OPINION18 September 2023

Lessons from brands: how insight can bring back human connections

B2B Media Opinion

Insight teams shouldn’t overlook the importance of connecting with others in an age of AI. Applying the marketer’s toolkit can help, says Lucy Davison.

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In a world where we are all (marketing and insights alike) charging headlong into the embrace of new technologies, new hybrid ways of working and AI, are we losing the powerful and visceral connection with people that insights teams should be embedding in organisations?

Before we start using algorithms rather than real people to write posts (something that LinkedIn is proposing), or using synthetic respondents to complete surveys, I think we should be thinking much harder about if we want to distance our decision-making from real people. Surely it’s now crucial that research and insight teams keep alive, and own, that connection and empathy with the customer?

One thing we can do to create those connections is to apply some of the marketer’s toolkit to the way we market insights and ourselves. Branding is a brilliant example of this. This could mean branding the insight team or department, but it could also mean creating a brand for knowledge and insights.

If we take it as given that a brand adds value, then market research and insights teams should think about the purpose and value of what they do and how to provide clarity on that for their organisations. In the same way as with a consumer brand, researchers need to work out a value proposition for their knowledge and insights. There must be a clear line of sight to this strategic purpose for every piece of work.

Once you have agreed your strategic purpose, you need to communicate it with a single-minded focus. Brands use simple, aspirational messages and insights teams should do the same to cut through the noise. In the same way as Apple (‘Think Different’), eBay ‘(Buy it, Sell it, Love it’) or even Taco Bell (‘Think outside the bun’), we should not worry about being descriptive of what we do, but be purposeful about why we do it.

With a clearly focused value proposition, you can then think about how you communicate that message in a way that is relevant and modern. In today’s marketing, how you communicate is as much part of your value as what you communicate. Make sure all your materials support your brand idea and tone of voice, including the visual aspects of what you share – you cannot communicate that you are innovative, for example, if you are still emailing PowerPoint reports. From infographics and animations to vox-pops, events and newsletters, choose the right channel to get the most salience for your message.

Finally, think long term. Most of the world’s most successful brands have stuck relentlessly to their core message. ‘Always Coca-Cola’ was coined in 1993, and the brand has riffed on the concept of ‘The Real Thing’ since the 1970s. 

There is a lot to learn from marketers to help us build human connection and empathy within organisations. But to keep it simple, applying what we know about branding to help us focus on the value and purpose of insights, and communicating that value relentlessly and consistently, will help build-decision making cultures informed by real people, not machines. 

Lucy Davison is founder and chief executive at Keen as Mustard

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