Archives for posts with tag: insights


My uncle was a politician. As a blue-collar worker, he advanced through the ranks of a German Union and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). He knew a lot about history, labor law and his ideas how to make Germany a more labor-friendly place. On weekends, he spent most of his time at home, inviting his constituents and listening to them. He listened to their stories, their problems, their challenges, their life situation. He barely said a word, he just listened. He didn’t have a stump speech, some canned responses. When he could help, he did. When he couldn’t, he tried anyway. He showed me that a few, well-chosen words work far better than a commanding presence.

We live in a world where everybody wants to be heard. All of us are pundits, advance our personal brand, feel the need to express ourselves. The world is filled with people who have a lot to say, and the confidence to say it. Sometimes, getting in a word or thought can be quite difficult. Turn on the TV news networks and watch these fools trying to get their point across. There’s no engagement, no interaction, no exchange of ideas. They all sit in their silos to shout out their opinion.

Being a bit shy is often a disadvantage. The opinion bullies always come first. Then the worriers. The critics. The silent types. In a perfect scenario, I try to be patient enough to let everyone exhaust all their points. My goal is just to get a few simple, chose words in. Something valuable I have to contribute.

When people are heard, they’re willing to listen.


I was meeting with an advertising agency and one of the team members talked constantly about new insights. After we explored his insight, it seemed to me he was talking about an observation not an insight.

I’ve seen the word on job descriptions, data aggregators claim to produce insights, clients request them and agencies claim to produce them.

The word ‘insight’ is a case of over-promising and under-delivering

One explanation for the insight inflation is organizational: The executives responsible for producing insights are often located in the research and data aggregation department, trying to find small gems that may affect marketing. This can be on the client side or done through planners in the agency.  The other reason is that people believe everybody can observe but not many can be insightful

So, what’s the difference between an observation versus an insight?

Determining that new homeowners are more likely to buy a new car is an observation.

Understanding that putting snacks at the checkout register will increase sales dramatically because parents want to calm down/reward their kids is an observation.

According to, an insight is an instance of apprehending the true nature of a thing, especially through intuitive understanding. I’ve been working in advertising for more than 15 years and I haven’t encountered many insights. I don’t mind it because I’d rather reserve light bulb moments for science.

I worked with a global airline the last two years and they wanted to understand why they had problems attracting business class customers. We looked through all the data, did focus groups, interview prospects one-on-one. We had many observations and no insights. The breakthrough came when we observed passengers in the business class lounge. They were more concerned getting to the lounge than getting to the final destination. Once you’re in the lounge, you’re in the luxury bubble that protects you until you pick up your luggage. This observation led to an insight: If you can extend the luxury bubble from the usual airport to airport to home to hotel, business class passengers will be more willing to buy your product.

Observations are rooted in data. Insights are rooted in outside sources.

Insight is rare ,“apprehending the true nature of a thing”, since we often have to find a different way of expressing similar ideas to the competition. What’s the difference between Chase and Wells Fargo? Toyota and Honda? Goodyear and Pirelli? There’s no insight that can make a difference, the solution lies in how you say things, the advertising idea. Trust me, a lot of brilliant people try to find insights for these brands and markets, they are just as rare as hitting the $800 million jackpot.

There are some extremely rare planners and creative’s out there, hitting the jackpot once in a blue moon. Millions wait for jackpots, just to end up a few bucks poorer. Maybe it’s time to elevate the importance of observations. A great novelist makes a living with observations, stand-up comedians do. Just like observations bring a brand to life.


Google just rolled out a new product aimed at providing additional revenue for publishers. The new product, Google Customer Surveys, is being marketed as an alternative revenue model for publishers weighing whether to erect paywalls on their sites.

How does it work?

When users visit the web sites of Adweek, New York Daily News or the Texas Tribune, they’ll find some articles that are partially blocked. If they want to continuing reading, they’ll have to answer a question or two. Thank you, Google.

It might be questions like “What’s your favorite alcohol? Gin, Wodka, Beer, Wine or Whisky?” or “Are you planning to buy a smartphone in the next 6 months?”

Advertisers pay Google to run the surveys and gain insights, and Google pays sites 5 cents per response. Publishers can choose to frequency-cap or erect the survey-wall on all stories.

Will it work?

