Consumer Insights: The Johnson & Johnson Way
We’ve all seen the impact that nailing an insight can have on a business. Just look at Apple, Mucinex or Kandoo. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, finding a true insight often proves to be the exception rather than the rule. Why? I believe the answer lies in how we typically test and evaluate new product concepts.
What’s true of a good insight? A good insight: 1) connects with the target at an emotional level, and 2) provokes a response (they get me!).
When we’re introduced to innovation, one of the first things we learn is how to write new product concepts. Concepts are fairly standard across most consumer marketing organizations, and read like a short story. The first paragraph is your consumer insight. This is where you connect with your target consumer, where you grab their attention and leave them wanting to read on. Then, in the benefit statement, you introduce your brand/product and spell out in clear terms the benefit(s) your product will deliver. Lastly is the reason to believe (RTB), where you tell consumers how the product will deliver on the benefit. As marketers, we typically spend months trying to optimize the language in a concept to ensure we are positioning the product in the most motivating way possible. It’s in this area – concept optimization – where I would like to focus my attention.
We test concepts with sample consumers to gauge their level of interest and gain an understanding with regard to ‘what’s working’ or ‘not working.’ We focus on what words they ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ and use this feedback to refine our idea. The problem is that the goal of the consumer insight is different than the goal of the benefit or RTB. Yes, we want to know if consumers like or dislike the benefit and reasons to believe. With the insight, however, I’m not convinced that measuring ‘liking’ makes the most sense. Yet we typically expose all elements of the concept to the same criteria…versus evaluating each component separately, and asking the questions that make sense.
When it comes to nailing the insight, I’m not as concerned with whether my target consumer likes or dislikes the words I used. What I want to know is whether I was able to make a connection, letting the consumer know that I understand them and what they are going through. They might not ‘like’ the words used in the concept, but that can actually be a good thing – as long as it provokes a reaction. Consumers struggling with their weight don’t necessarily want to be reminded of their cravings. Consumers trying to change their habits don’t like being reminded their behaviors can be destructive. In both of these examples, however, they might connect with the insight at an emotional level that provokes the desired response (that’s me!). Ultimately, that is what a compelling consumer insight is supposed to do. Since innovation is about being new, better, different, the insight must touch on an area of your consumer’s life that might be lacking or needs improving – and that can often be something they don’t like to hear or talk about.
My advice – be careful how you evaluate your consumer insight. It’s not necessary for consumers to ‘like’ every aspect of the insight. What matters is that it provokes a response (good or bad) and that it demonstrates a deep emotional understanding of your target consumer. By shying away from polarizing words, you might be left with a watered down insight that’s more likely to go unnoticed in market.