Insight unleashed: rediscovering the real magic behind the buzzword and harnessing its value in a data-driven world

By Ellie Jackson, Chief Client Strategy Officer

‘Insights.’ It’s one of those words, isn’t it? You know – the ones that get thrown around rather liberally over a period of time. And then, almost without you noticing it, you realize its true meaning has been diluted. 

For me, a true insight comes at the far end of a spectrum where ‘information’ sits on the left-hand side and ‘intelligence’ in the middle. Information is simply organized data. Intelligence is what the information tells us. Insight is the ‘a-ha’ moment. It’s that intelligence cleverly applied to the wider context of the situation that gives us an edge over everyone else. True insight requires us to understand what others don’t so we can make moves they can’t see. 

An Axe (marketed as ‘Lynx’ in the UK, Ireland, Malta, Australia, New Zealand and China) campaign from a couple of years ago really brings this to life. They worked with Google to investigate young men’s online searches: that data is the information. Searches like, ‘Is it ok for guys to eat tofu?’ and, ‘Is it ok for guys to do their eyebrows?’ formed the basis of the intelligence: there is a high level of insecurity among this group about what masculinity really means. The insight therefore was that what men are searching for is reassurance that it is okay to be themselves. Thus, a campaign was born: ‘find your magic’. 

Here at Aspectus, we talk about ‘intelligent insight’ – that’s core to how we support clients. In many ways, the ability to offer insight is a central reason to hire an agency. It’s something we see as being at the heart of the value we can offer our clients. That’s why our sector specialisms in technology, energy & industrials, financial services and capital markets are so important to us. It’s only because we understand these markets so well, and from every angle, that we can truly understand different stakeholder motivations and concerns. And although every situation is unique, now we’ve grown to around 100 people globally without diluting our sector focus, that wealth of experience is a real goldmine for us – and by extension our clients – to draw on. The ability to see the full picture from the outside is one of major sources of value of hiring an agency, after all. 

Intelligent insights goes deeper at Aspectus, too. We have a specialist Brand, Insights, and Strategy team, which works alongside our sector specialists. We are firm believers in rooting our strategic decisions in evidence, and that’s why we preface all our brand and messaging projects with stakeholder mapping, audience research and a deep-dive into competitor/partner/client positioning. That basis ensures we have the necessary information to generate valuable insights. True creativity cannot exist without that insight to hang off.  Insights are needed to steer that punchy, possibly even provocative, idea that’s really going to deliver success. That kind of creative energy only delivers when it’s grounded in meaningful insights and real-world thinking. 

For clients, this approach might mean identifying trends in their own data that they would not otherwise have been able to pinpoint. Or spotting industry themes that can align with their messaging and resonate with their audience. Or hitting upon the perfect mix of channels to communicate with their stakeholders. It’s that neat idea that is usually so brilliantly simple that once you see it, you can’t imagine how you didn’t think of it sooner. Ultimately it means getting them to their communications and business successes.  

While all this value will remain, we are standing on the brink of a major shake-up of our industry. The increasing use of AI technologies will bring considerable changes – well-documented already by others – not least of which will be to support an insight-led approach. The ability to more quickly and  easily interrogate data will provide strong foundations of information and intelligence for insight-led thinking – the ‘human-in-the-loop’ layer where we add our value. 

Whatever happens, we’ll continue to focus unapologetically on insight-led strategies. And we’ll try to be strict with ourselves about only using the word when we really, really mean it. 

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