It’s increasingly hard for brands to gain insights through surveys. Too many of them and slim chances to win the all-elusive $10 Amazon card. People just stopped answering questions. While Social Media delivers actionable insights, many smaller or mid-size brands don’t have the money to pay for the luxury of social insights. In my personal experience, the first time I encountered the microsurvey, I was surprised. Still, since I wanted to read the content, I answered the questions truthfully. Within 2 days, my behavior changed dramatically. Whenever I go to an Adweek article, I expect the survey and my mind goes blank until I answered the questions without even reading them anymore. Even worse for publishers: Whenever I encounter a link from surveywall, I hesitate to even click on it because I know I have to do work to get to the content.

My expectation: You will see more of these microsurveys because they are a bit friendlier to users than strict paywalls. Over time, the survey results will become useless and the readership of the survey-wall sites will decrease. That will be the end of it. And the publishers bandwagon of finding new ways to monetize will move on.

They make me work harder.

They make me stay up really late.

They make me look at my contribution to advertising over and over again.

Because BBH rocks.

In their description for above video, they write:

“The pace of change in China is unique. It is tangible. It is visible. Johnnie Walker’s Yulu project presents 12 pieces of film using China’s most influential documentary film director Jia Zang Khe, and 6 of his directorial protegees. These films lay bare the aspirations, commitment and depth of a group of young Chinese people (businessmen, actors, entrepreneurs, musicians, etc.) who are committed to a new vision of progress in China. They are raw, vivid and gritty portrayals of the achievements of a sample of China’s ‘new progressives’. The story tell us that a really modern progressive China is so much richer, multi-faceted and surprising than the single-mined pursuit of wealth.”

Watch all the videos.

They will change your attitude towards China. Humanize the country. Bring the daily struggle to life. Make the Chinese experience more real.

It makes me want to go to China right now. Because we’re all humans who just want to make it to the next day. So lovely. So real.

Amazing work, amazing execution, amazing insights.

That’s why BBH is the worst agency in the world: They make me reconsider, rework, rethink everything I do and create.

Thanks for nothing.


And, congratulations to this amazing piece of work.


Since the financial crisis of 2008, the whole world is focused on muddling through it. Just ask the Eurozone, proposing new rescue packages almost every other day. Or the US government, tinkering here and there and everywhere. People are muddling through their lives, their careers, their daily life.

Are we muddling through because we’re stuck in the now?

All of us have become so caught up in the now that we’re forgetting important lessons from the past and losing the ability to develop long-term visions to work towards in the future. The constant documenting of the now, keeps us hand-cuffed to THIS moment, not the moment that passed or the moment we envision. In 2009 we said: “This is so 2008.” In 2012 we say: “This was so 2 minutes ago.”

What will we say in 2015: “That was so one second ago?”

The commercial is ridiculous because the benefits for having information 10 seconds earlier than others seem so trivial. But at the core of this commercial is one important insight: People value the “I said/heard it/wrote about it first” mentality. We are more focused on being the first to say something about the last 10 minutes that we are forgetting any lessons to be learned from the last 5,000 years.

We tend to forget that human nature hasn’t changed that much, just the way we communicate now and in the future is undergoing a dramatic transformation. Much of the financial crisis was caused by the focus on making millions today and not thinking about how to build wealth for the long term. CMOs have now 1-2 years to make a mark – why would they focus on long-term strategies?

We need to focus less on the short term and incremental changes. Instead, we need to be focused on building things for the long term. We need to implement important, business-driving measurements and be accountable to doing what is right and setting those BIG, HAIRY, AUDACIOUS GOALS. More importantly: We need to become better partners with our clients to move the business forward, not  just going through the motions.

We can accomplish so much more if we continue learning from the past and thinking past tomorrow for where we want things to go.

Muddling through or figuring it out just keeps us stuck in the now. Time to get unstuck.


All I Own – Swedish photographer Sannah Kvist’s portraits of European hipsters with all of their possessions is a fascinating project revolving around our consumption behavior. She asked friends and acquaintances to place all their belongings in the corner of a room. Her goal was to create a portrait of the Swedish generation, born and raised in the 80’s.

It’s remarkable how much of our consumption is determined by our environment and the media we are engaging with. The current deleveraging period we’re experiencing reminded us that possessions shouldn’t own us, and that the majority of the things we own should serve multiple purposes, is high-quality and as sustainable as possible.


I found this little gem on YouTube, created by Jonathan Fields to support the launch of his newest book “Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance.”

