How to Write Great Insights

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One of the hardest skills for brand leaders to learn is how to identify and write great insights. This usually comes up when clarifying direction for creative communications and product development.

If you’ve ever written a creative brief, you’ve probably struggled with what to place in the “insight” box.

In many cases, it’s tough to define what an insight even is. There are lots of definitions out there, but for brief writing I’ve certainly come to a point of view after seeing my fair share over the years.

The most fundamental requirement of an insight is that it provides understanding into the behavior and/or mindset of a person. While this is enough to technically be considered an insight, really good insights often share at least one if not two of these additional characteristics:

  • they are new to the reader (tells them something they don’t already know)
  • they are an opportunity for the brand/business (and therefore worthy of a brand/business action)

Good insights are not easy to find. But there are a few things you can do to help illuminate and bring to the surface the insights that are hiding around you.

Starting Points for Great Insights

In an ideal world, you would already have insights identified through prior consumer/customer research. Short of this, here are a few ways to begin putting ideas on the page.

What challenges does your audience face? Perhaps the easiest place to start is to list out what the audience’s end goals are (key motivations and the things they want to achieve). Once you have a short list of their goals, you can ask yourself what inhibitors/tensions/problems stand in their way? This often leads you to a few good starting point insights.

Can you educate the audience? Educational insights are an effective way to open the audience’s mind and create receptivity to a brand’s message or solution. In its simplest form, this would be a statistic or fact that makes the audience aware of a problem they could/should act to address.

Why should they care? This is probably my favorite way to think about insights. As brand leaders we are often familiar with our product or service benefits. So, think about the benefit you provide and then ask yourself, why is this important to them? Then ask why a few more times and see what you come up with.

Next we’ll look at a real-world example of an ad underpinned by a great insight.

Great Insight Example: Airbnb

In the mid-2010s, Airbnb launched their Live There campaign. The example below features the selling line, “Live there. Even if it’s just for a night.” Think about the possible insight behind this message.

You could argue that Airbnb’s primary competitor is the hotel category. One of the things that hotel brands pitch as a selling point is that their experience is very consistent no matter where you travel.

But Airbnb would position that consistency as a negative drawback. Think about it. If you went to another city or country and stayed in a Marriott, then did you really see or feel what it’s like to be in that place?

One way to articulate this insight: “Hotels are the same no matter where you go, so you don’t really get to experience what it’s like to be/live there. Staying at a hotel is almost like you were never there.”

Notice that this insight has a few things working for it (recall our characteristics of a great insight): it provides understanding about people’s emotional state, it’s something people might feel but not be consciously attentive to, and it’s an opportunity for the Airbnb brand to convert hotel customers over to Airbnb.

It All Starts With a Meaningful Insight

Use these tips to go beyond the typical “they don’t have our product” insight. Go beyond surface level and find something meaningful to people out in the real world. When you start digging, you’ll quickly find a number of opportunities worth considering.

If you found these tips helpful, check out our full on-demand course on How to Write a Powerful Creative Brief. In the course you’ll learn how to create a more efficient strategic process with less creative rework, and write clear strategy in your creative briefs that sets everyone up for success.


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