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Insights don’t always come together quickly or easily when developing ideas and concepts. Mostly, it takes a lot of time and effort to get them articulated just right. They must be compelling, without being preachy. They must be truthful, without being too obvious. They must be empathetic, without being presumptuous.

blindfolded-womanSo where to begin? First, insist on actual insights. There are common traps that even seasoned marketers fall into when trying to craft insight statements. One example is mistaking a reverse benefit (“Wouldn’t it be nice if…”) for an insight. Crafting a testable insight starts by stripping out the benefits-in-disguise. Any time I see ‘I want’ or ‘I need’ in a statement, I step back and look for what is behind that want — to find the ‘because’ or ‘so what?’ in it.

Definition of Customer Insight

A deep ‘truth’ about the customer based on their behaviour, experiences, beliefs, needs or desires, that is relevant to the task or issue and ‘rings bells’ with target people. ”

Peeling an onion

red-onionWorking on a Customer Insight is like removing the layers of an onion... You go deeper and deeper exploring the drivers, motivations, actions, symbols, heroes and values of your customer to understand what a certain product, service or brand really means to them by using qualitative research methologies as focus groups, in-depth interviews and observation studies. With standard/quanitative market research you find yourself more on the outer layers of the onion understanding the current situation of the consumer (usage, demographics etc).

What is an insight and how do we know we've got a good one?

Firstly we have to recognize what a real insight is, and what isn’t.

sparkling-cider-drinkAn insight consists of the 3W’s:

1) What is the customer doing?

2) Why are they doing it?

3) Wow - nobody has ever noticed or talked at such detail about that problem before!

When Heineken was observing men in bars they found out that on a night out women in general don’t drink beer and find the quality of the wine too variable. That insight was used by Heineken in the development of a new concept for women and they introduced Jillz, a sparkling cider drink as an alcholic alternative that is proven to be a success story.

A good and useful insight

Powerful insights contain the following 3 key characteristics, a good and useful insight is:

1) TARGETED - someone needs to feel addressed and involved! When looking for Insights it’s vital to focus your activity, narrow your research to a specific target and key gap’s in your knowledge

2) TRUE (PROBLEM) - at the HEART of every Insight needs to be a true dilemma as without a problem no one needs your solution

3) FRESH - as an Insight can be true but generic and non competitive – make sure it’s a new problem or an existing problem described in a new way

persil-productsPersil example:

digging-to-australiaWhen working at Unilever, I was involved in an observation study observing mothers with children in relation to “getting dirty”. In that study we learned that kids and dirt had a positive association for mothers. They felt positive about their kids getting dirty as they saw dirt as a learning experience, and it made them proud of their kids. That insight was so powerful that it transformed Persil into a much more emotional and friendly brand with new products and services for consumers and double digit growth for years to come.

How Customer Insight impacts innovation

Consumer Insight is most effective in the discovery phase shaping your business strategy, guiding your idea creation – product, service and brand development taking your most valuable customer insights and tranforming them into strategic innovation areas.


“Angello - Sweet and Seedless pepper”

When working at Syngenta on Customer Insights within vegetable seeds and produce, we discovered a very interesting customer insight during an innovation meeting with the sweet pepper team in 2007: “Many consumers were not eating sweet pepper raw due to digestion, burping and heavy stomach issues.” This was quite a surprise to many of the team as we initially believed it was due to the size and shape of the sweet pepper….

After exploring this insight further we discovered that people thought the taste of standard red pepper was too heavy and were looking for someting more light to snack on or use in salads. Next to that the shape, size and seeds were things that needed further development. This was the start for the sweet and seedless pepper story called “Angello”, that later won the Innovation Award at Fruit Logistica in 2012 and can be found in many supermarkets around Europe today.

Customer Insight also works very well in the other stages as:

  • Feasibility: discovering the expectations of customers with regard to a certain concept (e.g. sensorial exploration). At Syngenta we have learned in past studies that for a “health benefits” tomato concept, consumers expect a certain taste that is far from sweet…. We have learned that acidic and herby tastes are much more associated with healthiness then sweetness.
  • Go-to-market: when developing a positioning for your product, customer insight can bring you great insights about what your target consumer segment are expecting when launching a certain product and/or service.

Why work on Customer Insight

growth-strategy-customer-insightsOrganisations who know their customers are better placed to be able to meet their needs. This leads to more satisfied customers and lower costs to meet those needs (including ‘getting it right first time’).

A good example comes from Unilever, in 2003 they made an extraordinary discovery when they ran a global survey of 3,200 women. It was reported that of the 3,200 women surveyed, only 2% of them would call themselves beautiful; and 76% of the women wanted the idea of beauty to be changed. After conducting more in-depth research the Unilever team developed a better understanding of how women wanted the idea of beauty to change with insights fueling a Dove brand repositioning with campaigns, products and services, being successful worldwide for many years up to today.


In the world we live in today we need to stay in close contact with our customers whether it’s in a B2B or B2C environment …. we are all people that want to be heard, understood and served.

“Nobody wants to buy something, but everybody wants to be served”


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Elena Ozeritskaya

Elena Ozeritskaya

Elena Ozeritskaya is an expert on Customer Insight with a passion for creativity & innovation. During her time at Unilever and Syngenta, she was responsible for driving innovation projects with Custom