Get Your Facts (and Your Insights) Straight

February 14, 2023

woman writing on a board woman writing on a board

by Lauren de Vlaming, EVP Strategy for Golin Health

We are approaching mid-February, which is one of the commercial high points in our industry. Between the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day, there’s a flood of new messaging and creative outputs streaming into our homes/phones/eyeballs one way or another. The best of this creative — the Super Bowl commercials we remember, or the ad that prompts us to consider buying a certain kind of Valentine’s Day gift — is grounded in insight. But what exactly is a creative insight?

Facts vs. insights

Have you ever been in a meeting where someone says, “45 percent of our audience shops at Target,” and someone else replies, “That’s a great insight!”

The trouble is that’s not an insight. It’s a fact.

Facts are objectively true, measurable statements, while insights are akin to a revelation of the human condition or experience. An audience insight taps more deeply into peoples’ journeys and often sees them for the heterogeneous mix of humans they are. The reason it matters is because beautiful creative is rooted in insights — in discoveries that connect with us emotionally. Without strong insights, we can’t produce strong creative.

How to move beyond facts

Here’s how we can move from mere facts to insights.

Facts are essential as we start to build strategy. Take this example: 37 percent of Valentine’s Day flowers purchases are for someone other than a spouse or significant other. Interesting? It is if you’re a flower company trying to boost sales. But it’s still a fact.

Let’s move from facts to observations. Observations are still based on the data but may highlight outliers or surprises. For example, “For many singles, Valentine’s Day is an exclusive holiday, unlike most other holidays in the U.S.” This assertion recognizes that this holiday is an outlier in that it excludes half of the population. This is also interesting, but it’s still treating the audience as a demographic. The question we should ask after hearing an interesting observation is, “why is this happening?” or “why is this true?”

It requires some empathy to move from observations to what we call “human truths” – often deep seated (but simple) drivers that may be rooted in connection, performance, strength and other motivators. In this case a human truth might be, “Many singles want to celebrate those they love (non-romantically) by buying flowers.”

We could stop here. But we could also ask ourselves “why?” one more time. These singles could buy their friends and loved ones flowers on any day. Why is it important that they celebrate them on Valentine’s Day?

Because, our insight discovers, “Many singles want be a part of culture but may feel excluded by Valentine’s Day media or business communications.” They desire a connection to the rest of society in addition to their loved ones, but they’re not being invited into this day despite their population majority.

Seeking this kind of understanding will make us better strategists and will help our creative resonate with our audiences.

As you think about your favorite commercial messaging (past and present), which creative seemed grounded in human insight?