The Difference Between Insights and Thinsights

Marketing success is simple: Brand marketers who truly understand their customers create engaging and successful new products and communications, and through those successes, reap the benefits of increased sales and engagement. Meanwhile, those who don’t understand their customers fail to connect and fall further behind.

Luckily, anyone can learn to be a better customer-centric marketer, whether you’re starting from zero or already devoted to this approach. Along with my team at Noetic Consultants, we leverage a powerful strategic framework for putting the customer at the center of your marketing initiatives. It’s known as the WHO WHAT HOW method. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Focus first on WHO your customer is in order to develop deeper insights about their unmet wants and needs
  • Understand WHAT attributes of your offering can best address your customer’s unmet needs or wants
  • Determine HOW to most effectively communicate with your target customer via strong briefs, more effective creative development, and choosing the right communication channels

At the intersection of the WHO WHAT HOW framework are consumer insights. An insight is an undiscovered or forgotten truth that reveals a deep knowledge of the consumer. When properly leveraged, it will lead to a connection between your product and the life of your target consumer. When you think you have arrived at an insight but aren’t entirely sure, ask yourself the following:

  • Does this observation articulate a revelation or discovery?
  • Does it produce a clearer understanding of a complex situation?
  • Does it explain WHY someone thinks or acts as they do?
  • Does it articulate an unmet need or want?
  • Does it feel emotional and human?
  • Is it a true INSIGHT or is it a THINsight that doesn’t go deep enough? Could you ask WHY again?

Once you go over this checklist and figure out where your true consumer insights are, you will be ready to create more effective new products and marketing campaigns.


Nancie Head Shot-Edit 200x300Noetic is a marketing consultancy specializing in brand strategy, research & training.

We are built upon an avid curiosity about varied businesses and their unique strategic challenges. We provide a fresh perspective and intelligent thinking without a rigid agenda that requires starting from scratch.

Our “I.D.E.A.” approach always starts with the vision our senior executive clients set. And our mission is to help our clients release their team’s full potential to achieve that vision.

3 Tips for Finding Consumer Insight Gems

At the foundation of every successful advertising campaign is a consumer insight — an emotional expression of an unmet need or want that’s not obvious but prompts an “AHA!” when identified.

Think of Snickers’ “You’re not you when you’re hungry” ad campaign: this wildly successful advertising employs the insight that people feel and act differently when their bodies need food. The emotional promise at the core of the Snickers advertising is that feeling of wellbeing we experience after eating a filling and energizing snack. Many different snacks could fulfil this insight, but Snickers was the first to identify it and now owns it in the marketplace.

Finding true insights in order to develop compelling marketing messages is not easy, but it is something that all marketers can do with a bit of work: you just need the tools to know an insight when you arrive at one and to find one in the first place. Luckily, these tools can be taught.

In our 20+ years as strategic marketing researchers and trainers, we’ve learned a few basics that we would like to share with you.

Start with your WHO

At Noetic, we teach (and practice!) a strategic marketing model built on WHO you wish to communicate with, WHAT insight will convince them to purchase your product or service, and HOW your message will be delivered to your potential customer.

Starting with your WHO—your prospective customer—is essential to achieving your advertising objectives. Ground in your customer demographics, psychographics and behavior first. If you can, speak to your potential customers and watch how they act when purchasing and using the product you wish to sell. The more you know about your customer, the better chance you have of arriving at a meaningful insight about their relationship with your product, service or category.

Look for Interesting Facts

We live in a data-rich age, so chances are you will find more facts about your customer than you know what to do with. In order to arrive at insights, you have to be selective about which facts you pursue. For this we recommend identifying “interesting facts” that have a greater chance of leading you to non-obvious insights. Begin by identifying a few interesting FACTS that begin to indicate a need or want of your WHO that your product or service may be able to address.

Dig for Insight Gems

Just identifying interesting facts is not enough. To find insights, you have to go deeper by starting with an interesting fact and then asking “Why” over and over again until you arrive at an AHA “That’s so true!” moment. You will see it because you will be at a deeper emotional place of understanding your customer’s unfilled need or want. It often helps to work with a team of colleagues to reach this deeper place and to know when you’ve truly found the most meaningful and motivating insight.

These tips will help you know what insights are and provide the basic steps for finding them. If you’d like to learn more and to practice these techniques, contact us at info@noeticconsultants.com.


Nancie Head Shot-Edit 200x300Noetic is a marketing consultancy specializing in brand strategy, research & training.

We are built upon an avid curiosity about varied businesses and their unique strategic challenges. We provide a fresh perspective and intelligent thinking without a rigid agenda that requires starting from scratch.

Our “I.D.E.A.” approach always starts with the vision our senior executive clients set. And our mission is to help our clients release their team’s full potential to achieve that vision.

Does Your College Have a Clear and Compelling Value Statement? Why You Need One and How to Develop It

Increasing educational attainment among underserved populations is critical to the health and vitality of our nation, yet recent news about college enrollment among lower income students has been dire. According to the American Council on Education (ACE), low income student enrollment at two and four year colleges immediately after high school graduation has declined by 10% since 2008, despite large increases in grant aid. At the same time, the cost of NOT going to college has never been higher.

Thankfully, colleges, foundations and the federal government are working to encourage high need students to enroll in college and to succeed once on campus. The Lumina Foundation, in conjunction with Education Design Lab (EDL), has recently launched an initiative to help public colleges with high need student populations reengineer their processes to better recruit these students, sustain them on campus, and assist them in their successful transition to working life, while also improving the longterm health of the institutions themselves. My company, Noetic Consultants, had the good fortune recently to assist in a Lumina Foundation “Convening” of college leaders, helping 10 public institutions create unique and compelling value statements aimed at attracting high need students.

