So you are a celebrity, you have a new book or album out, heck maybe you’re even running for Prime Minister. You are doing the rounds of every type of media. You are working 16 hours a day and answering the same questions again and again until you can smile and the answers just flow out on autopilot; maybe with a slightly different tone (and maybe more or less teeth showing) depending on the audience. Everyone’s happy; nobody has lied, but neither has anyone really gained any valuable insight into who you are. At that point though you’re feeling pretty 2d, and you’re selling yourself, just like a safe coherent brand.
Now imagine someone asks you a ‘wrong’ question. What if someone asked you “if you could only listen to that one song every again what would it be?” And, most importantly, “why that one song”?
That requires an altogether more interesting answer. One thats maybe heartbreaking, heartwarming, reminiscent but is definitely going to tell us who you actually are and what makes you tick. It’s the kind of question that digs into your soul and pulls out a interesting story.
This, is why at the moment I am currently obsessed with the new website for BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs*. I have spent hours and hours exploring the new site, not only by person, but also by song and luxury object. Slowly they are putting up every recorded episode, so there is always something new and interesting to be found.
So you, the writer/singer/prime minister, instead of being asked the question “what is your family like?” to which the chances are you will reply “one brother, two sisters born in…”. You can tell us about the time when you were 16 and your heart was broken for the first time and your sister played you this song to you and told you, in her strong unique accent that everything “was going to be alright”. Maybe the song was something by Abba (as is quite often the case**, or Bob Dylan***). Extracting the information from that story leads to so much truer personal insight. Personality, eccentricities, taste, family, love life …
As Adam’s twins revealed so eloquently over in this post there is a real difference between a truth and an insight.
In research sometimes we focus too much on trying to get to the truth of what our consumers think about us – our tagline, our packaging change, our new flavour. Challenger Brands need to do more than that, we need to know more about our consumers than simply how they engage with our brand and category. We don’t just need to know about them, we need to understand them. To do this we need to ask a different kind of question – questions that inspire stories in order to extract the real insights from the tales our consumers tell.
* Desert Island Discs is a BBC Radio 4 programme first broadcast on 29 January 1942. It is the second longest-running radio programme and is the longest-running factual programme in the history of radio. Each week a guest (“castaway”) is asked to choose eight pieces of music, a book and a luxury item for their imaginary stay on the island, while discussing their lives and the reasons for their choices.
** Requested 21 times
*** Requested 92 times