Consumer insight and how we interpret the desires of our loyal customers is a vital skill for any organization. History is riddled with examples of companies refusing to adapt to times or failed to listen to the ideal’s customer voice.

Today we’re going to take a look at horse shit.

You read that correctly. The great London Manure Crisis of 1900, to be precise.

Consumer Insights Shape An Industry

A prominent journalist predicted that by the middle of the 20th century, London would be buried under nine feet of horse manure. With the industrial revolution well under way in the late 1800’s, it created an influx of jobs and a need for more people. Naturally, this resulted in a need for more horses.

By 1898, horses choked the streets of London. Their waste, a mere inconvenience you learned to live with at first, then transformed into an urgent situation that became the focal point of the world’s first international urban planning conference held in New York.

No solution was found.

Luckily for the sake of major metro cities like London and New York, the new century would be full of disruption, notably transportation, and marked the birth of the modern automobile industry.

Luckily for the sake of major metro cities like London and New York, the new century would be full of disruption, notably transportation, and marked the birth of the modern automobile industry.

Henry Ford is typically credited for the creation of the modernized assembly line. This wasn’t his largest contribution to the transportation revolution, one could argue. The more obscure revelation connected to the completion of the Model T was Ford’s ability to understand what the American consumer wanted and boldly commit to delivering. He famously once said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”.

The actual proof of him saying this is hazy and remains hotly debated, but the wisdom is clear as day. Ford’s genius was understanding that consumers often struggle to eloquently explain their needs but are able to tell you their problems with perfect articulation. Consumer wants and desires regarding their favorite products are misunderstood to be “insight” by most marketers. Had Ford chased how to make a horse faster, he would have been leveraging “data” from the consumer.

The Importance of Consumer Intelligence Hierarchies There are sharp distinctions that should be made regarding nomenclature and market research. Ford ahead of his time astutely avoided a cardinal mistake that can drive marketing teams to endlessly spin wheels wasting precious time and money in the process. If faster horses is classified as data, then what was the actionable insight that fueled the car revolution? The American consumer wanted a convenient, affordable, and reliable way of going from A to B. And they wanted performance that was better than a horse. Let’s take a look at the Consumer Hierarchy distinctions I’ve broken out in an Infographic I’ve created as a resource for you. (Free download available at the bottom).

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    Continuing with The Great Horse-Manure Crisis of 1894, the Consumer Intelligence Hierarchy would breakdown as follows:

    Data – 50,000 horses in London on average produce anywhere from 20-30 pounds of manure per day.

    Information – Data chart the London columnist pulled together showing this information plotted out.

    Insight- Should there be no disruption, London will be buried under 9 feet of manure half way through the 1900’s.

    Actionable Insight – There was a need to deliver a convenient yet powerful mode of transportation that mitigated the impact horses had on the everyday lives of the consumer. Now that we’ve explained at length why it is important to consider this distinction of actionable insights from insights, I want to explain qualifiers to keep you honest and help you effectively find the actionable insights to pursue.

    Let’s take a look at these markers: Go Big Or Go Home Actionable insights are different from other data, information, and insight due to their association with highest priority objectives on your business.

    In order to maximize impact, you want to increase leverage on this actionable insight to boost value delivered. Let’s continue using Henry Ford as an example.

    Prior to Ford, there were major players in the automobile industry ahead of the curve – much more advanced than he was at the time. To many, Ransom Olds is the true darling of the industry. At only 18 years old, this bonafide wunderkind recognized the need for a combustion engine and how gasoline would power future vehicles. He and other pioneers like Henry Leland, founder of Cadillac, focused on variation of vehicles to delight the future consumer. Had Ford focused on the successful use of interchangeable parts and custom variation, it would have distracted him from delivering on the greater need the market actually wanted – transportation that is affordable and reliable.

    His single-track focus of busting through price and availability barriers led him to revolutionize mass production by implementing the use of the assembly line. Shifting focus on how to implement this pillar in your business, your actionable insights can either lift the business as a whole or it needs to be delivered to a specific decision maker with specific, clearly defined objectives you can partner with. Depending on size and structure of your business, how this pillar is applied will vary. Part of actionable insights is the ability to drive cross functional clarity as well as an eloquent vision and purpose for your insight that others can immediately see.

