For companies looking to best understand their brand and improve the connection with their customers, a useful piece of consumer insight can pave the way to marketing success with memorable messaging that effectively attracts new customers.

In our data-rich age, the abundance of readily available facts about customer behavior and preferences would make it seem that consumer insights would be available at any company’s finger tips.

But many of these data-driven insights end up being ineffective, not compelling enough to connect with customers or too focused on what a company sees as valuable rather than their audience.

Creating a true insight that sparks that “aha” moment, that revelation that seems so simple yet so perspective shifting, can be hard to develop. More often than not, companies end up using their data to create interesting facts about their customers. Too many, though, stop there. Interesting data-driven facts, while accurate, don’t have the same power as finding smart and ownable insights that will engage and move customers.

Digging into what creates the emotional connection that comes with the true insights that lead to compelling marketing messages is not easy. In fact, some might think that such work might be more art or luck than marketing. And, as with many things in our industry, a little bit of either certainly doesn’t hurt.

But with a little bit of work, your approach to creating consumer insights can help you better understand how to reach truly compelling insights. By understanding the elements of an effective insight, your company can create a process by which you develop further insights and test the strength of those insights you’ve created.

The elements to look for in an effective insight, not surprisingly, make the acronym INSIGHT. With the help of some classic commercials, we can see how one good insight can create messaging that changes perspective, challenges assumptions and conveys an emotional connection with customers that goes beyond the product:


Interesting information is the baseline of a good consumer insight. It has to have something that grabs the attention of an audience before it can make a play to their emotions. More often than not this can be found in consumer data.

The Coca-Cola commercial below could easily have started with a piece of data that stated how many people playing video games like to drink Coca-Cola while playing. From there, Coca-Cola creatives took the often-negative and violent world of video games and ran it through the prism of the Coca-Cola lifestyle (the guys who want to “buy the world a Coke”) to create an unexpected and interesting commercial.


Consumer data can show unexpected uses of a product. An effective insight showcases new aspects of a product that might not immediately come to mind but are immediately recognizable. One of the most classic rebrands in history, the “Got Milk” came after an already successful campaign (“Milk Does A Body Good”). Rather than focus on the health benefits of drinking milk, the first commercial used a basic piece of data to create a new insight: people drink milk to pair with food (or in this case, wash it down).. That insight served as the foundation for a historically memorable campaign.


Good insights also shift perspectives, not only about a product, but also about things related to that product’s audience. A recent campaign from Always took this approach in helping change the way that people approached the idea of doing something “Like a Girl.” This campaign may have started with a basic piece of data about common consumer demographics for their product, combined with concerns about the issues they regularly face.

From there, they created a commercial that contrasted assumptions about the running or throwing “like a girl” with adults versus how young girls interpreted the same idea. Dove presented the basis for a cultural shift, one that speaks directly to the demographic of their product and extends beyond that into the greater culture.


Inspiration also lives in a good insight. The insight makes you want to take action, to move, to make change, inspired by, or because of, a particular product or brand message. Dovetook an insight common to the beauty sector and created an inspiring and empowering message that went beyond the product. By showing a time-lapse of the undertaking that goes into a fashion photoshoot (from hair and make-up to computer photo retouching), Dove madea striking comment about the unrealistic expectations of the female image and an inspirational celebration of natural beauty.

Grants Permission:

Good insights do more than live on the page. They extend to an audience in a way that encourages their involvement once they’ve been inspired. In this way, good insights grant permission, inviting participation and engagement in a way that’s hard to resist. Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign has long taken a direct approach to getting people off their couch and into exercise. Similar to the Dove commercial, one ad in this campaign accomplishes this by challenging the assumption of what an athlete looks like. By presenting a motivating statement focused on a runner who wouldn’t normally be seen as “athletic,” the commercial strongly reflects how good insights grant permission to their audience.

Has Legs:

The most effective insights are ripe for being used in a variety of ways. A piece of data that is “interesting” might just live in the moment, eliciting a “hmmm” from the audience. But an insight that has legs turns into an “aha” because they see the multitude of ways that the insight applies to life. “People are different when they’re hungry.” A basic idea that anyone who’s ever been hungry understands. But apply that to a candy bar and you get an insight that has given Snickers legs for numerous memorable commercials and branding.


A good insight doesn’t have to create tension, but often it comes from tension. Many companies focus on the positive aspects of their product and the world in which people use it. But sometimes taking the opposite approach can create the opportunity to discover interesting insights that might otherwise be ignored. For a company like Tide, stains are something to get rid of quickly. But for one memorable ad campaign, Tide lingered in the tension that stains can create to find another simple, but powerful insight: a stain on your shirt can be distracting.


While each of these commercials reflect one aspect of the INSIGHT approach to recognizing insight, it’s easy to see how the best examples touch on more than one area, if not all of them. When searching for insight with your own company, consider applying these categories to your consumer data and filtering ideas through the lens of these characteristics of insight.

Drilling further into data to find emotional connections may feel like prospecting, but as these commercials show, a good insight can be worth its weight in gold.