Branding a Startup / Customer Development and Research

Insight Wizardry – How Insights Can Help Your Startup Better Understand and Target Your Customers

Insight is one of they key buzz words when it comes to the consumer world, yet it’s real importance (and meaning) is often blurred or even misunderstood.

First of all, the most important lesson to learn is that market insights are not the same as so called “consumer insights”. Market insights are often connected to the big picture, trends reflected in figures, changes that can be captured in charts (thus, they can be connected to traditional, big market research studies and other forms of big data sources).

On the other hand, consumer insights are more in-depth and a bit like psychological tidbits. When you are working on a startup project, you not only need to focus on the market trends but you also have to know your target customers inside out.

You have to analyse their behaviour and trying to find their inner motivations, reason-why-s, the emotional content that drives them.

That is what insight is: one special finding about your target customers that gives you an aha experience as you’ve just discovered a pattern that you can use and integrate into your product development or even marketing process to trigger action and some kind of behavioural change.

That sounds very new age-y, I know. To make it clearer, let’s cite some insiders’ insights about insights, so to say (see sources below).

  • Insights say more about the target than about the product or service and they reveal more about how people want to feel than what they think. Try to see the whole picture by focusing on the life of your target customers and what benefits you can provide to not only fit in but make it better in some way.

  • They don’t show you what to do but rather what to focus on, what to represent.

  • They are connected to desires, aspirations, needs and even to anxieties and fears to allay. These are often lasting values or values that were important to people even a hundred years ago. Don’t overlook such findings just because they seem anachronistic at the first glance – you had better find out how to tailor it to modern times’ challenges.



  • That is why they are usually connected to a whole category or even neighbouring categories. (When you are talking to customers, also listen to comments they make about substitutional categories or solutions they apply to a specific problem – you might find the route to crack what really matters to them this way.)

  • Insights reveal something about the human psyche that is relevant for your development aims. That is why it is usually easier to capture their essence in a 1st person style statement, similar to the “Day in the Life of a Consumer” technique.

  • Nevertheless: do not mistake it for an individual consumer statement which of course is just one individual opinion; insight is a summarising “consumer manifesto” that you phrased based on patterns you found. You have to talk to enough people to be able to discover patterns that (on an assumption level!) seem to be common and not just scattered opinions. (See Steve Blank’s related videos, like these).

  • Insights real power only works if you translate them into the proper message, the proper strategy. Valuable insights excite you and inspire you to form your product or brand in a specific way. The proper message and the proper presentation (or even channel) is a killer mix.

Some examples:

E.g., in case of the famous Dove “Real Beauty” campaign, the fact that the majority of females don’t consider themselves pretty may have seemed quite self-explanatory at first, especially in the Beauty segment. Unilever could have decided to turn this insight into action by expressing what effect their products have on the skin, yet they turned it around and showed slightly overweight (=average) women who felt good in their skin.

Nike did quite the same. They could have communicated the product benefits of their sneakers, yet they related to the “fat kid in all of us” and our need for feeling proud of ourselves whatever ridiculously low aims we can set.


Of course this may not only work on a brand level but on a product level as well, see GoPro’s success and their connection to extreme sports’ professionals’ ultimate need for recognition at the end of the day.


So, do you think you’ve found something exciting? Here is a checklist to go over once you think you found an interesting finding that might seem like “good” insight material:

  • Does it reveal something about the target?
  • Does it relate to the category driver?
  • Does it capture how consumers want to feel?
  • Does it speak to an enduring value?
  • Does it challenge the brand (or the whole product concept) to act in new ways (or maybe even pivot)?

And remember, be wise as always. Don’t believe everything you hear but try to be a “psychologist” that tries to crack the human mind without projecting his (or her) own opinion to the people they observe and listen to.


Sources (some may be a few years old but just like lasting values, their gist may still be interesting):

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