Marketing’s new relationship with insight explained

The relationship between marketing and insight will be under the spotlight at Marketing Week Live this year; ahead of the event we explore how businesses can better align their teams to get the most from each function.


How do brands use data to produce extraordinary creative? How do they bring insights to life in ways the entire business can understand? And how do they take advantage of the opportunities created by digital? These are pertinent questions in today’s world of marketing that speakers at Marketing Week Live will be answering later this month.

When the disciplines of marketing and insight work well together, the results can mean a brand, product or ad campaign precisely fits a consumer’s need, creating more value for a business.

For Nick Bonney, head of insight at The National Lottery operator Camelot, who will be speaking about the evolution of insight in the digital ecosystem at Marketing Week Live on 28 April, the biggest business successes come from insight and marketing teams working collaboratively. “Tension can come from the usual pressure that you see when teams are working together. We have worked hard to have a voice within the business, but equally you need to earn that.”

He cites the Lotto draw’s current ‘Please not them’ campaign, featuring Vinnie Jones and Noel Edmonds praying to win money for their own projects, as an example of the teams working well together.

The relationship between marketing and insight can be critical to business success, says Freeview managing director Guy North. “If you get it right, you become the voice of the consumer to the company or the brand, and the voice of the company or the brand to the consumer.”

When the TV platform decided to launch Freeview Play, which allows people to watch catch up TV as well as live shows, the research team discovered that people liked the ‘free’ element of the service, but they also wanted to choose how to watch shows, so the proposition was ‘free to choose,’ rather than ‘choose free’. He says: “In terms of the words and what they mean, it’s a subtle difference. The direction that ‘free to choose’ has taken is different to what we were previously [saying].”

The new product and ad campaign seem to be working: around 120,000 Freeview Play devices were sold between October 2015 and January 2016, and he claims that while it is early days, these results are promising.

Camelot says business success happens when insight and marketing collaborate

Separating insight from research

However, North points out that it is important to differentiate between insight and research, with insight being about interpreting research and using it to inform business decisions. “What’s important is that the team as a whole interprets research and then really adds value to what the brand or organisation wants to do,” he says.

Ann Constantine, head of insight and marketing effectiveness at Direct Line Group, agrees. “Insight is one of the most over-used words, and gets misinterpreted [to mean] ‘information’. It isn’t that – insight is a key, distilled thought that you can use.”

Her team worked with the marketing department to find the right insight for its ‘reboot’ advertising campaign starring Harvey Keitel as a ‘fixer’.

She says: “We were saying consumers are really not very happy with the [insurance] market, it is a little bit broken, and maybe it hasn’t got human interest at heart. So we took that idea and did lots of research and distilled it down to the point: ‘it’s all about fixing’.”

At Direct Line Group, the insight team is made up of three disciplines: one covering consumer and brand research; another looking at the market and competitors; and a third looking at the effectiveness of its marketing campaigns. The department sits within marketing, and Constantine is part of the leadership team.

Over the past two years, she has encouraged the teams to work together more closely. “While each will have its own remit, stakeholders and agenda, each needs to deliver against the big powerful piece for the organisation. We deliver the biggest value where we take the collective insight and pull it into a story.”

Constantine has also helped to knock down walls between the marketing and insight teams, working with people in the marketing department to come up with creative briefs. But she says it takes hard work. “Having our department based in marketing does make it that a bit easier because we are all striving for the [same] marketing goal.”

At consumer electronics business Philips, insight sits within the product development teams so that they focus on consumer and retailer feedback, but the method for gaining insight is changing.

Global head of digital and social marketing Blake Cahill, who will also be speaking at Marketing Week Live, says: “In the past, insight was always collected in more ‘manual’ ways, [using] research groups and surveys. To make the pivot to the digital age, we put a lot of that into digital processes such as social listening or product tester platforms. [That gives us a more] real-time perspective, and we can automate that process and deliver those insights into the product development more rapidly.”

“Insight is one of the most over-used words, and gets misinterpreted to mean ‘information’. It isn’t that – insight is a key, distilled thought that you can use“

Ann Constantine, Direct Line

As connectivity continues to change consumer behaviour, Cahill believes the way manufacturers use data to make iterative changes will only gain momentum going forward.

