Topic: Research/Metrics

Marketing Research Vs Insight?

Posted by Anonymous on 250 Points
More and more of my contacts refer to "Insight" when they would previously have talked about Market Research.

The cynic in me tells me that this is just a new label for the same thing, or at least that this will be the effect, as the people I talk with appear to have very vague ideas of the difference (if any).

I do have an idea of how to explain the difference to myself but before posting that, I would be very happy to hear more views -- is there a universally agreed difference, and if so, please explain!

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  • Posted by telemoxie on Member
    I provide market development and telemarketing services to small companies... and it seems to me that CEOs with smaller budgets need quick information for tactial planning. For example, I'm making calls for a software developer, gathering opinions from folks in various industries. I do not think my procedure is rigorous enough to qualify as "market research", but I hope we will end up with some "insights".

    It seems to me that as companies get smaller, budgets shrink, product lifecycles get shorter, as competition reacts faster, as niche marketing becomes more prevalent, as more info is quickly available, as managers push for increasingly quick results, and as the world turns faster in general, that "insight" will gain in popularity over more rigorous "market research".
  • Posted on Member
    I believe "insight" is often an overused word and can have several interpretations depending on the industry or company that is using the word.

    Having said that, her is my interpretation:

    Over the past few years it has become easier for businesses to establishing databases and gather information on their customers. This data can be used to determine "insights" on their customers.

  • Posted by NoStressXpress on Accepted
    I don't believe that there is a universally agreed difference.....but there definitely is a difference. In my experience as a marketing professional I gained "insight" everytime I reviewed an analysis; talked to more senior & experienced colleagues; received advice and information from staff; read the newspapers or industry publications....etc, etc, etc.

    Since analysis of a set of data can lead different people to come to different conclusions one has to believe that the personal conclusions are the combination of interpretative ability; insight and another thing which should be considered: intuition. Ever been in a situation where the factual data tells you one thing but your intuition tells you another? I think every decision maker has been in this situation - making a "gut" decision solely on the basis of intuition or feeling.

    I probably didn't contribute to your question for an answer but I hope this helped.

  • Posted by Candureactor on Member
    From an industry perspective, the field of Marketing Research is a discipline that is made up of various aspects, such as social research, competitive intelligence, data mining and knowledge management. Marketing Research falls into the arena of social sciences, which as the name implies is trying to use scientific method ( to measure human behavior.

    By applying certain methods and rigor, practitioners attempting to create replicable, reliable models for such things as improving the efficiency of sales and marketing; development of new products; opening of new markets; and measurement of advertising effectiveness, to name a few. Marketing Research uses techniques such as sample surveys, polls, focus groups to answer business questions.

    To answer your question, I suspect that your contacts are suggesting that “insight” lacks the formal rigor of Marketing Research. In other words, insight does not provide answers with any statistical accuracy. For example, one of the more widely used tools is Internet surveying, which in most cases cannot be statistically accurate to a population. For instance, if you wanted to test if a new product would be popular, you could send a survey to your e-mail newsletter subscribers and get back results or insight. This is not statistically accurate because, for starters, the subscriber base does not represent the whole market and the respondents are “self-selecting” not randomly obtained. However, the results of the insight, coupled with a deeper understanding of your market may be enough on which to make a competent decision.

    You can gather more information by doing an Internet search on Marketing Research Associations.
  • Posted by DWomack on Accepted
    Hi jnk,

    Wow, this is fun. I think Candureactor's thought that "your contacts are suggesting that “insight” lacks the formal rigor of Marketing Research" is interesting but probably only a small part of the story.

    Let me start with an analogy: marketing research is to marketing insight as advertising is to branding.

    While the comparison doesn't exactly hold, I think the advertising/branding naming conventions provide another good example of how the business world often changes the names they give things to both reflect some changes in thinking/action and (probably more often) to escape a tarnished image.

    Marketing research often gets blamed for providing only meaningless data that can't help with critical business decisions. Some of this reputation is deserved, as there are too many academic-minded technicians with more interest in the relationships between numbers than the relationships between the numbers and critical business decisions.

    But, business decision makers are often a big part of this problem. Too many of them can't operate without a paint-by-numbers scheme--something even the best research (or insight) can't be expected to deliver. Plus, there will always be those managers who never believe any research that doesn't match with what they've already decided needs to be done.

    Having said all of that, I happen to like the "insight" tag and support its usage in department names. I think it more closely fits what good marketing researchers "PROVIDE" rather than simply naming what we "DO".

    Good luck,


  • Posted by mgoodman on Accepted
    A few years ago I was contracted to ghost-write a book about how successful executives gain insights into what's driving their businesses.

    I interviewed several dozen VPs-Marketing and CEOs in the US and Europe, across a range of industries, with a heavy concentration in consumer packaged goods.

    They all referenced that magic, "Aha! moment" when something clicked and they got the insight that led to a brilliant marketing/business decision. Sometime it was related to a market research finding, and sometime it wasn't.

    Market research generates useful information for decision-making, but it's not the same as an insight. An insight is a flash of instant understanding, and it can't be programmed to happen. It just happens.

    It's more likely to happen if your brain has a lot of relevant information bouncing around in it (like the stuff you get from market research), but you can't confuse the stimulus (market research) with the response (a flash of understanding).

    And while market research is often quantitative and statistically valid, projectable, objective, etc., an insight is an UNDERSTANDING, not a logical process based on data.

    Read Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" for an interesting, fast explanation of the "flash of understanding" phenomenon. (Unfortunately, he hadn't written the book when I wrote mine, so I couldn't reference it!)

    Another good book on the subject, though, is Steven Pinker's "How the Mind Works." It's a lot longer and more scientific/academic than Gladwell's book, and the subject matter covered is a lot broader.

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