Beyond research to insight fuel at Diageo

Great article on insight at Diageo in this quarter's Market Leader, the Marketing Society magazine. Michael Harvey, Global Consumer Planning Director, talks about how to make the consumer insight role in companies much more effective.

1. Insight as fuel for growth

Picture 1 Many big companies still use research like a drunk uses a lamp-post: for support not illumination. Our view is that research should be used to create 'insight fuel' to help teams create ideas. This view is shared by Diageo, with the role of their consumer planning function described by Michael as 'ensuring insights inspire big ideas that drive growth'. The research used is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Michael uses a footballing analogy that helps bring this to life. Often insight managers are like goalkeepers, playing a defensive and reactive role to prevent things going role. A better role is to play in midfield, constantly passing the right balls (understanding and insight) to the attacking forward players in sales and marketing to allow them to score.

2. Fast knowledge

I love this idea of getting rapid understanding of changing consumer behaviour and connecting this to strategy and ideas. This has demanded a re-working of methods used, as conventional research is often too slow. Diageo are dialling up usage of the following techniques, several of which are favourites of ours:

– Observing consumer behaviour in the on and off-trade: getting out and watching people in-situ is free, and a great source of insight.

– Relying on judgement more, as opposed to waiting for research: this is a biggie. Too many marketers rely on research as a crutch. As a minimum, you should have a hypothesis about the answer before you ask consumers. In some cases, you could cut the research and use your gut.

– Tapping into the collective knowledge inside the company: "if only we knew what we knew". Before buying new research, review what is available on your brand, but also other brands. And make more of the experience and judgement of people in the business.

– Interviewing retailers in the trade with the sales force

3. Examples of fast knowledge in action

– Consumer planning challenge: in the USA four competing teams were created and given $200 to use networks, connections and existing data to solve an issue, with a prize for the winner

– 'Pub of the Month' gets teams out into the on-trade to a get real-time insights and learnings. Great idea to make this a regular habit, not just a one-off during a project

Other ideas from previous posts on insight:

Getting beyond findings to insights (Pampers)

Don't understand the consumer, be the consumer (Pedigree)

The risk of CEOs loosing touch with consumers (Gap)