In religion, ‘revelations’ are often seen as unveilings that open up new realms of living, of possibility and even of faith in people’s lives. They cause people to set new goals in life, transform their lives or even plan a better future. They have that power on influencing the human brain.
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Yet rarely do we see that same power of influencing the mind applied to ‘insights’ in marketing and communications these days. Deconstructing work done over the years as well as looking at briefs around our region, too often in the briefs that one sees, hears or reads, the insights are not insights. They’re mere facts, generic observations, statistics and at times even product information masquerading as insights. What an Arab mum likes, or how Ramadan brings people together, or why people buy a product, or what its USP is, are not insights.
And there are a few reasons for this. Numbers are important. But we’ve tended to become so overtly data-driven that we’ve forgotten that the purpose behind the number is where magic happens. Next, insights have been so abused and overused (yet underexploited) in clients and agency briefs that we’ve forgotten their genuine value. Then there’s the leap to execution, where we start thinking of formats before thinking of people. And finally, getting to an insight is often seen as one discipline’s job versus an agency culture – and that one discipline is either stretched too thin or not mentored enough to persistently focus on and figure out what the powerful insight is. Therefore, it is not able to leverage the power of a good insight as consistently.
Both need fixing because that’s when the magic happens.
So, if ‘insights’ were a brand, then it would be fair to say they have a branding problem, and their core proposition isn’t clear. With the exponential growth of technology and artificial intelligence (AI), both excellent tools for us to create even better solutions, we mustn’t forget some good old HI – human intelligence. There needs to be a concerted effort made to evolve the way we think through re-branding ‘insights’ and injecting some purpose into them by introducing ‘revelations’ into briefs and strategic thinking – revelations that are mined from data but are not the data, revelations that are derived from human observations but are not observations. It helps create solutions that, while being modern, transformative, data-driven, commerce-oriented and effective, are importantly stemming from being revelatory. They make people go “Aha!” or “Hey, that’s interestinggggg”.
All that sounds good for a Campaign essay, but let’s get practical. How does one get to these and, importantly, craft these? I personally enjoy using a formula when it comes to not just identifying revelations but also writing them out – something that I picked up from a mentor. It challenges you to dig in more and think deeper about people – because revelations are almost never about products or benefits but about people and all the eccentricities and nuances about why we do what we do. And here’s that formula: ‘The world thinks it understands that something means ‘X’, but the truth of the matter is that it really means ‘Y’.’ A revelation, by its
very definition, should have a rug-pull within it, right?
Try it out – and not just against a product or a brand attempting to save the world. Take the example of a standard toothpaste brand trying to make the nighttime ritual of kids brushing teeth easier for parents. Here’s a revelation: The world thinks that when a mum tells her kids to brush their teeth at night, she’s announcing the start of a nighttime ritual or even the beginning of bedtime. But the truth of the matter is that she’s announcing the end of all fun for the remainder of that day. The ‘Y’ changes the brief, the strategy, the role of the brand and the creative solution.
For any strategist (including myself) wanting to grow in one’s capacity for intellectual stimulation and to inspire work that travels and makes an impact, be revelatory. Invest and create that time. It’ll make you more interesting and meaningful with your teams and to the industry. For any account person who loves writing briefs and driving great work, you’re as strategically capable of doing so as any strategist. It’s the best part of your job and the chance to change the way your brands operate in the world. For any creative who reads and gets briefs, don’t accept what’s not revelatory – challenge and also help your partners to unearth revelations and dig in more. The best revelations come while sitting down and chatting with creatives.
As I started out this essay by stating, in religion, revelations are often seen as unveilings that open up new realms of living, of possibility and even of faith in people’s lives. They cause people to set new goals in life, transform their lives or even plan and live a better future. They have that power on influencing the human brain. The industry we work in needs similar unveilings too that open up new realms of living for the people our brands serve, of possibilities in their lives, and even of faith in their lives – that can drive people to set new goals in life, transform their lives or even, hopefully, plan and live a better future.