Many years ago, long before the advent of live broadcasts and breaking news, Tenali Rama figured out a difficult puzzle in a really interesting way.
A wise man (perhaps a precursor to the modern-day management consultant), visited the kingdom and laid down a challenge for all the scholars there: to try and find out what his mother tongue was. The wise man engaged everyone in dialogue across a multitude of languages. He seemed equally fluent in each. When the others had given up, the wily Tenali Rama sneaked up on the unsuspecting visitor and pricked him with a needle. That act wasn’t needless, as the colorful expletive which rented the air was a sure indicator of the man’s native language. Tenali’s insight being, when it comes to delicate matters like swearing in the throes of severe pain, we drop the façade and revert to the original language we leant to speak.
In short, way before this term entered branding conversations, Tenali Rama had latched onto a fundamental insight to address the conundrum at hand.
One of the most coveted things to leverage in any business, is a really powerful insight. It can provide a sharpness and direction to everything that follows; from manufacturing imperatives to marketing inclinations. Yet, finding it remains as elusive as going through an entire business meeting without someone saying, “so, what are the next steps?”
Many of these interventions around uncovering insights, descend to curious geometrical models being employed, with shapes that would do Euclid proud, usually adorned with vectors looking like they have existential issues.
The truth of the matter is, as is the case with much of brand strategy, this process can be much simpler (and even more fun).
It might entail a change in attitude and a commonsensical construct, which a kindergartener could get their head around.
To begin with the attitudinal aspect; becoming good at insight mining is a life long mindset one needs to develop and hone. It celebrates a ritual of pausing and reflecting whenever one notices something engaging, offbeat & ‘funny’.
Think of how people ‘double press’ their floor button in an elevator, even when the indicator shows the deed has been already done. Reflect on how a posse of boys sitting in a college canteen, automatically elevate their decibel levels, when a group of girls enters and settles down somewhere in their vicinity.
To be fair, filing away these observations can range from the introspectively incisive to the fairly frivolous. But this exercise of accumulating and examining these observations ceaselessly, has a remarkable impact of resurfacing to provide a ‘light bulb’ moment, in times of urgency and need. Improving one’s capability at digging up the right insight, unequivocally involves becoming a better student of the human condition.
As far as building a structured path to discovering a deeper insight goes, we turn to the alphabet here. Just one letter to be honest, revisited four times. Here are the 4 C’s, which might help one see things better. These are connection, category, culture and conflict. Taking on each ‘C’ individually for better clarity.
The first C starts with how the company (and its brand) build a relevant and strong connection with the consumer. It dwells on the bridge of relevance being constructed. It explores what needs and feelings are being addressed. It could even capture where the consumer differentiates the brand’s offering from the rest. For example, if we are working on a brand in the coaching classes space; providing real support-academic and otherwise-at a time when both the student and family are stressed, given the ‘big examination year’ being upon them, might strike the right chord. Innovations in the delivery of knowledge and learning-perhaps based on more interactivity and individual attention, might also help the brand connect better because of perceived superiority.
The second C is focused on the category paradigms. In a sense, it takes a slightly broader point of view. Here we look at how the category behaves and communicates. We try and determine the implicit ‘norms’ (and whether these can be broken). We reflect on the role the category plays in the consumer’s life. To cite the coaching classes case again; we might witness how all the players in the market essentially put a strong (even blind) emphasis on better marks or higher grades. We might identify the manner in which prominent players speak of them having cracked the ‘examination code’. And their usage of past students, literally as celebrity endorsers, to elicit trust and faith in their methods.
The third C pulls our point of view even more further outwards. It studies the overarching cultural and societal trends, which might be relevant to the audience and challenge in question. Are there all-encompassing narratives which we need to take cognizance of? This involves a bit of embracing the ‘big picture’ point of view. To continue along the lines of our coaching class brand; there are multiple broader storylines at work here. From the very public fear of ‘failure’ and the panic of getting left behind to the primal ambition of besting others (peers) and silencing the critics. There could also be the acknowledgement of the present-day youthful urge, of being associated with a brand which is clearly perceived to be ‘with it’.
The first three Cs should provide enough of a basket of insights to be fair. However, there is something about the abrasiveness of a conflict, which always makes for more compelling insights. So, after the trip outwards, we focus and zoom in again, as to where the conflict areas might be present. How the brand can attempt to resolve these, always provides promising pastures to explore. Revisiting our coaching class challenge, there are tradeoffs between mindlessly acquiring marks and balancing that with true, deeper learning which could be elaborated on. There could also be tales woven around converting the dislike and pressure of an important examination, to the pleasure of having things under control, and having the reigns in one’s own hands.
To conclude, much of the quest for insights, either ends up being too complicated and pedantic, or too random and unpredictable. Like Tenali Rama showed us all those years ago, there’s always a method involved in taking on such important challenges. On that note, I hope this article has pricked your thought process towards a better appreciation and understanding of insights.