To declare a prejudice, I have always struggled with the over-liberal use of the word ‘insight’ in client and agency briefs. Firstly I tend to think they are as rare as hens teeth, and not something that can be pasted onto every brief and response as a matter of course.
Secondly I think that ‘insight’ is often used as a grandiose way of saying ‘observation’. Why dress up a good observation, when they are often perfectly sound on their own? Joseph B. Friedman was sitting in his brother's soda fountain parlor, the Varsity Sweet Shop, in the 1930s, watching his little daughter Judith struggle a milkshake whose straw was taller than she was… he went home and invented the ‘bendy straw’ using a thread screw, some dental floss and a regular straw. I bet that had more impact on our lives than most glibly trotted out ‘insights’. Anyway, back to the question...
Loz, prejudice aside, planner to planner, What’s the difference between an insight and an observation?
I’m going to entirely credit a very clever lady I used to work with called Agathe Guerrier on this one… she’s out in the US somewhere now I think as head of strategy BBH – (actually head of strategy for BBH LA – ED). She once described an insight to me as an ‘undiscovered cliche’.
That’s what makes it different from an observation – it is simultaneously surprising and yet feels inevitable and right. You somehow can’t believe you didn’t know it already.
I thought that was a brilliant explanation and I have used it ever since.
And by the by, what’s more useful? Is an observation in the hand worth two insights in the bush?
No. I don’t think two observations are worth one undiscovered cliche!
Below – Cliché is French for printing block, a means of repetition ad infinitum. So once you have discovered your cliché you can set about mass producing it for the world…