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“Insight” might be the most used word in the lexicon of the brand planner. If art directors and writers work in “creative,” planners practice the craft of insights. We may write briefs, manifestos and decks – but insights are the brand planner’s money shot.

I recently came across a chart outlining nine type of insights: consumer, cultural, future, product, brand, market, purchase, usage, and owner. To this I immediately thought of 3 others: jealously, success and re-use (and that without giving it much thought). So it’s safe to say insight work is rich. But here’s the thing, the best strategies are singular. Planners play in all of the listed insight areas, then chose one. One. The one at the nexus of what consumers want most and what the brand does best. The insight must “feel” organic, not forced. It must provide massive stimulus to the creative department (the makers of the messages, deeds and experiences). Because remember, an insight is not an ad. It’s not even a brief. It’s bedrock for the idea.

Really good planners wade through insights, be they 9, 12 or more, and land on one. Then they milk it until it flows free, clean and rich with protein. It is then turned into a strategic idea (claim) and proof array, before being handed off to the makers, business owners and the managers.

Remember, campaigns come and go, a powerful brand idea is indelible. And insight powered.



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A wonderful expression was used in a New York Times article today on the expansion of the American Museum of Natural History. It referred to the changing nature of museums and the old role of museum as “cabinets of curiosity,” where things were collected and catalogued. Museum president Ellen V. Futter, nicely captured the new role saying, “Now what we’re interested in is what the connections are among the different things we have. It’s a much more interdisciplinary world.”

Brand planners sometime get caught up in cabinets of curiosity. And we obsess about them. I know I can. We find an insight that just screams “importance.” And uniqueness. And cultural spark.  But to use Ms. Futter’s words, we must not forget the interdisciplinary role the insights play in the buying habits and behavior of consumers.  The insight we unlock may actually be trumped by another factor. And though it may be a mundane factor besmirch our exciting, newly uncovered insight, we must not overlook it. Awesome insights don’t operate in vacuums. So find them, truly see them, and make sure they fit into the full pattern of the buying consumer. Peace.



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curt cobain

I’ve been watching a number of the Google Hangouts sponsored by the Planning Salon (my peeps) and find them all quite interesting. There seems to be a lot of career churn in brand planning as evidenced by the fact that a number of the planners interviewed now have new jobs. Another trend is that smart planners tend to be moving client-side.

Why is that you say? “An insight is worth a thousand ads.” 

Campaigns come and go…a powerful brand strategy is indelible is my business mantra. And I love campaigns. But the fact is, campaigns are often creative envelopes for strategy — and can become more important than the strategy. (At least to agencies.) And where do brand strategies comes from? Insights.

I think it’s a little ironic that in my brand planning battery of questions for senior executives the word “insight” does not appear once.  I’ma (sic) have to change that.

If money is the root of all evil, the proper mining and use of insights is the nirvana of marketing. (Where were you when Kurt died? I was a Midas Muffler.)  Insights are da monies.

Peace in the Ukraine.                                     


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Boil This!

The secret sauce of the brand planner is their ability to take all the information at hand and boil it down into a compelling argument that leads to a sale…or predisition to a sale. (We are not always buying, you see.)

I was with a bunch of IT guys yesterday and the technical fur was flying. Back in the day it would have been enough to make me feel light-header and inadequate. Yesterday it reminded me of times at Bell Labs and AT&T’s Microelectronics listening to English-as-a-second-language engineers talk technical gibberish (to me) about their digital signaling processors. My job at the time was to be polite and make a good ad. Actually, be polite and come home with a strategy to give to creative people to make a good ad. These trips, it turns out, are where I cut my planning teeth.

Information gathering is an art, but taking that “stock pot” of information and boiling it down to insights, then a single selling argument is da monies. Packaging that argument with a little evocative poetry is the Richard Sherman monies.  Thank you AT&T Microelectronics. Peace.

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