Zoom out, then zoom in, to get deeper insights

Guest post by Prasad Narasimhan, our Managing Partner for Asia who's based in Bangalore. More on Prasad here: 

At the brandgym, we advocate that brands dig deep & wide for insight; we call it "360° insight". This includes conventional research options, but then goes well beyond to look at fresh sources of observation that could provide insight fuel. The beauty of this approach is that each insight journey is a bit of a safari, replete with surprising observations.

One recent example of this approach came on a project for a pharma brand that promised effective cold relief. We found some of the most interesting observations coming from pilots & deep-sea divers, for whom the consequences of a cold could be disastrous.

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So how wide does one cast the net for observations? Well, the wider the better, "zooming out" to give ourselves the chance to discover some really surprising things. Of course, we need to zoom back in to the challenge at hand, but that is what human minds are so good at.

As an illustration, on a recent project on an analgesics brand, we were scouting for new sources of observations on pain, when we hit on cartoons as a place to look. At first, it felt strange. But the deeper we delved, the more richness we found. We discovered hundreds of cartoons on the Internet related to pain, a veritable treasure trove of unique observations. After all, cartoonists are witty photographers of life, and the reason cartoons work is that we all see a bit of us in any good cartoon.

For example, the cartoon here sent us looking at how modern lifestyles create new problems like obesity that have a huge impact on lower back pain. Deeper digging led us to surprising facts – India is no country for fit people; 73% of urban Indians are overweight and over half are obese! Further digging showed that 50% more men tend to get to ‘extremely obese’ levels than women do.

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Similarly, when we were looking at lifestyle choices people make, cartoons again gave us new angles to probe – such as the ‘eyes wide shut’ approach to health and also a sense of invincibility (until the first time things go out of hand). We further came across several surprising observations; such as our pain experience being related to whether we can ‘see’ the source of pain.

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The search also helped us bust some stereotypical myths about pain, such as the belief that men are more rational about pain. If anything, we discovered that given a choice, men avoid doctors like the plague. This got us interested, and as we started to query this behaviour, we stumbled upon several reasons ‘why’ men avoid doctors; including ego, unwillingness to hear bad news, denial, embarassment, unwillingness to lose face, the ‘nag’ factor and a sense of general invincibility. This in turn resulted in several coping mechanisms that men used to manage the situation, including taking stronger doses, relying on the pharmacist, getting strong massages etc. This single phenomenon helps partly explain why male life expectancy has reduced as compared to a woman’s over the last 2-3 generations.

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In summary 360° insight is about going zooming out wide in search of new observations., such as this example using cartoons . But at the end, it is up to us to use our discernment as managers to sift out the genuinely fresh observations for crafting our insights.