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What’s Insight? A Question for Qualitative Researchers

August 4, 2011

Creative insights

Insight is one of those buzz words  these days.  Every supplier or market researcher says they’ve got it.  Variously defined as perception, or understanding, insight is often arrived at suddenly (“aha”!)  as when you have a brainstorm about a complex or difficult situation.

Aren’t consumer insights an inherent part of doing qualitative research?

Virtually all researchers claim to produce insights for their clients as value added, through “insight mining,” for example.   The term has been so elevated that it’s taken to mean something out of the ordinary, when in fact, insights gained from research are the norm.

Once when a client asked me when he would get the report, I handed him my focus group notes and easel sheets and said, “Here!”  Raw data do not make a report.  Neither does a dutiful rendering of the findings.  Any good market researcher analyzes the data, makes sense of them in a way that transcends the findings, and reaches a conclusion.  It’s part of the job description to put the findings  into context, and show where and how they fit into the particular marketing issue at hand.

True, some insights are harder to come by.

Some problems or opportunities may require greater insight and creative thought.  Coming up with “disruptive innovations” or other types of game changers are clearly challenging.

"Blue ocean" strategy"

Sometimes merely gaining an understanding of non-users’ resistances to using a product (not to mention how to convert them) is equally if not more challenging.

Moreover, being able to apply consumer insights using the right marketing strategy requires another type of insight:  how to link consumer insights to commercially viable options.   Without that overall understanding, even the most creative insights will be unsuccessful.

Insights are an intrinsic part of qualitative research.   They are especially important in certain types of inquiry, such as exploring potential new categories or needs.   But, if all good research leads to consumer insights, then it’s not a unique benefit — just one that in some cases is given relatively more attention.

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