Tension between the marketing and insight teams can happen when research is too rigid, says Jack Fryer, Universal Music UK’s director of research and planning. “Research that leaves no room for magic, that fails to understand magic or that leaves people feeling ‘unmagical’ is the kind of research that sits uneasily in a creative business like Universal Music. Our job is to heighten people’s creative potential, not to reduce it or systematise it.”

Fryer’s team focuses on understanding music fans and sees itself as an in-house agency. “We treat Universal’s marketers as we would our premier clients. When I first arrived, and when the notion of research and planning was comparatively young in this business, we would almost pitch the value of our work to marketers. “We needed to build momentum and awareness, and this felt like the right approach. Fast-forward a few years and we’re now in a position where we are having to respond to the demand that we’ve created.”

However, Fryer says each marketer at Universal is different – some involve the research and planning team from the start, others want analysis after the event – so his team has to be flexible. He says: “Sensitivity is the name of the game: what is the right role for research here? What’s the research good at and not good at? When is the right moment for us to leave? Information and analysis from consumers, from the marketplace and even ‘big data’ should feed that creative appetite, but never lead it.”

Long-term strategy

At McCormick, parent company of herb and spice brand Schwartz, insight and marketing teams are co-dependent. Insight teams work on long-term strategic plans as well as live analytics, says EMEA head of innovation Brian Walmsley. “The insight team consistently go beyond the obvious to inspire action and improvement in the organisation. They present a depth of analysis from multiple sources.”

The two teams work together on the company’s annual ‘Flavour Forecast’ with chefs, food technologists and trend trackers to identify taste trends.

“It’s a year-long process of culinary exploration and data discovery, tracking culinary trends, flavours, products, cuisines, recipes and restaurant menus from around the world,” says Walmsley, and it informs new product development. Schwartz Grill Mates, for example, was developed after the forecast showed trends in Brazilian and Korean flavours.

The marketing and research teams also work closely together at media company UKTV. Both functions have different reporting lines but are represented at board level, says Gareth Barker, head of entertainment marketing. “Ultimately, we see ourselves as one team, and our collective role is to be the champion for the consumer in the UKTV business. We are working together to make sure our marketing strategy and consumer communications have powerful insights at the heart of them,” he explains.

Direct Line’s insight team is made up of three disciplines including consumer and brand research and measuring campaign effectiveness

A year-long planning process has resulted in the relaunch of UKTV’s Watch channel as W, targeting an audience of 30- to 39-year-old women – a group that Barker says was underserved by the TV market. “We needed research – both qualitative and quantitative data – to identify for us where that gap in the market was. We looked at BARB and TGI data and the performance of show genres, and then within subscription channels where the opportunities are for most growth.”

Once the need for this type of channel was identified, logo designs, promotions and advertising were tested before the launch. Since Watch became W in February, the channel has increased viewers within its target audience by 42%. Barker is working with the research team to measure consumers’ perception of the channel and ran a series of focus groups around the country in March.

UKTV also used insight to stop a decline in viewing for its Gold channel (see ‘Putting the sparkle back into Gold‘).

At Direct Line Group, the insight team acts like a consultancy, working proactively “rather than people queueing up to ask us questions”, says Constantine. Researchers work with marketers throughout the creative process.

She says: “The big thing for the team is being there from the beginning to the end, so we’re there wherever the ideas are created: a proposition, a brand team, a creative idea. We take that and go to the validation stage: does it work, could it work better, is there anyone else doing this?”

After a campaign has launched, the team will evaluate it. “We’re always looking at the performance of things – us versus other [brands] – to [see if it] has worked and be able to prove it,” he explains.

Constantine says measuring the effect of insight is difficult, “but it’s something we strive to do”. The team might look at whether their pre-launch ad testing has been effective, or show the cost savings made by more effective and efficient media buying.

However, creative agencies sometimes resist testing advertising, claims Freeview’s North. “In my experience, the creative teams of agencies don’t like research of their concepts and films. I would guard against using research or insight to make creative decisions. It can be helpful in guiding them, but I wouldn’t want to use insight to make those decisions for them.

“Good insight can be helpful in making a good idea even better or making it into a great finished film,” adds North.

For more information about Marketing Week Live and to register for tickets click here.



There is one comment at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Jonathan Cahill 11 Apr 2016

    How is insight a discipline? It’s a cognitive outcome. l would suggest the writer read Gary Klein’s great book ‘Seeing what Others Don’t”. Maybe then she will adopt the discipline of common sense.

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