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Dare I say it, but that word in my job title is becoming a bit of a buzzword in the marketing world.. Well, it’s not quite that, but insights tend to be made out to be a complicated science, scattered with data.

Having attended the recent Most Contagious event, run by Contagious (of course), it got me thinking about just how important it is that the insights we highlight are as simple as the ideas we build from them.

The McDonald’s team at Leo Burnett were at Most Contagious, speaking about its incredibly successful Raise Your Arches campaign. You know the one, a mere hint of McDonald’s through raised eyebrows gets the whole office heading out the door in record time.

A brutally simple idea, but with a back story centred on changing the insight Leo Burnett ideated against from we all have McDonald’s in common to a nation under pressure. An under-pressure nation that needed that f*ck it moment from time to time, which is where McDonald’s comes in.

However, it almost seems too subtle an evolution to really move a creative response forward, it's fairly similar to the previous insight after all. And that’s exactly what happened, they released an ad with underwhelming results. That triggered Leo Burnett to conduct further ethnographic research, a whole eight months’ worth.

The result of that? The unsaid suggestion – a nod, a wink, a hand gesture, and of course, a raised eyebrow. Eight months of research, no doubt reams of video, audio, graphs, and social listening, all boiled down into three words. And leading to the brand’s most successful ad in recent times, that’s both gone global as well as the concept being applied to summer holidays, and Christmas.

When’s an insight really an insight then? In short, perhaps it’s when it’s so well thought through and succinctly communicated that the interpretation of it as an idea is both simple and undeniable. We can agree the insight itself is not the eight months of data and interviews the ethnographic team captured.

Onto Heinz, another standout brand recently featured at the event. Its agency, Rethink Toronto, defined what success looked like alongside the client team and summed it up as – hack culture and earn attention. In our world, that’s called PR.

Each of their activations has an insight at its heart. A truth, not a stat.

People have always struggled with the best way to pour a ketchup bottle – so they shift the label to the perfect angle to indicate how to best pour. Easy.

Lockdown is leading to a surge of puzzlers – launch a ketchup-red jigsaw. Simple.

Taylor Swift is spotted eating ketchup and “seemingly ranch” by fans online – leading to the creation of a single ketchup & seemingly ranch sauce. Tasty.

Heinz bottles were being refilled with inferior ketchup at eateries all across the US, including Fenway Park – a series of photos is released showing those caught in the act. Sneaky.

Each example tapped into what was happening, a cultural moment or revelation that could be the creative trigger for the brand to get involved. There’s a clear confidence that’s gathered pace and helps them deliver on that success metric time after time.

Maybe it’s just me, but the word insight immediately makes me think I’m about to step forward and tell everyone something they don’t know, but that’s not it. It’s about connections and revealing something we all know but didn’t think about in this context or didn’t bring to the fore immediately.

Like an idea then. More art than science.

Insights 🤝 ideas.

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