Planners are often asked to deliver insights. Some even say that "finding insights" is what planners are for and what defines planning. But now, after years of pretending to be a planner, I'm finally prepared to admit that I've never really understood what an insight is.
My impression is that people are asking for a new piece of information about the way an audience interacts with a brand, product or category. I imagine the gold standard for this kind of insight is something like, "Hip German mothers are meeting on particular subway lines in the middle of night for impromptu diaper changing parties." Then we put up ads in the coolest U-bahn stations, branded changing tables on selected trains, start a Windelbahn group on MyVideo and Bob ist Ihr Onkel.
Is it novelty that transmutes plain old information into insight? And to whom must it be new? It's presumably the audience whose reaction matters most, but they already knew what they were doing. In fact, it's the reaction of the creative team and most importantly, the client, that usually determines whether a fact is an insight and the seed of a campaign. And if they say, "Diaper trains! Wow! I never would have guessed! That's interesting!" it would take a particularly masochistic planner to question whether their interest will be matched by that of the Windelbahnmutter herself.
Maybe an insight isn't a new piece of information, but a new way of interpreting existing information. The effect is not so much "I never knew that" as "I never thought of it that way before". Which implies that the insight, as the thing that changes minds, needs to be communicated to the audience, not simply used as a way to get to them or prove that the brand somehow "knows" them.
I'm not sure. I do feel that the Tyranny of The Insight, like the Tyranny of the Big Idea, is an increasingly obsolete way of thinking about both branding and planning. At the same time, I can't help thinking that having insights, whatever they are, is better than not. So, what's your definition of an insight?