Battery Insight Farms

Posted by on Feb 25, 2007 in Uncategorized | 5 Comments


Been troubled for a long time about the Insight word. Not so much troubled perhaps as repeatedly irritated – like having toothache that you can live with…

First, we assume that insight is to be found inside consumers: we search for them through consumer research. We also half hope that consumers will proffer up insights if we ask them nicely enough…or find the magic question or trick…

Second, we assume that insight is hard to find and is likely to be deep (like jewels). We go digging for them. We mine them. We have to use fancy tools: for example the super-eminent Harvard Prof Jerry Zaltman‘s view is that they are only to be uncovered by deep and profound probing of the unconscious mind (which clearly takes talent, expertise and a trademarked interviewing process)…which makes it all sound like a Doctor Who episode again (why does everythin do that? )

Third, we assume that insight can be simply be applied to transform marketing and communications efficacy (“now with added insight…”). Adam Morgan long ago highlight the fallacy of “if you’re the kind of person who” insights as mere rhetorical devices…

Fourth, we assume that insight can be farmed on a mass scale…and that’s what I worry about you, dear reader. I was pondering how many folk there are out there in planning and strategy land struggling to uncover an “insight”. Thousands, i reckoned. I know that my ol chums at Ogilvy had a huge open plan space (like a call-centre, yes) for the insights and planning gang. It always made me thought of chicken farms, the Matrix’s human pods and the like. Could there be that many ‘insights’ out there or are most of these poor folk trapped in insight-ette land…mass producing limp and flaccid versions of insight by day (and dreaming of profundity and visionary stuff by night)? Cruelly enslaved by the machine to satisfy its hunger for reconstituted and recovered “insight”-flavoured marketing slops (no, I know that’s not what happens in the film…)

OK, so here’s my take on insight.

1. It can be about anything not just the consumer so don’t stop there. Honda UK’s reinvention has been built around understanding the founder’s original passion and belief system.

2. Insights aren’t the answer – beliefs and having a point of view are more useful…(Apple is built on a point of view about what computing technologyis for NOT on an insight).

3. Insights are about seeing an opportunity that no-one else has. Reordering things in your brain. So doing some consumer research may help but its the thinking that counts (one of the old planning directors at BMP used to say that doing groups was a great way to get out of the office to think for a couple of weeks). The thinking….(but even then, remember the Tesco point – doing something is better than not…)

4. Insight-as-opportunity: you either embrace an opportunity or you don’t. Telling your customers that you’ve thought about what they might like, you’ve even met a few of them only works for a bit (as a counter to “they’re all robots”. Do something don’t just talk about it.

5. Close the insight farms now. You can’t mass-produce this stuff and it’s not right that you should try (let’s talk about scalability in the business another day, Martin). These farms are cruel, inhumane and wasteful of our most precious (human) resources.

What say we raid planning departments and the like under the cover of night and let the suffering brain-chicks go free into the Soho night air to think other more interesting thoughts and do more interesting things.

Ok you don’t like direct action. Maybe we could start a campaign to reveal the cruelty of much of the insight industry and what it is doing to our finest young people and that would force these shops to close

Who’s in? Busy tomorrow with Russell and Richard but maybe Tuesday night?



  1. Cecilia
    March 1, 2007

    Hi Mark –
    Excellent post! Just back from the ‘Converting consumer insights into actionable results’ conference in Amsterdam, having listened to two days’ worth of speakers on this subject I feel a blog post coming on.. stay tuned! Will Trackback to you of course as the points you offer are very true.. even more so now fresh out of the conference!

  2. Digital Digressions
    March 1, 2007

    From Insights to Innovation

    Just back from a conference in lovely Amsterdam on the subject of ‘Converting Insights into Actionable Results’, my mind buzzing with two days’ worth of presentations from the likes of Coca-Cola, Volvo, Sony-Ericsson, Procter Gamble etc. on how they us…

  3. Mark Earls
    March 1, 2007

    Looking forward to hearing all about it….

  4. Grumpy
    March 6, 2007

    Insights are marketing pornography.
    Fetishized, gazed at, obsessed over.
    The cause of so much marketing-self-abuse.
    And of course, blindness.

  5. Battery
    March 10, 2007


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