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The Insight Behind Consumer Branding

Posted At: April 4, 2012 2:50 PM
by Lauren Cuervo

Reaching the target audience is the main objective behind any type of communications plan; but why are some companies so much better at doing it than others? Nike, Target, Apple – these are all brands that have successfully identified an audience and spoken to it on a personal level with their campaigns.

The success of these brands is due to a crucial aspect they have in common: their use of consumer insights, a research technique that goes beyond traditional marketing strategies to get inside the mind of the consumer.

Rather than just studying the numbers of how well an item sold or how successful a campaign was in the past, insights focuses on what new strategies will be successful in the future. Methods to attaining this in-depth knowledge range from quantitative techniques like surveys and satisfaction ratings to qualitative ones, such as in-home visits and online focus groups.

Regina Lewis, an insights professional who has worked on campaigns with corporations such Dunkin’ Brands and the Intercontinental Hotels Group, stresses the importance of the process for any brand. Her insights research with Dunkin’ Brands led to the development of the “America Runs on Dunkin’” campaign, which enforces the idea that its products are designed for no-fuss, hardworking Americans.

“What’s important for businesses to understand is that communication cannot be compelling without insights into people’s needs, aspirations and feelings,” Lewis said. “Without insights into the consumer experience, companies cannot create brands that ‘sing.’”

Formerly known as account planning, insights work began in ad agencies in London and caught on in the United States during the 90s. Since its arrival the concept has flourished and resulted in the emergence of some of the world’s most recognizable commercial brands and campaigns.

“Without insight, creative strategy is unlikely to be brilliant,” Lewis said. “On the other hand, once a communication professional understands their target audience members’ attitudes and what they value, an otherwise bland brand can become charismatic.”

A brand that recently needed this type of competitive knowledge was Breyers Ice Cream, which wanted to develop a slow-melting ice cream. Ken Quaas, co-president of Consumer Truth Marketing, spearheaded the project and discovered results that were surprising, but vital to the concept’s success.

“The insights objective was to validate the need and interest for an ice cream that melted more slowly than current products on the market,” Quaas said. “What would be the best way to talk about the ice cream and the most compelling benefit?  No mess? No melt on car ride from store to freezer? Longer-lasting? Creamier taste and/or firmer texture?”

Under the assumption that this product would be a guaranteed success, Breyers began its insights work.  The first two focus groups led the organization to discover that despite an interest in the product idea, consumers, particularly mothers of young children, were concerned the products used to hinder melting might be harmful.

“Consumers absolutely hated the idea, especially for Breyer’s, because of its all-natural positioning and heritage. They did not want ‘phoney’ ingredients in their ice cream and were convinced it would taste bad and be bad for them,” Quaas said. “The client had yet to think of this application for Popsicle (serendipitously the sister brand of Breyer’s); and thus, the idea was abandoned for Breyer’s, and development quickly began on what is now the highly successful Slow-Melt Popsicle product.”

In this case, conducting successful insights work not only led to the development of a successful new product, but also the safety of not producing an unsuccessful one. The key to implementing the knowledge gained from insights is making sure it reaches every part of an organization, especially the public relations department.

“PR professionals need to be aware of the insights process because once they become experts on their audience members’ hearts and minds, they will be able to connect with them in meaningful ways,” Lewis said. “It is the emotional connection that matters in communication, and this is developed through deep understanding.”

Whether it is conducted to salvage an existing brand or to create a revolutionary product, consumer insights work is at the heart of every successful campaign. And knowing how to appropriately harness the power this insight brings can lead to the creation of brands that people remember for decades.


  1. Post comment

    I think this article expresses the true importance of going the extra mile to identify the true needs of a company’s target publics. In the instant gratification society that we live in, a lot of people want great results in a very short amount of time. This is not always possible. In PR what I have learned is that building relationships is the most important consideration when dealing with publics. This may take some time, but will be more beneficial in the end, as expressed by this article. I really enjoyed the quotes from Regina Lewis. It is these insights that make me very excited about entering the PR industry.


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