The insight is not the idea

Jack Blog

July 6th, 2010 By Tim Leighton

As Tim Elliott will readily testify, there’s wisdom in grey hair. Another wise man is Dave Trott, one of the Creative Godfathers of UK Adland. And here are some of his wise words:

The difference between an insight and an idea

Rory Sutherland makes the point that an insight is not an idea.
This is very useful.
Especially for the planning dept.
Rory’s point is that planning should be looking for insights.
Not ideas.
An insight is something that you didn’t know before.
Something that may change the way you think about the problem.
An insight can be the first step on the way to an idea.
But it isn’t an idea.
And idea is what you do with the insight.
How you turn analysis into synthesis.
How that discovery becomes action.
Of course, there can be an insight without a subsequent idea.
But there can’t really be an idea, not a great one, without first having an insight.
That’s why it’s an important distinction.
Of course, the insight doesn’t always come from the planning dept.
Just as the idea doesn’t always come from the creative dept.
Years back I was speaking to someone at Benton & Bowles.
They were explaining a problem they’d had on Jacobs Mallows.
These were little biscuits bases, covered in chocolate, topped with jam, then covered in marshmallow and coconut.
They weren’t selling well at the time.
No one could work out why.
They tasted great, people loved them.
So the planner did something that clever people never do: the obvious.
He went to the supermarket.
He looked at the product on the shelves, and watched how people behaved.
People would come along to the biscuit section.
They’d look at the price of Jacobs Mallows.
Then look at the price of comparative biscuits.
They’d realise they could get a packet of 16 custard creams for the same price as a packet of 6 Jacobs Mallows.
So they’d buy the custard creams.
That was the insight.
The problem wasn’t the product.
The problem wasn’t the brand.
The problem was the competitive set.
What came next was the idea.
Benton & Bowles suggested to the client that they move the Jacobs Mallows along to the cake section.
Then the planner went back and watched the shoppers.
They looked at the price of the Jacobs Mallows.
They looked at the price of comparative cakes.
They realised they could get a box of 6 Jacobs Mallows for the same price as 2 cakes.
So they bought the Jacobs Mallows.
That was an insight that lead to an idea.
Which is how it should be.
That’s the way Droga 5 believe it should work.
When they wanted to help Obama win the Presidency, they looked for an insight.
They knew that Florida had proved pivotal for the Republicans in two elections.
If they could change that it could make the difference.
The insight was that the part of Florida that voted Republican, almost without thinking, was the elderly retired Jewish population.
That insight needed to be translated into an idea.
So they studied the elderly Jews.
And they had another insight.
Who is the one group of people they listen to?
Who will they do anything for?
Their grandchildren.
From that insight came the idea.
Get their grandchildren, which was a group that was already pro-Obama, to travel to Florida.
To visit their grandparents and educate them about why they should vote for Obama.
So they made a commercial, with the Jewish comedian Sarah Silverman, talking to these grandchildren.
Asking them to go see their grandparents in Florida.
It was downloaded 1.25 million times from the Internet.
25,000 young people signed up online to visit their grandparents in Florida.
But the real numbers are as follows.
320,000 elderly Jews voted for Obama.
Obama won Florida by 170,000 votes.

And that’s how an insight is translated into an idea.