What is an insight? Are you thinking of it correctly?

What really sticks with people is when they hear a story. That's where I think video surveys can help bring your insights to light.As Elisabeth Trawinski, an insights pro at Reckitt, said: “Data is fast. Insight is not as fast.” But what is an insight anyway? We asked a number of experts.

“Ah yes, the never-ending question in our business,” said Annie Pettit, market research methodologist, about what actually is an insight.

“I think people who are new to research probably think, at least initially, that every time they do a study they’re going to have this big wow moment,” said MindSpark Research. “And hopefully there are a lot of big wow moments, but not every big wow moment is an insight.”

The definitions

Let’s unpack the definitions of what an insight is.

“I have a fairly simple yet vague definition of insight. It’s anything that turns on a lightbulb over your head,” said Annie. “It’s that piece of knowledge that makes you sit straight up or jump out of your seat or pop your eyes out of their socket. The one that makes you go ‘OH MY GOD’ or ‘HOLY SHIT.’ The trick with an insight is to capture it before it dissipates. To realize that what is running through your mind is magic and that you need to take note of and write it down.”

But, can hypothesis and assumptions turn into insights?

“From my perspective, insights were never an idea or hypothesis or expectation. They come out of nowhere and smack you in the face,” she said. “If you think about it, we go into most research projects with ideas, hypotheses, expectations. We create a data collection tool, collect data, run the analyses, and confirm what we hypothesized all along. We just have the data to back it up now.”

At the most basic level an insight is any piece of information that changes the way you think about your consumer, your brand or your competitor, said Siamack Salari.

Sometimes we have to dig deeper to get an insight.

“It’s really about when we use qualitative methods to dive and dig deep into people’s lives and really probing them,” said Ben Grill. “Asking them questions in creative ways and unexpected ways looking for those moments of friction and contradiction that might unveil something that we didn’t necessarily know going in. I might be a bit controversial with this, but I don’t think insights can actually be tested or measured or you know researched, ultimately. I think all you can really do with an insight is take some form of action on it or find inspiration from it.”

How insights come together

Fiona Blades breaks it down like this:

“We would look at a finding and how that leads to an insight. And then what the implication is there for a client.

So, a finding would be a particular fact. For example, not many people are going in store towards the end of the purchase cycle, but they are going online.

And an insight would be derived from a number of these pieces of information or facts. So, we would be finding out that not only were people going online, but they were looking for a very specific product.

The insight would be that actually, the battle for which brand you’re going to buy has already been won before the end of the purchase journey. Because people know what they want to buy, and they’re just looking online for the best deal. 

Digging deeper

Adrianne Carter said that researchers need to test the facts and find out the truth.

“Make sure that our clients have actionable insights, something that they can do something with, something that helps them make decisions,” she said. “It’s got to change the business.”

Also keep in mind that people perceive experiences differently.

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What to do with an insight?

Having valuable insights certainly is good but how do you use them?

Baileigh Allen  said that’s one of the first things she talks about with clients. What can be done with the insights? Deliver the results in a way they can be embraced.

That can also be done through good storytelling! Read more about how to tell good stories in market research here.

As Dan Foreman reminds us: The insight needs to be turned into action and help the business.

The definition of what an insight is in video format

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