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Liked this post. I'm not sure I'm going to answer the question but here's some ramblings... The expectation that an insight must be a fresh obervation has always worried me. It makes sense the more original or unexploited the insight the more original the solution is likely to be. However, shed loads of great ideas don't seem to come from these kind of original insights (the sort of trendwatching kind). What was the insight behind Pop Idol or Google? I dunno really but it most likely wasn't this sort. I remeber Russell Davies gave a talk at which he was keen to point out "ideas beat insights", and I agree. This quest for the new piece of information is stifling and diverting. Better to shift more effort towards creating the idea. Increasingly the ideas I really like seem to spring from obvious or unchanging insights, if indeed anybody used that word at all during their generation.


I was lucky enough to work with Jon Steel when I was living in New York. We were working on a Pfizer allergy pitch. Jon always talked about the difference between passive observations and active insights. In this case a passive observation was that people feel really shitty when their allergies play up, whereas an active insight would be that most people tend to put up and shut up, but once they think about the impact that their allergies have on others they start to re-think.
Not sure if that helps, but for me when people talk about definitions it always helps to give real-world examples rather than marketing theory.


A very interesting post.We have just jargonised the "Simple Idea" and given it a new jargon. Period.


I totally agree with you. In case you haven't seen it yet, check out the follwoing post regarding insights by Simon Law, Ex - Planning Director Goodby Silverstein & Partners:


Wow. JD...thanks for that link to Simon Laws post. Quite an exhaustive overview.


great post. Its what I call one of my boardroom bingo words. Words that people use in meetings to make themselves seem on the ball. I often see insight as exactly what you said. A new angle, that is depicted in a life like manner with more of a psychological (emotional, not rational) view of a individual or small group of people. One of my favs
A: being a young australian guy (and doing it a few years ago)
B: being in the industry
Is the Lynx one in the winning Cannes Media Lion in 2006. Which was young Australian males have a trip overseas in their late teens, early twenties and this is seen as 'their right of passage' into adulthood. You dont get that from data, you take the information everyone already knows and make a simple sentence that makes sense to anyone. Even may parents who still really dont understand what I do, would get that.

keep up the wicked posts

Jason Lonsdale

A most interesting post.

As Malcolm points out, there is a clear confusion between fresh, new insights and fresh new ideas. Yes, we need fresh ideas, but I don't believe that we necessarily need fresh insights to get there (the consumer doesn't see the brief and all that)

So the insight may already be well-known -it may even be banal. To Simon's point, it may just be a simple observation. What matters is the springboard that it creates.

So maybe an insight is never good or bad in itself, and is only as good as the ideas that it leads to?

(JD, thanks for the link to Simon's post -great stuff)

Jim D

You need an insight to have an effective idea.

I've been marching round Asia for 12 months talking about this. We work to change the way people think or behave - to move them from mindset A to mindset B. To do that we need to know how they REALLY behave in the first place, ie understand what mindset A is. The idea, is the vehicle that moves you to mindset B.

Insight is an interpretation of observation. It requires a point of view on what already exists. You don't fish them out of focus groups, or ppt decks.


i just stumbled across a very good article from Jeremy Bullmore on the wpp website "why is a good insight like a refrigerator."

very helpful in defining a high-potency insight and the value of language versus truth.


Uli - could you post a link to the Bullmore article?

Jeffre Jackson

Here's the link:

And it's really a great article. Thanks, Uli.


Amelia here's the Link:


Sorry, I haven't seen that it has already been posted.

