Insight Beast.

    brand planning insights

    Insight Beasts.


    There is an interview question I use when hiring, “What is your art?”  It’s a broad question and certainly open for interpretation, but therein lies its beauty. Asking the question of myself, I’d have to say my art is uncovering and romancing consumer insights.

    Back in the day, when trying to learn from brand planning leaders, I’d send out emails asking for exploratory interviews using my “ear” as the bait. I’d write something to the effect that like a dog who hears high pitch sounds humans can’t, I can sit in a meeting or consumer interview and hear insights most don’t. A super power. Hey, it got me meetings.

    Today, it’s still about the ear. My day job is vacuuming up information, usually on the phone or face-to-face. Always prompted by a set of preplanned questions but also following trails laid by interviewee’s answers. An engaged listener is a good listener.  But at the end of the exploration — when all interviews are complete, all data collected, and the boil-down done – the insights left on the table are the fuel that becomes the brand strategy. The care-abouts. The good-ats.

    Planners must be insight beasts. Otherwise they’re simple hunters and gatherers.




    Houzz, Brand Planners and Ample Asses.


    houzz homepage

    Came across a cool new website called Houzz. It’s also an app on the iPhone. Someone showed me the app on the iPhone (my first user experience or FUE) where it displayed a picture of a kitchen with lots of scroll over call-outs. You scrolled over a countertop and lots of little bubbles (way too many) popped up – I assumed they were prices, or comments. For the life of me I couldn’t figure the app out. I later went to the website and subscribed and started receiving emails, which I didn’t open. Until today.

    It’s a real nice website. Lots of bleed pictures, little text on the homepage, the way I like it. But I still couldn’t tell what the site was about other than home stuff so I dug in and visited the About Page. Here’s what they say:

    “We are a platform for home remodeling and design, bringing homeowners and home professionals together in a uniquely visual community.”

    Now that made sense. My FUE with the app did not.

    The Houzz site (not the app) is an awesome resource. Power kitchen and remodeling users (people with leisure time?) spend a nice amount of energy here. This is exactly the kind of place a brand planner wants to do research. It’s the kind of place where thoughtful helpers, info seekers, and smart sellers spend time sharing. All in one location. Brand planners with ample asses (impolitic, I know) can learn a lot – sans fieldwork – on a site like this. I love finding gems like this in every category.  It’s where Posters go. (Google “Posters versus Pasters”.) Peace.


    A moment of reflection…about selling.


    One of the cool things about being a brand planner, probably not unlike being a psychotherapist, is being a student of man. Though I am not looking for maladaptive behaviors as does the psychotherapist I am looking for behaviors. All types. By doing so, I’m always learning. When on the clock, I’m learning about behaviors contributory to commerce in a specific business category, but when off the clock, I’m learning about human nature. Always learning.

    I’ve been a painter, a waiter, and ad guy and a couple two tree (sic) other things, but brand planner and constant learner has to be the best. And when you can share what you’ve learned to help people, it’s among the best feelings on earth. The fact that brand planners help sell things shouldn’t minimize the job. When working on a elemental nutrition formula for infants with eating allergies and observing “a mother is never more protective than of an infant in distress,” the goal was helping, not selling. In my presentation “Social media guard rails,” one of the first slides is about this point. Help, don’t sell.

    The best brand plans help; the result is selling. Words to plan by. Peace.



    My first paid insight.


    As a young account supervisor at McCann Erickson working on the AT&T private data line business, I visited a tradeshow called InterOp.  In the land of B2B, trade shows are a great place to learn what’s up? They still are, to a degree, for tasting, touching and gauging the veracity of people with whom you’re speaking.  But the web has taken a little wind out of trade show sails.

    At InterOp in the 90s, I trod the show floor asking lots of questions, meeting AT&T product people, competitors, chatting up salespeople and visiting presentations. When I returned home I had to do a write-up on what I learned.  The paper was my first real “good doggy.”  It contained an insight about InterOp that had to do with name badges. Every third badge said “consultant.”

    At the time data interoperability was such a mess (think the opposite of open systems) that the business was in crazy turmoil. There was no leadership or firm technology consensus.  So many geekuses were making a living solving individual problems, on an island kind of problems, and demand for consulting was great. It was getting messier and messier.

    AT&T knew near term that if they fed the mess they would make some nice money. But if they solved the mess, they would make even more money. “Reducing the complexity” was a brand strategy that resonated in the market.  So, you don’t always get your insights by talking to people; sometimes they can be found in the strangest places. “Hey, eyes up here.” JKJK.