Top 5 – Insights in Advertising & Communication

For many people, the idea of insights is to inspire new innovation and product features. They consider insights to be consumer or customer pain points that need solving in a tangible product. But insights are not just about inventing the next widget or solution. They are more than just rational descriptions of problems and trade-off the customer may face.

The truth is that insights are multi-faceted and can be used to create products or to engage and connect with consumers through communication. If we can reflect how our target is feeling and behaving in our advertising, they should see themselves and say “that company really understands me!”

The innate reaction to seeing your own insight reflected back to you in advertising is to think; “‘aha! that’s so true! This company knows me better than I even know myself”.

I’m often asked to give great examples of insights being used effectively in advertising and communication and this is my top 5 list of favourites. These are personal preferences as I relate to the ideas and behaviours within the communication.

The beauty of insights is that if you’re not in the target audience, the insight won’t speak to you personally, meaning you may have your own totally different personal list of favourite insight-driven commercials. I’d love to hear in the comments below about your personal favourites and what you think about the top 5 I’ve chosen.

So let’s kick off.

Marmite – Number 5

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OK, let’s start with Marmite,

If you’re not British then you may not know this brand! It’s a gloopy, gelatinous black spread of black yeast extract. You spread it on your toast in the morning and for whatever quirk of history has occurred, many millions of people adore the unique overwhelming taste. Spread too much and you can strip the skin cells from your tongue like a blow-torch removes paint.

Now it’s fair to say that many people hate Marmite for exactly the reasons I have just listed.

One of the key things we need to make peace with in marketing is that not everyone is a target for our product and that’s fine.

The insight Marmite uses in communication is that some people love Marmite and some people loath Marmite and those feelings aren’t restrained, they are deeply held evangelical beliefs. You can’t be ambiguous or ambivalent about this stuff, in the same way you can’t be half pregnant. It’s binary, and loving or loathing marmite defines you in a deeply personal way that no other single issue can achieve (except Brexit!)

Take a look at the communication and see how the insight is built-upon to create fantastic and engaging advertising that drives loyalty from the true believer target.

Nationwide Building Society – Number 4

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Next on the list is a series of commercials from Nationwide building society a mutual organisation set up to provide mortgage lending for new homes. These adverts tap into the insight that millennials are finding it hard (if not impossible) to get onto the housing ladder due to the cost and limited availability of appropriate starter properties.

While baby boomers were able to buy up their perfect homes at reasonable prices , these idyllic houses are just a pipe dream for those who’s income can be many multiples less than even the deposit needed to buy such a house today.

Empathy is a key attribute of great insights and Nationwide is showing that it understands the reality and day to day life of this particular target and is shaping it’s offer to help them appropriately.

Luvs Diapers – Number 3

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At number 3 I’ve picked Luvs diapers (nappies) which has run a series of ads entitled ‘first kid, second kid’.

The insight behind these commercials is that first time parents strive to be superhuman and do everything by the book, feeling guilty and despondent when they inevitably fall short of their own unrealistic expectations.

Second parents on the other hand realise that kids are pretty independent and resilient on the whole and not all the advice they are receiving is helpful or necessary. They tend to become more chilled over time, finding their own hacks and routes to achieving their goals.

Significantly, Luvs makes the point that these exact same parents that have more experience and knowledge switch to Luvs when they have a second child.

Interestingly, this target switches from Pampers (made by P&G) to Luvs (made by P&G) meaning this entire commercial is an intentional marketing strategy to ensure that when parents leave the premium Pampers brand they are retained within the P&G portfolio.

Patek Philippe – Number 2

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All Swiss watches are good! All of them are well built, last for years and are made from finely crafted, durable components.

Stating that a Patek Philippe watch will last a long time is therefore a statement of the blindingly obvious and would be entirely generic in the context of the market. Any rational insights that I may use about the need for a well crafted watch could be made also by Rolex, Breitling or Cartier.

The tag line that Patek Philippe therefore use is that ‘you never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation”. This is built around the insight that a watch is a legacy or heirloom that can be handed down from father or mother to child. When that child looks at that watch they will think of you and those key moments you spend together and your memory will live on in perpetuity.

Of course the insight could have been purely rational, but the one chosen by Patek Philippe elevates the idea from being generic to being highly engaging and relatable to the target.

Dove – Number 1

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Finally my number 1 is the Dove ‘Real Women’ campaign, an insight that has endured at the heart of all their communication for over 20 years now.

The insight revolves around the reality that women that we see in advertising and communication rarely if ever represent the reality of the target audience. They represent instead an unrealistic and unachievable ideal of perfection.

The irony is that having worked in cosmetics marketing myself, beauty products rarely really work from a technical point of view. Therefore the double-whammy is that while we are paying over-the-top prices to these manufacturers for poor performing lotions and cosmetics, they are making us feel bad about ourselves at the same time.

Quite often I’m asked, can insights endure? Well Dove have proven that this insight can endure for at least 2 decades and probably has legs left in it for a long time to come.

They campaign cleverly switches-up the situation for example from beauty magazines to social media over time keeping the communication current. However the underlying insight is pretty identical to the one communicated all those years ago.

What do you think of these 5 choices, and would you have picked different ones? Let me know in the comments.

Mat Shore has trained 35,000 people in 27 countries on how to generate and write insights. You can find out more about him and his training at or how to use insights as the basis of Value Propositions at

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