Facilitating Consumer Insights Workshops


One of the most difficult tasks for marketing teams to do without a facilitator is develop consumer insights.  I’ve seen “insights” that range from purely self-serving (“Mom wants a more healthy popcorn for herself”) to insights that are simply a finding from the research (“Teens want salty snacks to satisfy afterschool hunger”).  Getting to real insights is difficult because brand teams are so close to their brands and find it difficult to take a more holistic perspective of the target audience.   One thing, however, is certain: a penetrating insight into consumer motivations can help successfully seed a product or brand in the minds of target consumers and successfully motivate purchase.

In my insights workshops I often steer clients away from two common mistakes in developing insights: the first mistake is articulating a “consumer insight” that is simply an observation easily addressed or solved by the product or service offered by your company.  Most often, these self-serving statements are not insightful or relevant to the target audience.  The second mistake is looking at consumer research as a place to gather insights. Research findings are not insights. They are information that can be used by marketers to develop a deeper consumer understanding which can lead to insights when combined with other relevant pieces of information.

So what constitutes a consumer insight and how do you get to them through the facilitative process? A consumer insight can be defined as:

 “A penetrating, discerning understanding about consumer motivations that unlocks opportunity”

A true insight is actually well, insightful! The discovery of a new insight triggers an “ah ha!” moment.  It requires using multiple windows into the consumer, including observation, product trials, creative techniques, and trend studies along with more traditional qualitative and quantitative methods. Together this information allows marketers to view consumer behavior from multiple angles and look for and make new connections to the brand. It’s an active process that makes for a great facilitated workshop. 

The facilitated process follows these three steps (I will lay out the facilitated process in more detail in another post as this is getting rather long!):

  1. Identify the specific question about the consumer that needs to be answered – such as “What would motivate teenagers to consume  more Coke?”
  2. Seek out and review as a team relevant information from your research, observations, trends, competitive data etc. that address the key question.
  3. Dig deep and work to develop the penetrating discovery or “insight” from this information.

Examples of powerful insights that have led to successful business building initiatives:

  • “Today information is the key to power and freedom”    —  Microsoft
  • “My pets deserve my love more than people because they are more devoted to me.” — Sheba Pet Food
  • “In a world that is hectic and stressful, consumers need an opportunity to relax and have a break.” — Starbucks

Insights should be checked against the following list of criteria:

  • Is it relevant to the target audience?
  • Is it enduring (does it have the power to remain relevant over time)?
  • Is it inspiring (is the team excited by the insight? does it inspire different applications)?

Marketing teams need good facilitators to steer them from information and findings to insight. It is difficult for marketers who are close to their brands to see the consumer and how your brand fits into her/his life from a broader, more holistic perspective.  A facilitator can help teams to get to insights by asking “WHY is that important?”  when looking at key findings (keep asking “WHY?” until insights emerge).

True discovery comes from looking at what everyone else looks at but seeing what no one else sees (even if it’s right in front of them)!

Cindy Diamond, Founder and President IGNiTe

Facilitator and Chief Marketing Strategist


2 thoughts on “Facilitating Consumer Insights Workshops

  1. Hi Cindy

    this is very interesting. I was called in to facilitate a branding workshop last week. This is not a focus area for me. We followed what I think is a standard process (target markets, brand strengths and benefits and USPs etc). The process you talk about seems more subtle and searching and I would suspect more difficult to facilitate. I would be very keen to hear more of the three steps.

    It is hard to pack it all into 500 words hey?

    thanks for this


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