A value statement is a short, clear expression of the value that a college or university (or business or product) provides to a specific audience. Ideally, this audience is focused enough to allow you to bring depth, specificity, and most importantly, credibility to the value that your institution promises. Unfortunately, most colleges have not succeeded at articulating their value to high need students. EDL and the Lumina Foundation Convening set about to change this, putting the development of effective value statements aimed at high need students at the heart of their efforts.

As marketing strategy experts, we took away much from the Convening that we believe will be of use to both educational and business marketing leaders, all of whom struggle with defining their best prospects and conveying their value in a competitive market. Here are some tips for creating a compelling value statement based on our learning:

1. See your offering through the eyes of who you serve

Anyone who works with Noetic will be very familiar with our oft-repeated mantra: “Start with the WHO.” This is a shorthand way of saying that to develop any customer relevant messaging, you must start by understanding that customer: who they are and what they want or need.

In our value statement work at the Convening, we started by asking each of the schools to identify and capture the highest priority high need segments for their institution. Next we asked them to articulate and capture the needs of these students, followed by the offerings that their school possessed that could directly answer these needs. Lastly they were asked to name and describe their competition to ensure that we kept a realistic idea of the landscape within which these students would be assessing them. With these elements as their raw materials, school representatives were able to better see their institutions through the eyes of those who would consider them and create value statements to speak to these students.

2. The kitchen sink is hard to resist—but resist it you must

Learning institutions are living, breathing organizations that have a treasure trove of important characteristics and aspects to offer. To narrow this down to “one thing” that your institution stands for is difficult, to say the least, and may even feel reductive. Nonetheless, it is essential to simplify and clarify your value to your audience. Too much complexity will leave your audience with no sense for who you really are and what you distinctively offer.

When you look at your institution from the perspective of your audience, you quickly realize that they are not just looking at your institution, but at many institutions. These can be public, private, for-profit and even options outside of the educational space. When you are looking through their eyes, you realize that they are seeking a place where they can see themselves, based upon who they know themselves to be and based upon their developing understanding of what they want and need in their college education.

From this viewpoint, it is easy for higher education marketers and enrollment officers to see that what students need is a single-minded, clear statement that enables them to easily and specifically understand who you are and what you offer. If instead they receive “the kitchen sink,” the volume and varied nature of your promises bounce off of them as white noise. You fail to make an impression and they fail to see who you truly are. But how do you get to that one statement? This is the challenge.

3. A Mad Lib™ formula provides a speedy and helpful structure

Of all of the smart design features that Education Design Lab brought to the Convening (and there were many), the Mad Lib or “fill-in-the-blank” formula was most inspirational. It is a simple yet profound construct that can help any institution or business succinctly and consistently draft a value statement in a brief period of time without losing rigor or focus.

For the Convening, this fill-in-the-blank formula was employed: “We offer students ______ (this core benefit) to help them ______ (address this core need) and unlike _______ (these competitors) we ______ (this unique benefit to students).” Following the first exercise asking college administrators to see their institutions through their target students’ eyes–which produced an abundance of information regarding priority segments, needs, offerings and competition–the Value Statement Mad Lib helped leaders make tough choices from among their options, creating the specificity that is essential for effective communications. The beauty of the fill-in-the-blank formula is that any organization can use it, with minor adaptations, to develop a distinctive and clear value statement aimed at a specific audience.

4. Use a rubric to guide your decision making

As helpful as a Mad Lib formula is for crafting an initial value statement, so a rubric is for assessing that statement’s strength. A rubric is a rating scale that helps a group assess how well a proposed value statement delivers on the most critical factors of a strong value statement. The rubric we use helps the working group determine if a value statement is:

  • specific and clear
  • competitively distinct
  • relevant and motivating to our audience
  • credible and believable coming from us
  • a clear guide for decision making and growth – now and in the future.

Test statements are rated Green, Yellow or Red for each factor. When utilizing a rubric, it is rare, particularly on the first pass, to get all green votes. This leads to powerful strategic discussion and decision making that ultimately leads to an optimized statement.

5. Vanilla is easiest, but not safest

When crafting a value statement, not only is determining the general direction of the statement challenging, but so also is selecting the specific words. Before starting your writing, it’s very helpful to have a good sense of what your competitors’ value statements are in order to arrive at a differentiated and compelling statement of your own. In the case of the Convening, we were able to develop and compare draft statements among the 10 attending institutions. As is very common, the first round of statements was remarkably consistent across institutions: in other words, they were bland, safe “vanilla” statements that likely wouldn’t stand out to prospective students.

Vanilla value statements are the easiest to develop—since they don’t involve any sacrifices or tough choices!—but they won’t help move your institution, brand or product forward in the marketplace. If, as at the Convening, you compare your first round statement of choice to your competitors (or similar institutions) and it sounds very similar, you will know that it is time to get back to work on developing a focused statement that truly stands out. Strive for distinctive language that feels authentic and specific to your institution and speaks to your target audience’s needs.

Value statement creation is an iterative process with a tremendous amount of hard data and soft data judgement that comes into play. Hopefully with these guidelines you may feel a bit more confident in pursuing this crucial brand strategy work.


Nancie Head Shot-Edit 200x300Noetic is a marketing consultancy specializing in brand strategy, research & training.

We are built upon an avid curiosity about varied businesses and their unique strategic challenges. We provide a fresh perspective and intelligent thinking without a rigid agenda that requires starting from scratch.

Our “I.D.E.A.” approach always starts with the vision our senior executive clients set. And our mission is to help our clients release their team’s full potential to achieve that vision.