As marketers we have, crudely speaking, two competing pressures on us. On the one hand we need to be more productive – the consumer is moving fast, our company is running lean, the market is becoming more demanding. But there are still only 24 hours in the day, so we need to become really efficient in the way that we work.
And on the other hand we need to be more insightful and more innovative: create a deeper connection with our customers in new and fresh ways.
The thing is, though, innovation is an inherently inefficient process. One has to try and fail in lots of small ways before one finds a breakthrough. And insight is, I think, much like innovation in this regard.
Really powerful insight is in its own way often an inherently innovative process, because the best insight is often additive, rather than a single silver bullet. It comes from combining and colliding different data, or observations. Resolving contradictions. Mapping what is happening from another category on another. Looking up, looking around. Noticing things in places the rest of the world isn’t looking. Weak signals as well as strong signals. Insight seen from this point of view is social, and social in two ways: it comes from interactions between people with different data and expertise (product experts and consumer experts, for instance),and from interactions between different observations and truths.
But the imperative to be more efficient drives us in the opposite direction to ‘social’: we sit at our desks and email people 10 feet away, because that will save us precious seconds. We look down. We just focus on what we need to do today.
In order for our brands to genuinely progress, we need to find ways to be less productive. Both ourselves, and the teams that work for us. And this may be the most difficult challenge that leadership faces today, on both sides of the client-agency fence.
This article first appeared in Campaign Asia Pacific