Generating and Using Insight to Shape Marketing

Big Marketing Industry Problem #4: How San Diego leaders are addressing the issue

The American Marketing Association’s (AMA) “Big Marketing Industry Problem #4” is about the ability to generate and use insights to shape marketing practices.

Companies are becoming more and more data-centric, collecting vast amounts of information and data from credit card transactions, social media tracking and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. The AMA believes that this abundance of data may detract from the difference between data, information and insights.

Data and information are output at a herculean pace, insights are not. Insights are critical to the success of data-driven marketing practice. The diagram below shows how data and information differ from insights and how they contribute to obtaining insights.

In this article in our Seven Big Problems in Marketing Series, we outline the solutions to the fourth big problem articulated by leaders in the 2017 State of Marketing Report – The San Diego Perspective. Additionally, we provide recommendations for finding insights and rich insights.


All brands represented in the 2017 State of Marketing Report – The San Diego Perspective are collecting data and generating information. Methods include data collection using internal resources (e.g., social media tracking) as well as informal and formal research.

Several organizations emerged as insights rock stars, using not just data and information but also insights and rich insights in business and marketing decision making.

  1. Food & Beverage organizations are at the forefront of identifying insights to drive customer-centric business and marketing strategies. Discovering who the core customer is, their need states, and what they are passionate about (in general and about the restaurant or brand) is a focus for many in the category. Use of qualitative research results in rich insights rooted in customer feelings and emotions, ultimately allowing marketing teams to tap into the psyche of customers and ignite relevant change within the brand.
  2. Technology companies rely heavily on quantitative data. Internal stakeholders are receptive to facts and figures. From brand trackers, campaign evaluations, competitive analysis and measuring marketing ROI, research is used to make business and marketing decisions. Insights are derived from continuous analysis and interpretation of data collected both in-house and outsourced.

Further, technology companies are taking advantage of digital methods for targeted customer feedback and marketing such as geofencing and geotargeting. Buy-in from existing and potential customers is garnered from personalized and relevant engagements and feedback is “seduced” naturally for the brand and product and service offerings.

  1. Some organizations in the Health & Wellness category have experienced data overload. Being a “smarter marketer” is a new goal. While some are just starting to venture into data analytics, research with physicians and patients is conducted continuously. Some organizations have their own purpose-built communities with thousands of members (including patients, employees, and members of the community) to allow for quick feedback and testing of marketing plans and ideas. Ongoing interaction with these communities allows for longitudinal learning about different topics as well as providing quick answers to drive decision making.
  2. Sports, Recreation, Lifestyle brands look to their fans and customers to steer marketing plans and strategies for each year. In this industry, brands work to convert fans to customers, as not all fans are buying tickets to games or purchasing products and services offered. Fan/customer segmentation is used to create targeted in-person marketing engagements tailored to segment-specific interests and desires. Multivariate statistical analysis helps sports teams truly understand customer preferences, personal habits and behaviors, needs, expectations and much more. With these insights, all marketing efforts have focus throughout the year.
  3. Arts & Culture organizations are big believers in the value of conducting research. After events, organizations are asking patrons to evaluate programming and their personal experience. This ongoing pulse-taking uncovers insights into what works and what does not work. Organizations use insights to change behaviors for future programming. Several organizations have partnered with insights experts to understand how to attract new audiences while satisfying loyal patrons’ needs.
  4. Tourism & Hospitality brands, like technology, are quantitatively focused in their measurements. Data and information from measuring ROI and obtaining customer feedback are used to uncover insights for business and marketing planning. For example, one company determined that certain media outlets performed better than others. The marketing team adjusted marketing campaign placement, resulting in more efficient marketing spending.

To move past data and information and discover insights or rich insights is a little more challenging as companies gain access to larger and larger amounts of data. Here are recommendations on how to make sense of it all, find insights and use those insights in marketing practice.

  • Analyze and learn from data and information collected over time. Pulling data from separate datasets and looking at it from different angles can help develop big picture insights for your brand.
    • Customer behaviors and opinions evolve and change over time. Allowing for ongoing customer feedback is a great way to develop a longitudinal point of view and stay abreast of new needs and desires.
  • Engage and observe customers in the environment in which your brand operates. See what your brand looks like from the customer perspective. Understanding the customer experience by mapping the customer journey and all the touchpoints will fuel insights that lead to changes in your brand’s behavior tailored to providing customers with a better experience.
    • There are many methods available that allow for immediate customer feedback, while the customer is immersed with your brand. Mobile devices have made it easier than ever to get inside customers’ minds and understand their thoughts and behaviors.
  • Find the emotional reasons behind customer behaviors. It is with this understanding, that brands can become more relevant and more engaged; creating loyal customers and advocates for the brand.
  • Take survey data analysis to the next level. Conduct multivariate statistical analysis examining multiple variables simultaneously to yield actionable insights for market strategy, positioning, marketing communications and more.
  • Think about the future of your brand and industry trends. Use data and information to discover insights that will propel brand improvements and growth. This could mean small tactical implementations such as promotions to increase frequency of use or larger accomplishments like product line extensions. Insights should allow you to follow the path to meet and exceed future customer need states.
  • Once the “pearls” in data are found, do not keep them hidden from your organization. Being transparent and communicative about key insights throughout the organization will push teams to insight-driven practices.
  • Whether on-staff or outsourced, having a trusted consumer insights specialist is a sure-fire way to ensure your brand is generating valuable insights.

Insights must be readily understood by everyone in the organization, actionable and have practical applications. Rich insights are not data points or answers to a specific question. Rich insights are new thoughts, new ideas that propel a brand forward in a unique way.

Q2 Insights, Inc. in partnership with FreshForm designed, implemented and reported on the 2017 State of Marketing Report – The San Diego Perspective.

Other Q2 Insights Articles on Data, Information, and Insights:

How to Know an Insight When You See One

Marketing is changing. The mindset of your customer is changing. The most successful companies understand and embrace change.

Today’s marketing leader must be more agile, data-focused, and customer-obsessed than ever before. We spoke to CMOs, VPs, and Director-level marketers from a variety of B2B and B2C businesses to learn how this shift in marketing is impacting San Diego.

Our 2017 State of Marketing Report – The San Diego Perspective is available now at no cost!

About Heather

Heather Hatty is a Project Manager at Q2 Insights, Inc. a research and innovation consulting firm with offices in San Diego and New Orleans. she can be reached at (985) 867-9494 ext. 2 or [email protected]