Daria R. Rasmussen

Insights are neither information or interpretation of information. Insights are understanding of people we are interesting in as marketers, planners, etc. Insights are the result of observation and participation in everyday life with the huge dosis of human principle, and sociology-, anthropology-, ethnology - glasses on.
Yes, let's say "Hip German mothers are meeting on particular subway lines in the middle of night for impromptu diaper changing parties." This is just an information, what's really important is the question why are they doing this, what's behind such a behaviour? The answer to those questions is an insight. Are they meeting there because they want to feel like a part of a group, and are tired of changing diapers alone at home while their husbands self-realize themselves. Or are they meeting there because the changing boards are covered in soft, high quality velvet and they want all the best for their babies? :-)
Inisghts are all about finding the possible reasons to a given behaviour. The more good reasons we find/understand, the more options and new ways of communication are opening in front of us.


Did you see the PSFK mention about this posting? Very cool.

Tom De Bruyne

I totally agree with Daria. Insight is the result of applying a frame of reference to a particular product or problem. A planner has a library of frame of references to choose from when he's faced with a challenge. These frame of reference can be psychology, anthropology, sociology, technology & science,... whatever.

I don't believe that a great idea can be "found" without the implicit or explicit use of an insight. The Sony Bravia balls campaign, which is often used as an idea campaign (as opposed to a campaign based on an insight), is still based on the insight that what triggers people in the buying process of a new television is an orgy of colours.

I can't believe that there was a guy once in the agency who had a dream of 250.000 bouncing balls, he stepped into the office the morning after and said: do we have a client for this? :-)

Tej Desai

Hi Jeffre, that's good question ... after having spent over 10 yrs in the industry I realise that this is probably the most abused word amongst marketers and advtg agencies both.

Its as common as the 'F' word, that is loosely used in any mktg related conversations ... "Its a bloody powerful insight"...; "I don't think the insight is true ..."; "Why have you changed the insight, the consumers said it verbatim in the groups" etc etc.

Little does one realise that consumers don't tell you insights, you need to discover them. Its the discovery of a deeply felt human truth that creates a strong connection between the consumer and the brand. Its almost like a bridge that connects the two, creating a powerful relevance for both parties.

The dictionary defines an insight as 'The act or outcome of grasping the inward or hidden nature of things or of perceiving in an intuitive manner'.

I believe most of us confuse an observation to be an insight. To give an analogy, if the tip of the iceberg is an observation, the lower bit underwater, is an insight. Its almost like seeing below the surface.

Some of the leading marketers define an insight as, identifying a specific way in which a brand can solve a problem or create an opportunity for the consumer. This can come from exploring how the consumers think the product works, or what it feels like a product to let them down ... or what it feels like when a product exceeds their expectation.

An Insight need not necessarily be an emotional one ... but it could very well be functional. Its almost like digging deeper and deeper into the consumers response to anything, asking them why they say something, or why do they feel in a particular way, and how would they feel if it wasn't in a particular way, rather than stopping at the top most layer of what is said to you upfront. A trap some Brand Managers and Quali researchers seldom fall into.

Jeffre Jackson

"Digging" is an interesting analogy. Why do we dig for insights? Is it because less obvious ones are more powerful? More rare? Or do we just like digging?


I think an Insight is something that is already there, latent on the way people behave, you have to be able to "see" and understand it. And, if I am right, could we affirm that Insights are finite? Because we (people) certainly will not have endless responses... we are quite predictable and we reproduce behaviors...that´s why psychology and such disciplines exist. I mean, there aren´t many "deep human truths" out there, are them? So, I certainly prefer ideas.

Jeffre Jackson

Many writers (like Robert McKee) agree with you Juliana. They say that there are relatively few core plots that resonate with people around the world and that the art of fiction is coming up with variations on these plots that offer some surprises, but eventually drive you to (literally) recognize one of these core truths/lessons/plots.


An insight is something that unlocks an existing need, want, feeling or value.

Adapted from 'What is a trend?' See here:


The best definition of an insight that I've heard is this: An insight is the 'unthought known'.

חדרי תינוקות

Hi!! I truly wanted to write down a quick comment to be able to appreciate you for all the content you posted.I like your discussion.In my opinion insight means ,knowing what exactly the consumer needed on that time.


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