Consumer Insight That's Out of Sight: Part III

Author: Steve Sturges
Posted: Dec 11, 2019

For everyone following along at home, you know that we finished the previous insight blog entry looking at the difference between quantitative, qualitative and market intelligence data as they applied to a hypothetical situation. Using all of this data, we came to understand ‘why’ males ages 40-50 were frequenting a certain convenience store on Friday evenings to buy certain snacks. We came to a greater understanding of what motivated their behavior by recognizing a dilemma that led to an insight. Voila! We’re done, right? Addressing a dilemma with data, observation and market intelligence to build something meaningful and actionable = insight, right? Not so fast. We are still lacking one very important element: imagination.


Imagination allows us to connect dots that no one else has connected. It allows us to apply a human understanding of how we are motivated and what we aspire to be and do. You know that feeling you get when the author throws a twist into a good novel? Or the epiphany you experience when a director reveals a surprise ending (Sixth Sense, anyone)? That’s how you feel when you generate valuable insight. We get the ‘aha’ moment. And that’s because the author/director is unveiling something that has been present all along that we may have missed.

In order to generate insight, we need to understand how our brain works. In order to do this, we turn to one of the preeminent thinkers of the 20th century: Albert Einstein. Einstein said there are 5 levels of ascending cognitive ability. And we can use this scale to solve problems. Insights are answers to problems because they address the question of why.

Here are the first 4 stages on Einstein’s cognitive continuum:

  • Smart
  • Intelligent
  • Brilliant
  • Genius

So that leaves the 5th and most advanced stage on Einstein’s scale: Simple.

Really? Yes, really.

‘Simple’ is the highest level, which means it is the most difficult to attain. In other words, simple is not easy. But simple is revolutionary. Because when you solve problems, even the most complex ones, with a simple solution, it creates change. Simple is beautiful, elegant and powerful. Remember the ‘aha’ moment? It happens because we feel dumbfounded that we missed something so ‘obvious’. Simple may seem obvious, but it’s far from it. In fact, simple is usually profound.

Insights are simple. They present solutions in a pure, understandable way. The best insights change things. They provide a clear understanding of the motivation behind behavior.

Now our evolving understanding of insight has become: the convergence of data, present conditions and imagination to solve a problem in a new way. And just in case you doubt how valuable imagination is to problem solving, here are Einstein’s thoughts on the matter: “When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come close to the conclusion that the gift of imagination has meant more to me than any talent for absorbing absolute knowledge.” And speaking of ‘simple’, Einstein said: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler”.

Genius, right? Even better, it’s simple.

We aren’t done with our friend the brain, however. When you consider that the majority of the decisions we make are subconscious, we can’t ignore any of our physiology. In fact, Catharine Hays, executive director of the Wharton Future of Advertising program believes that 80% of the decisions or choices people make are based in their subconscious. Some argue it’s even higher than that. Measuring physiology like brain waves, heart rate, breathing patterns, eye-shift, sweating, hair standing up on the back of your neck, these are all telltale signs of emotion that might lead to a choice or behavior. Because we so often trust our gut, emotion is a much bigger driver for behavior than reason.

A complete understanding of neuroscience can only help you generate better insights. In the final installment of our series, we will show you some techniques and examples that will, hopefully, have you asking plenty of questions. Read part four of this blog series here. 

Recent Blogs

Good Vibes

Want more marketing tips from VI?


Trending Blogs