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What NEXT?

This blog idea popped into my head when I was just back from holiday in the summer.

I was going to call it ‘Insight takes TIME’. It would be about how hard it is to have an insight when you’re rushing through the day. You need to give yourself time to sit and think. Or sometimes just to sit.

But then I had another idea.

It was that insights can come from anywhere. I’d read this article by Graham Robertson that talked about ‘360 degree mining’. So insights can come from what we read, what we see, what we sense and what we feel.

It slightly worried me when he talked about using an “emotional need state cheat sheet”. Sounded like he’d hacked into our server and discovered the stash of Need Maps.

The article also came across as encouraging the broad view of what constitutes an insight. I’ve always been more of the narrow persuasion.

So then I thought I should really be writing about tension. I think insights have to contain a tension. I had a meeting with Gareth Helm of Zoopla recently and he described it as angst. Maybe ‘Insights need ANGST’ would make a good title.

But I couldn’t find a way in. It’s all very well writing about insights but what people really want are examples.

In fact, my most-read post of last year was this one about Felix cat food and the development of the ‘Cats like Felix like Felix’ campaign. That was called ‘INSIGHT without an insight’, because throughout the whole process I never remember writing down anything resembling an insight, even though as a team I think we were pretty insightful.

So maybe, I thought, it was time for another case study. Direct Line, possibly. Mark Evans wrote that nice recommendation on LinkedIn about how I carried out the “seminal” piece of qualitative research at the start of their journey on Direct Line. I’ll take ‘seminal’ any day.

Before I could do it, though, I spun off in a different direction. I started thinking about whether it’s better to be a generalist or a specialist. Marketing now seems to require people to become incredibly broad in their skills. But in other areas, like sport, the move is more towards specialising at increasingly young ages.

There’s also all the talk about how it takes 10,000 hours of ‘deliberate practice’ to become an expert in anything. What Malcolm Gladwell called “the tipping point of greatness”.

Mind you, that wasn’t his theory. It came from a study in 1993 about a group of violin students in a music academy in Berlin. That found the most accomplished students had put in an average of 10,000 hours of practice by the time they were 20 years old. There’s a great article here by the authors of that study about how many flaws there are in Gladwell’s argument.

So all very interesting but what’s the insight? You can’t be both a generalist and a specialist? If you’re one, you have to accept you can’t be the other?

Then, just before Christmas came, one final idea. Working title, ‘Marketing FADS’.

We do love shiny new things in marketing, don’t we? And look what’s laid out in front of us at the moment. Big data, programmatic, storytelling, native advertising, brand purpose, AI, block chain. Tech after tech after tech in a never-ending queue of applicants for our attention.

We’re drawn to them partly because it’s the future and that’s exciting and scary in equal measure. But it’s also because we’re in marketing. We want to be the shiny happy people. Maybe that would be the title, caps on the SHINY. We’re only really happy with something new. Once the presents are unwrapped, we’re a nightmare.

Anyway, now it’s January. I’m looking at all these ideas trying to decide which one to write.

Maybe just start with the first and work my way through. One a fortnight, that should fill up Jan and Feb.

Or maybe the real question is why didn’t I write them at the time. For some reason, I can’t have felt compelled. There wasn’t enough tension, not enough to be worked out. So I wrote about something else.

I know what to do. Throw them all out. Clear the head. Put the antennae on receive. See what comes in.

In the land of insight, it’s best to travel light.

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