Creative ways to find marketing insights

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Ever receive a gift that totally doesn’t fit who you are but makes you think “I know why you thought this was a good gift for me”? There is a fine line between a great gift and a bad gift and you really have to know the person well to know what would be a good gift for them. The same thing applies in the marketing world: you have to know you audience well in order to connect with them. With that in mind, here are a few creative ways to find marketing insights, courtesy of Lori Hamilton.

Lori Hamilton, CEO of Prosperity Productions, recently gave an eye-opening presentation on creative ideation at a meeting of the New Jersey chapter of MENG (Marketing Executives Networking Group).

According to Hamilton, when thinking about customers, you should always ask yourself five questions:

1. Who is your customer? Who are you trying to reach?

2. What is your goal? Are you trying to inform them, entice them into buying something?

3. What is your best idea to achieve your goal? What is your product or service? How will it help your customers?

4. What’s your worst idea? What could you do to make a product that hurts your customers instead of helping them?

5. Is your best idea the opposite of your worst idea? Probably not.

The fourth question is the key to this exercise because it identifies our preconceived notions and helps us get past them. We often think that our product is so great that it must be helpful and surely customers will think it’s absolutely amazing. Rarely is that the case. The fourth question is where the real insights come in: You would be surprised at how easy it is to become downright diabolical in thinking of ways to hinder and harm people. Once you know how to hurt your customers, then you’ll know how to help them (just do the exact opposite).


For example, take anti-smoking campaigns. Many campaigns focus on the negative aspects of smoking—things we all know, like cancer. These campaigns may work at preventing people from starting the habit, but they aren’t very effective at getting current smokers to stop smoking. Smokers know that smoking is unhealthy, but they are addicted and addictions are difficult to break and they’re often rooted in shame.


In a project for the American Lung Association, Hamilton and her team researched smokers and they found that negative campaigns don’t tend to work with smokers because they reinforce feelings of shame that smokers already carry. Smoking is a shameful thing in our culture and the actionable insight Hamilton found was that smokers often carry a lot of shame and are actually hurting. Rather than beating smokers over the head with negative messages and making smokers feel like terrible people, a better way to reach smokers is with a positive message about quitting.


This holds true in the B2B space too: Hamilton also presented a case study for Johnson Controls, a leader in building efficiency services among other areas. Johnson Controls wanted to market to facilities managers about their services and were having limited success placing ads that touted their services’ features in trade publications. Hamilton’s team found that facilities managers often don’t have the time to read industry press, but they pay a great deal of attention to weather reports and they are also fairly technical people with mechanical interests. Using these facts, Johnson Controls developed ads that featured turning gears and wheels and ran them during the weather reports. Using gears, the ads brought the technology to life, rather than simply listing the features.


Thinking about the world of your audience is a great way look for actionable insights. Ask yourself questions like, “What does a great day for my customers look like?” “What does a terrible day look like?” And “How will my product make their days better?” Know your customers and connect what your product does to their world. Remember the gift story in the introduction? This is how you make your idea feel like the gift you intended it to be.


Like this blog? Check out the video highlights of Hamilton’s presentation:

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