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Thinking Around Corners: Insights That Transform Business

April 29, 2019

“There’s pressure as a strategist to be the smartest in the room,” says AMV BBDO’s Alaina Crystal to a room full of strategists, at the latest in our APG event series, Thinking Around Corners. Cue sighed nods of collective agreement. Such is our lot.

Gathered to discuss the “Insights That Transform Business”, she and our three other speakers of the evening elucidated upon the growing insight economy, in hope that those in attendance would leave better informed of the intersected role strategy and insight play, and how they interact with one another.

“People expect you to walk in and have the answer,” says Crystal. “…and when you don’t, they say ‘sorry, why did you come to this meeting?’”

Her insight is that strategists don’t need to have all the answers — just all the questions.

“What does your brand really need? How do you talk to next the consumer? Where are they today? What behaviours are they showing that we can shift?”

By leveraging the hive mind of a whole team; by walking in and making people think abstractly about the problem they are collectively trying to solve, the insight one can glean is better. Strategists need to move from a role where they need to have all the answers to one where the insightful questions they ask produce them.

She offered several example from her career, including the infamous Snickers ‘you’re not you when you’re hungry’ campaign. “In the case of Snickers”, she says, we knew from talking to young guys that we had this consumer insight around ‘well I don’t feel like myself when I’m hungry’ and we asked ourselves: what if the person you are when you’re hungry is different to the person when you’re not? What if you’re two different people?

“Take insightful questions and use them as a springboard for an idea”. Second up,was FCB Inferno’s Head of Strategy and Social Change, Chris Baker. Four years ago, supping a coffee, he had what can only be described as a moment of insight: “We walk past homeless people and straight into coffee shop to spend £3”.

Many moons later, FCB, in conjunction with the Big Issue and Old Spike Roastery, created the Change Please coffee vendor, which retrains the homeless as baristas, pays them the London Living Wage and helps them get back into the workforce.

All the insight you need is often in front of you. Making the link between coffee and homelessness was all the spark Baker needed to realise a behaviour that could be changed.

“Get out there and watch people. If you get the opportunity to get away from your computer screen and interact, do. Just try not to be too creepy about it”.

“Thinking about the behaviour and not the ad is a way of unlocking an insight. What would you need to show to change that behaviour?

The way thousands of people across London look at their everyday cup of coffee is different thanks to a passing observation. The business is a success, the government has saved millions in social care but, most importantly, countless people’s lives have been improved.

“Be patient. This has been a journey of a long time in the making. And you need the stars top align for it to work, and in this case it has.

Zoe Scaman at Bodacious took the stage next, asking why, in strategy, we still focus on brand and advertising to drive revenue? “Why not focus on business models instead?”

Scaman offers the examples of ebooks, juxtaposing how they are commercialised in the UK with how it is done in China. Looking east, Tencent offers things such as unlocking the ending of a book, paying per chapter, and selling reading credits are not just changing the way authors make money, but how books are written.

“My hypothesis is to flip it: if you have multiple different business models that drive different revenue streams you then have a myriad of exciting product innovations that you wouldn’t have thought of previously, because you’re completely in service of one business model.

Podcasts are the same: the Chinese in particular are offering not just advertising — 20-30 second spots within the podcast like in the UK — but memberships, pay per episode, subscriptions and listening credits to drive audience growth.

She suggests so-called freshwatching – hypothetically supplanting your business model with that of a disparate company to see your firm in a different light – to spark creativity.

Diversified business models are catalyst for growth and creativity, insists Scaman. “You can move in different directions,” she says. “Be paid better without begging to be paid for something you know is good.”

Jem Fawcus, Firefish Group CEO, surmised that the overarching theme of the evening with something that had been in Firefish’s DNA since inception: results are derived by looking at business challenges from new angles and in new ways. 

To everyone in the room, it was clear that they want to help clients make better decisions about how, when and what to sell or market…but there is no set playbook for this. What shouldn’t change, however, is ensuring we understand people’s needs in the context of the way they actually interact with brands or causes; it is insight that can drive and disrupt businesses and behaviours — be that how we read ebooks, buy coffee or promote societal change.

If you need transformational insight for your brand or business on a global or local level, then just get in touch. 

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