds rarely crossed paths. Mathletes weren't in art club, and theater geeks didn't join debate. Looking back to those years, we think those combinations would have produced some truly amazing work!

But, what we’re seeing in our industry (and across many others) is that the divide between right and left brain is blurring. With the advent of data visualization and an increased importance placed on “story-telling” the insights, new opportunities in the professional realm for “hybrids” have blossomed. In my case, I’m a Creative Director with an Economics degree. At Insight, I have the great pleasure of working with designers who’ve come from media, and creative writers with applied cultural analysis roots.

As we know from our extensive work with the Millennial generation, a vast majority feel that it’s important to love your job (90%) and nearly half believe a college degree doesn’t dictate your future.

We think the world can expect - and look forward to - the undeniable magic that happens when right brain collides with left.

By Jillian Nugent

Jillian Nugent leads the Creative Team at Insight Strategy Group, and believes that the best creative happens when writers and designers tap into the pop culture to more beautifully reflect our lives

Newsflash: Women like to drive.

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Happy woman driving her car


Don't let images of booth babes at car shows or frustrated moms in carpool lanes fool you.  Women like to drive.  In extensive women’s research conducted in partnership with Lifetime Television, it became very clear that car manufacturers and advertisers have systematically ignored the passion women have for being behind the wheel.

When you think of car advertising today, it generally falls into two camps. One approach is great storytelling that pulls on your heart strings first and your purse strings second.  The other is to aggressively shout deals, interest rates, and horsepower.  Like a car without an engine, what’s missing is advertising that connects with women's real love of driving. 

Brands need to remember:

  • Women love the power of being behind the wheel, the control they feel going into a turn, and the freedom an open road represents (and not only in a Thelma & Louise sort of way)
  • Being in the car by themselves allows them to be queens in their kingdoms, alone with their thoughts and rocking out to whatever music makes them happy
  • Once they've graduated from practical, family cars, women choose cars that express their personalities. Empty nesters in particular are very engaged in the category – looking to reclaim their independence and infuse some fun into their drives.  We heard many stories of non-traditional cars like Fiats, Minis, and Beetles fitting that bill!

- Jen Drexler, Senior Vice President, Insight Strategy Group

Want more? Attend the 2014 M2W Conference where Insight and Lifetime Networks will present Are we there yet? Teaching the Auto Industry to Speak Woman.” Click here to register, and enter code “ISG25” for a 25% discount.

Millennials just want to be Happy

Millennials posted by Insight 0


Pharrell’s hit song, “Happy,” has topped the charts for over a month now, with his proclaim for happiness not showing any signs of waning. The song has been widely embraced, especially among Millennials who exude his message in their outlook on life. Millennials’ penchant for pragmatic optimism is echoed by one of the song’s lines that’s directed at bad news and people who dwell on it (“I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine. No offense to you, don’t waste your time”). Millennials are on a journey towards finding and defining joy in their lives, and they have no patience for haters.

In a survey Insight fielded last year among a national sample of 2400 Millennials ages 14-25, we found that 4 in 5 Millennials are optimistic about the future and agree that their main goal in life is happiness. Where do they look for happiness? One place is at work. 9 in 10 Millennials agree that it’s important to love your job.

Not only do Millennials rally around the pursuit of happiness, but more Millennials define success by happiness (88%) over more material things like money (60%), fame (36%), and being popular (57%), deflating some over-circulated Millennial stereotypes. Moreover, 2 in 3 Millennials are sick of hearing how spoiled their generation is – they just want to be happy!

(Affordably) Pretty Little Liars

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Do you love Pretty Little Liars as much as we do? Maybe it’s the drama, the mystery, the intrigue, but maybe – just maybe – its love of character fashions. With New York Fashion Week in full swing, we can’t help but notice how much thought PLL costume designer Mandi Lane brings to the show -- crafting individual styles so recognizable, you can tell a characters’ identity even from back shots. PLL fashions are attainable, too, incorporating a mix of affordable brands like Forever21, Wet Seal, and Rebecca Minkoff, and high end brands like Free People and Rachel Roy. If  Sex and the City and Gossip Girl put fashion on the map, then maybe Pretty Little Liars will keep it there with looks that teens, tweens, and adults can aspire towards.

Name that content!

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Some things never change – Converse All-Stars, the height of the Empire State Building, and TV being the center of the entertainment universe. Oh, wait.

Over the last few, fast years, we’ve had our traditional language go fogey on us. Our notion of a “store” or of “radio” has changed with the digital times. Then, it was TV’s turn.

Change began in the spring of 2009 with gentle drizzles: A teen told us she never watched TV, and then proceeded to describe, in detail, every episode of “That 70s Show” and “Gossip Girl.” Clearly she watched TV content, but not on the traditional set top box. At all.

Within a year, streaming had swelled to a downpour. For teens and young adults, streaming to ones’ laptop became the day-to-day norm, and watching on an actual TV was more and more reserved for family time or social events. Next came mobile streaming, and with that, not coincidentally, we stopped being shocked to see a 10-year-old receive an iPhone for his birthday. Finally, in 2011, we saw cable TV increasingly going the way of the land line. Families were cancelling their subscriptions. Recent college grads didn’t even bother with it.

We have yet to come up with a consumer-friendly word for “content originally produced for TV but screened all over the place.” Perhaps it’s too late to create one, now that there is also plenty of “content originally produced for all over the place.”

So what does this mean for us, the esteemed community of media professionals? We see two near-term calls to action:

1.      Create more programming that keeps the anytime, any screen mentality in mind.

This programming would not have to fit exact time limitations, and instead could cater to different occasions and need states throughout the day, like: “I need 2-minutes of thought-provoking high art to get that annoying Katy Perry song out of my head,” or, “I need a 98-minute distraction while I wait in line at The Shake Shack.”

 2.      Name the new thing that is content for the new era.

While “content originally produced for all over the place” is a relatively accurate turn of phrase, it rolls off the tongue like a brick. We may do well to think of it this way: “I produce ________.” Come on, creative cronies, help us out here!

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