daily Insight

Hitting Hard or Hardly Hitting? Questioning in the 2016 Primary Debates

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Will you say anything to get elected? That question was posed to Hillary Clinton in the first Democratic debate of the 2016 race last week. It’s a tough question and one meant to put the former First Lady on the defensive. But it wasn’t a barbed challenge from a rival candidate in a heated moment of fierce debate. It was a question from Anderson Cooper, the moderator, and it was the first question of the night.

Voters today are accustomed to seeing candidates challenged and barraged as TV cameras or personal phones capture every moment. We wait with bated breath for the next gaffe, misstep, or Daily Show highlight. When Anderson Cooper opens the debate with challenging and direct questions to each candidate, his heart is in the right place. We want greater transparency and accountability in our candidates. Those running for office should be subject to the highest scrutiny. No past decision or personal detail is off the table.

But campaigns have adjusted to this scrutiny as well. Questions of principles, loyalty, and consistency are calmly met with well-rehearsed deflections. Candidates are more likely to pull off a neatly spun sidestep than they are to squirm and stutter under the microscope. In the blink of an eye, political expediency and pandering becomes having a range of views and learning from new information and experiences. In last week’s debate, the candidates rarely seemed as polished and prepared as when they were answering the most accusatory and sensitive questions.

The Democratic debate was not unique in opening with questions that confronted candidates one by one. FOX took the same approach in its Republican debate. The moderating approach stuck out less in that debate, where candidates were more eager to point fingers at each other and to speak out in stronger language. The subject of most of the post-debate buzz was of course GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, whose campaign strategy centers on making statements that seem off the cuff rather than calculated. It is little surprise that in comparison the Democratic debate struck many viewers as boring and uneventful.

In an age where campaigns are meticulously managed and candidates are coached through tested, PR-ready answers, direct interrogation falls flat. The questions that reveal the true character and political vision of the candidates are not questions that challenge them so much as questions that are challenging.

While candidates are on a bright stage with microphones and cameras rolling, they’re also answering questions about their beliefs, their decisions, and themselves. And people are more likely to open up about these topics when they feel listened to, respected, and comfortable. After all, if we know anything about a presidential race in the 21st century, it’s that attacks will fly and plenty of mud will be slung. A more revealing and personal debate might have taken place with a moderator more focused on fostering open dialogue.

In market research, we spend a lot of time asking questions. And we spend a lot of time thinking about asking questions. Difficult questions are not bad questions. They are often the most necessary and fruitful that you can ask. But we also know that good answers come from respondents who are comfortable, at ease, and encouraged to be thoughtful. It’s not a matter of choosing questions that are easy or tough. It’s a matter of how and when to use the many different types of queries to get the most honest and relevant answers.


by Calen Cole, Senior Analyst


You won’t believe what happened after I wrote this blog

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… I got a snack.

Sorry. Not what you were expecting? Well, welcome to my world where I find myself clicking through links on social media despite knowing that the other end of the link will bring me junk. Headlines are supposed to do hard work but the ante has been upped by motivating clickbait that plagues the internet. Clickbait are those headlines that you can’t resist clicking - the salacious and tempting ones that you click only to find recycled Top 10 content on the other side.

Things like:

“Avoid the flu with this one weird trick”
“400 signs you have free time”
“Most embarrassing reactions to trying ghost peppers”

Why do we fall for it?

  • Most obviously, we are driven because we are curious. Curiosity is at the core of all good headlines but when it comes to clickbait it is more that the reader has to have the cliffhanger solved. Even though we rationally KNOW that the headline’s promise won’t be paid off there is a little part of us that wants to believe that at the other end of the headline the “5 Secrets of Napping to Lose Weight” is really life-changing
  • We also harbor anxiety that the holy grail of tips/recipes/interviews/photos are actually at the other end of that link and that by not clicking your life would be unfulfilled.
  • The unconscious importance of social currency also drives the click. We click so that we can share the content before anyone else. This often means that we don’t even read the entirety of the content before we call it a “must read” and post it on Facebook. (This is actually a whole other syndrome called sharebait but that is for another day. There has been research that there is no correlation between people sharing and people actually reading what they are sharing.)

Clickbait has gotten a pretty bad rap and companies like Facebook and Google have already put limits and filters to spare their users the temptation. Beware though because it seems that the language of clickbait has been given a kinder, gentler euphemism known as the curiosity gap.

Jon Stewart once said that clickbait headlines remind him of carnival barkers. That said, step right up and find out 10 reasons we will have an avocado shortage.


by Jen Drexler, Senior Vice President

The Paradox of Choice in Today’s New Content Landscape

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By Sarah Gardiner

Within the past few years there has been a proliferation of content and with it a proliferation of choice. The landscape feels like a seemingly infinite abyss of shows across a multitude of providers and platforms – not to mention the amount of extraordinarily high-quality options (I'll save that topic for another time). The savviest of consumers (often Millennials) take this in stride, as the expectation for much of what they interact with is about navigating a multitude of choice, in the goals of high customization, personalization, access, and expression. However, the less savvy may feel overwhelmed.

