By Kate Davids
“Robust insights,” “Deep insights,” “Sexy insights,” “Spicy insights,” “Actionable insights,” “Organic Insights,” “Fresh Insights,” “Real-time insights,” and even “Amazing insights.”
And all I did was a quick Google search for “insights” and I got those adjectives. Though, perhaps more telling is the number of hits that search received: 16,500,000.
Insights are important. This is probably why the Facebook analytics product is called “Insights.” Granted, not all of those stats are really that insightful.
The market research industry is based on providing insights about consumer or shopper behavior in order to help our clients to better serve their markets. So naturally we write about insights quite a lot and we need all these adjectives to help us point out how our insights are better, or at least different, than everyone else’s.
And that’s the problem. Everything has to be an insight. And not just an insight – an insight that is better than any insights you could get with the other guy. We’re all guilty of using buzzword adjectives to describe our insights. We’re trying to to be expressive in the fewest possible words, after all.
But maybe it’s time to get back to what the buzzwords actually mean. Maybe we should be defining our insights rather than just adding a too-often used label. We should give our insights their due.
For example, “Actionable insights” originally appeared as a way to define insights that could help businesses immediately. To a certain degree it still means this, except that everyone is saying that they can provide actionable insights. It’s being used often, sometimes on insights that might not warrant the term, though they still might be valuable and worthwhile. After all, who wants to buy non-actionable insights?
“Robust” and “Deep” are also popular. They have been used so often they have lost much of their intrinsic meaning. In this digitally driven marketing world, where a premium is placed on succinct copy writing, it makes sense to try and condense as much description as we can into a simple phrase or a single word. But I think that insights are too important to our field to allow them to devolve into a buzzword.
So we have two options – one is to agree on industry-wide definitions, and the other is to take up the space and just say what we mean, describing our insights with phrases, rather than a single adjective.
A single, agreed-upon definition of each adjective would be useful in many ways. For instance, before I started writing this article, I wasn’t sure what “robust” meant. Does it mean using a large sample, or a sound methodology, or something else? I even asked some coworkers and none of us seemed to have the same definition. If we all agree on a definition, we avoid confusion.
For instance, we could all just agree that “robust” means “extremely well-supported with consistent evidence.”
“Organic” could be standardized as “coming from observations of unprompted conversations or behavior.”
“Real-time” could mean available immediately, without a lag.
Getting a whole industry to agree on a definition to frequently-used words won’t be easy. Language is fluid and changes, and words are subject to our individual interpretations.
This brings us to our second option: taking the space to use descriptive phrases, rather than a snappy buzzword, to cut down on this ambiguity.
For instance, rather than saying “actionable,” how about we say something like “provides immediately useful recommendations for front-line decision making”?
If you’re tempted to say “robust” insights, you could say “developed using sound research methodologies” and then go on to describe them.
If the research focuses on pulling out the hidden gems in in-depth interviews, then why not say so rather than labeling your insights as “deep”?
It’s not easy to shy away from the buzzwords. Everyone is guilty of using them. But at the same time, that means that jargon and the subsequent confusion are within our control. Whichever route we choose to go, we can eliminate the confusion and make our field more accessible, not only to each other but to our clients, too.