What is a consumer insight?

The term “consumer insight” is frequently used by communicators, marketers, market researchers and even journalists, but its precise meaning remains hard to pin down when it comes to details, in particular including it in the working methods of consumer- and customer-oriented businesses.

Since the launch of Insightquest in 2010, we have offered and utilized a structured approach to consumer insight, which has gradually come to be accepted and applied by many companies and practitioners.

Some consumer insight basics
A consumer insight is the written expression of a consumption truth. The consumer does not write it, because this truth may be conscious or unconscious.

It is not just any “truth” (or everything would potentially be an “insight”). This truth offers a certain amount of information for understanding a consumer situation that involves a stake that a brand can make use of.

This stake must at least make it possible to understand:

  • The subject at hand (in particular the situation),
  • The motivation constituting the positive psychological force at play for the consumer in this situation,
  • An element of tension constituting a negative psychological force, and transforming the consumer need (embodied by the subject and the motivation) into an expectation.

Literature on the subject also presents the notion of unmet need (i.e. the need, the motivation, subject to an element of tension that makes it “unmet”). Of course, a communication insight will be expressed differently than a marketing one. A marketing insight needs to be very precise and specific to make sure everyone within the organization understands what is at stake. A communication insight will be used within a broader approach where a slogan or a hook  is completed by other key elements such as a good story, visuals, sounds, etc.

An insight thus conveys a dilemma around a given subject; this is the general meaning it must reveal. It cannot therefore be limited to inventorying or identifying consumer needs (not all needs are unmet).




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