It’s not only an important lesson for parents. It’s an important lesson for all of us. When I moved to the United States, the majority of my friends I would be back within a year. They thought I made a huge mistake and didn’t have a lot of faith in me. We lost contact quickly. The ones that had faith in me remained friends.

It’s important to support yourself with people that believe in you. And it’s important to believe in others. We need this support as much as oxygen, water and food. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that keeps you afloat.


These infomercials have been around forever and they tend to pollute the TV screen in January:

Lose weight while sleeping.

Gain muscle mass while laying on the couch and doing nothing.

Stop smoking without any effort.

When you finally buy the product, it barely works, ends up collecting dust, and in a few years you toss it in the trash.

Ultimately, we don’t blame ourselves. Our lack of follow-through and self-discipline. We blame the product. It just wasn’t what we expected. We didn’t fail. The product failed.

I wish products like that wouldn’t exist but they are out there, and people will continue to buy them. Not a biggie.

The real problem is when marketing pushes responsibility towards the customer.

I got rich in 2 days. You can, too.

Learn to play the violin in 24 hours.

Become a Social Media rockstar in 1 day.

Work from home and become an instant millionaire.

People have dreams. Some lofty, some small. When you to tap into these dreams and try help people achieve them, you better execute flawlessly. You market knowledge, claiming you have found an easy formula to reach these goals. If your customers can’t make their dream come true, they will blame themselves. They will start to believe they are stupid, dumb, not good enough.

“If anyone can become a Social Media rockstar in 1 day, how come I’m the only one who failed?”

Is that how you want your customers to feel? Sad, depressed, defeated?

Empower people

Many companies and people are falling for these claims. They think Social Media is something you can learn in a quick seminar or by reading a book. When I talk to them, they feel like they’re the only one who didn’t get it. Everybody else seems to be doing so well.

They don’t see the hard work, the long hours, the overall communication and marketing knowledge you need to have to develop successful programs. They just see that people promise an easy way out and they believed them.

And they are so relieved when I tell them they’re not the only one. There are more Social Marketing disasters out there than successful programs. They just need a little help, put the hours in and commit for the long run.

Companies are in the business of helping people. If you want to have a loyal customer, you better empower them and make their lives easier and better. And make them feel good about themselves.


It’s January 10 and we should be safe from the “Ten predictions for 2012” or “5 things you should know about 2012” bombs. I have been hiding from these mind-numbing weapons of mass intelligence destruction, avoided punditry masked as superficial insights shrapnel and decided to come out of hiding to declare: “All predictions are useless.”


A) We base most of our predictions on the past and things we know now. That’s why you see so much talk about mobile, Facebook, more Facebook, sprinkle in some Twitter, Google+ and even more mobile.

B) We try to predict behavior based on gazillions of complex interactions between unpredictable social animals we commonly call human beings. Who predicted the Arab Spring? Nobody. Who predicted the financial crisis? Maybe three people and they made billions. Who predicted the success of the iPhone? Not many.

C) We tend to predict the obvious: Sure, the ongoing depression recession tends to keep people scared of the future and their wallets closed. The oil price and peak oil predictions will end the flight to suburbia and lead to more lively urban lifestyle. With all its advantages and problems. The ongoing crisis of institutions (too big to fail, Congress gridlock) will lead more people to look for solutions outside of the usual path and way of thinking. The digitization of relationships and splintering of media channels will lead more people to flock to events where we can feel as one again. This can be as superficial as the Superbowl, spiritual and out there as Burning Man or personal in a local event.

But you knew that already. These are not predictions. These are just observations.

This is an ancient commercial created by my old agency, Springer & Jacoby. You see a lot of the car but the only thing really moving is a bicycle. We didn’t follow anyone. We took a risk. Based on the insight that Mercedes-Benz owners want to feel good about owning a green car. Because there’s more to life than a car. Things like fresh air and clean water. That’s not new in 2012. It was in the 90’s.

My prediction for 2012? If you ignore all predictions, you might have enough time to provide new answers.

This video reminds of an important lesson we should never forget: Be grateful for what you have. It’s so easy to look at others who have more and get overwhelmed by jealousy and envy.

Gratitude means thankfulness, counting your blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging you receive. It means learning to live your life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much you’ve been given. Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present. In addition, behavioral and psychological research has shown the surprising life improvements that can stem from the practice of gratitude.

Just be grateful.