The Role of Insights
As a strategist at Emotive Brand, Carol Emert leads client engagements with a focus on close collaboration, deep insights, and compelling storytelling. Her passion is to deeply understand the unique truths of each client – their goals and vision, challenges and opportunities, people and purpose – and create strategy that propels them toward their highest aspirations.
In this post, she offers her thoughts on the powerful role of insight when it comes to creating a resonant and meaningful brand strategy.
What’s your best definition of an insight?
Insight is, by its nature, tricky to understand and therefore hard to define. Insights aren’t linear, like data or information. They are triangulated from information and other inputs – notably emotions – to then come up with something new.
Information is 1+1=2. Insight is 1+1=3, and the 3 literally feels different.
In branding, insights inform the core truths of your brand strategy and work as the foundation on which everything else is built.
What is the goal of a strategist making insights in brand strategy?
There are probably infinite truths about any brand. The role of the strategist is to figure out which ones are the most important to the brand itself and at the same time resonant with its stakeholders. Good insights make sense both intellectually and emotionally. Once you find a powerful insight, you’re playing in very rich territory for the brand.
How do you get to an insight?
To drive brand success, the most powerful insights are the ones that triangulate powerful core truths about the brand itself, its target audience, the competitive landscape, and the broader cultural context. So strategists need to immerse themselves in the brand, its key audiences and the greater fishbowl it is swimming in, whether that context is business, technology, pop culture, or what have you.
To understand the brand itself, a strategist will investigate its origins, its history, its products or services, what its people and internal culture are like, what its highest aspirations are, and how it speaks and acts in the world.
For target audiences, it’s important to uncover peoples’ key challenges and aspirations that are relevant to the brand, their met and unmet needs (both functional and emotional), their perceptions of the brand and its competitors, and how the brand might best fit best into their needs and aspirations.
How do insights help change how people inside the brand see their business?
When we present clients’ brand story to them, it’s like we’ve articulated something that maybe has always felt true, but has never been fully expressed. It suddenly crystalizes what really matters about their brand and business – and this clarity can inspire action, excitement, a unified vision, and really power the brand forward.
Can companies do their own branding? What do you think is the value of an external agency?
It makes sense that the people who know a brand best should be the best at articulating it, right? But, my experience has been that many companies struggle to brand themselves.
There are a few reasons. For one thing, companies already have an emotional investment in who they think they are. Everyone will know how the CEO thinks about the brand, too, and inevitably that’s going to unduly influence the thinking.
Instead of unearthing real insights, company insiders will typically be operating on the more superficial level of information. As a result, they fall short of the depth and richness they know their brand story should have. When you look at internally developed brand strategies, they typically feel rather flat and obvious instead of rich and insightful.
Essentially, it usually takes an outsider to get a clean and unbiased view of the brand and then tell its story in a really powerful way.
What are the key characteristics of a person who is good at unearthing insights?
The most important is empathy. Understanding emotional truths requires being emotionally attuned to the situation and the people. If there is no emotional attunement, there will never be an emotional insight.
You have to be a truth-teller, willing to put aside your own ego and ideas, and prioritize finding the truth no matter where it lies. This requires not bringing too much of your own filter and biases to it too.
At the same time, you must be analytical. This isn’t an exercise in just feeling. You have to be moving down a path of useful insights that lead to meaningful brand strategies that help your clients realize their highest aspirations as a brand and as a business.
When you strike that balance between empathy and analysis, you can create rich and compelling brand strategies that are absolutely game changing.
Emotive Brand is a brand strategy and design agency.
A brand refers to the relationship between a business and its customers, establishing the framework for how people perceive, respond to and interact with a company. The strategies that underpin effective brand development must be designed to target the outcome, not the channel; for example, interacting with existing and prospective customers on Twitter can be useful for promoting products and services, but the principal goal should be to nurture the brand, not the business.