Given this, it is even more crucial for someone (a friend or trusted social media source) or something (a brand or network) to tell them what's out there. And, more importantly, what's worthy of their time. They need a curator. That’s a step in the right direction, yes, but what if this curator also removes the huge obstacle of choice?

“Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.”

“When faced with overwhelming choice, we are forced to become “pickers,” which is to say, relatively passive selectors from whatever is available. Being a chooser is better, but to have the time to choose more and pick less, we must be willing to rely on habits, customs, norms, and rules to make some decisions automatic.”

― Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

Enter Netflix.

Choose just once, and then your job is done. That first choice gets you everywhere. And “picking” becomes virtually obsolete.

You choose to watch 30 Rock, and the next episode magically plays for you 15 seconds later, thanks Liz Lemon…

Paradox of Consumer Choice

…or you want to jump in where you left off and simply click a button to “Continue Watching”…

Paradox of Consumer Choice

…or you’re feeling a Walter White shaped void in your life (which Better Call Saul can’t quite fill – or maybe that’s just me?) and you click on “More Like This” to find the next best thing.

Paradox of Consumer Choice

I mean, sure Netflix doesn’t get it right 100% of the time, especially if I’m logged in as my husband (Why is it recomending Visually-striking Cerebral Sci-Fi & Fantasy to me? Actually… thanks, I kind of do love that stuff), or if he’s logged in as “Sarah” (Uh… why is it recomending Witty TV Shows Featuring a Strong Female Lead?) – but that’s a risk we’re willing to take when it means we don’t have to flip through 1000+ TV channels to see what’s on.

So, how can you help today’s consumers “choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities”?

Follow Netflix’ lead and explore how you can:

  • Establish your brand as a curator consumers can trust
  • Empower consumers by limiting the choices they need to make
  • Enable consumers to customize and personalize
  • Encourage and build loyalty by creating a two-way relationship where you give back in different ways (e.g., your own version of “if you like that you may also like”)?

By successfully eliminating obstacles of choice, you can inspire continued customer engagement with your content, product, or service.

Sarah Gardiner is Vice President at Insight Strategy Group.

Exciting News at Insight!

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MarketCast, a leading entertainment-focused market research firm based in Los Angeles, today announced its acquisition of Insight Strategy Group, a top research and strategy agency based in New York City.

Insight Strategy Group decodes consumer insights to fuel clients’ brand growth, and content, product and service innovation. Its core services include segmentation and targeting strategy, brand positioning and tracking, product innovation and testing, and customer experience strategy. Leveraging deep expertise anchored in the social sciences, Insight Strategy Group is a go-to partner for media and entertainment companies and brands for audience authority studies, concept development, pilot testing, series maintenance, and brand franchise tracking. Founded by co-CEOs Stacey Mathias and Boaz Mourad in 1999, the agency also has established industry practices in lifestyle, consumer goods, retail, and financial and professional services, and boasts a pre-eminent youth practice, InsightKids.

“We are delighted to partner with Stacey and Boaz and the entire Insight team in this next chapter of growth for our two companies,” said Henry Shapiro, CEO of MarketCast. “Our agencies share a passion for helping clients solve their most pressing marketing and development challenges through innovative and world-class research and consulting services. The combination will benefit our clients immediately, particularly in the TV and OTT sectors where the pace of change is as thrilling as it is stunning.”

“At a time of disruption and opportunity, our combined expertise in content, brands, and audiences’ needs and behaviors position our shared enterprise as leaders in the global entertainment industry,” said Stacey Matthias. “As ever, Insight Strategy Group’s goal is to fuel our clients’ success by enriching content and marketing efforts to resonate deeply with audiences across platforms and occasions.”

“Insight Strategy Group’s established practices in lifestyle, CPG, retail, and professional services will grow in impact, efficiency, and scale with this union, through services that both broaden our capabilities and accelerate innovation,” added Boaz Mourad. “Across industries, our clients will benefit from our expanded US and global presence and capabilities.”

About MarketCast

Based in Los Angeles, with offices in New York, Boston, and London, MarketCast is a leading provider of marketing research services for the global entertainment industry. Through a variety of consulting services backed by rigorously scientific quantitative and qualitative research methods, MarketCast works in collaboration with marketers and researchers across the entertainment spectrum in the development and execution of their marketing strategies, from early concept exploration through distribution. MarketCast services are available worldwide, and include materials testing (trailers, TV spots, print ads, etc.), concept and positioning studies, exit polls, recruited audience screenings, tracking studies, and focus groups, as well as a host of custom offerings including brand/franchise studies, title tests, post-release studies, and attitudes and usage studies. MarketCast is a portfolio company of RLJ Equity Partners and GE Asset Management. For more information, visit www.mcast.com.

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

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