    A key point I want you to keep in mind if you need buy in from other members of your organization – the best idea in the world means absolutely nothing if you can’t persuade others and bring people along to see your vision. React, Adapt, Act Actionable insights should be linked to distinct and measurable business metrics. Ability to optimize and be agile is a large part of their value.

    For instance, should you want to understand your diminishing returns, you have the ability to know ROI and profitability ranges on certain activities. You can create an environment where you are able to successfully test concepts due to a clear understanding of what to expect from your baseline performance. Now let’s bring this example to life using the situation below: As a part of my due diligence and on-boarding, Client A was asked to include a marketing plan for the back half of the year to bring me up to speed. A late amendment was rushed over to me showing that end of summer sales were strong which further supported their proposed strategy going into fall and the holiday season. After what Client A considered was an exhaustive drill-down into underlying drivers, they felt confident the evidence and data suggests that their BOGO 50% marketing campaign they ran through summer was working perfectly. The client sent over their addendum for my review. After performing my own campaign analysis, I discovered immediately a laundry list of considerations the client overlooked that were propping up sales resulting in a false positive including: Coupon redemption was flat vs. year ago results. If this was a result of your promotional campaign, redemption would be up significantly. Volume on the particular SKU that the client was running the promotion on was flat. Due to production issues, supply of a main competitor’s base product was significantly down throughout summer. It was eventually replaced with Client A’s SKU in the country’s largest retailer. Sales were in fact up but the strategy certainly was not working.

    Had I not challenged the results, these results would have been their case study for how to maximize marketing and run a robust campaign. It’s better to expose this information than miss it and have it cost you in future marketing launches where you may have been looking to repeat this strategy to replicate the in-market results. This example is designed to amplify the importance of making sure your insight is actionable and tied to specific levers.

    When you deploy a campaign based on actionable insights, the performance drivers, detractors, false flags (positive results driven by other components not directly connected to your campaign), and markers must be identified prior to launch and diligently tracked accordingly. But There Is One More ThingYour aim for actionable insights should be to ambitiously innovate and boldly challenge the status quo. This is one of the main reasons for hiring talented marketing consultants like DeepBridge – our objective, fresh perspective makes us acutely aware of issues within businesses. Once you challenge yourself as a strategist or marketer to pursue what hasn’t been done, you’ll discover new and organic value to catapult your business to growth

    This type of innovation associated with actionable insights have a much higher propensity to motivate your organization and garner support cross functionally. The unfortunate reality is that with comfort and a “don’t fix what ain’t broken” mentality comes stagnation and resistance to change. This creates a stale culture with flat business results where inventive ideas often go to die at the feet of corporate bureaucracy.

    This could manifest in the form of a key decision maker who is against a certain idea happening or teams simply ignoring ideas about a topic because they know “it never works”. If you feel your actionable insight is strong and your research is rock solid, be sure to dig deep into the history of such ideas, are they original, and what has stopped ideas like this in the past from successfully launching. You want to handle business objections head on. Look for how the business may be entrenched an idea and create a powerful story how this is impeding potential growth. There may be things you are not privy to that have made it so your idea cannot work, for instance, regulatory loop holes allow an opportunity for businesses in your industry to operate in grey areas but your firm has committed to not operate on the moral fringe despite competition engaging freely. There’s a reason why the most groundbreaking ideas are new ones.

    Step out of your comfort zone and challenge assumptions. Pick your head up. Do your own observational qualitative research. Ask the obvious questions and push through the typical answers that people spout off without thinking. Deny rationale and justifications that consists of “because that’s how it’s always been done”. If you view your data and synthesize your information with a curious eye that challenges assumptions, you’ll quickly realize there’s powerful insights that can become very actionable and yield positive results for your business.

    Sound easy? It’s not designed to be.

    For all Henry Ford did for the world with respect to automobiles, transportation, and mass production, he had a modest start – scraping together an ethanol powered couch on bicycle wheels driven by a chain that produced just four horsepower. It’s difficult enough finding that revolutionary insight that drives business growth – you still need to put it to work optimally and design a marketing campaign structure that can track, analyze, and optimize its performance. But why add more to your plate when you don’t have to? Reach out today and let us discover your actionable insight and strategize how to effectively deploy it. We’ll partner with you to implement and maximize growth to enable faster, more effective strategic decisions. Feel free to email nickwilliams@deepbridgeconsulting.com to discover what actionable insight you may have collecting dust, leaving potentially millions on the table.

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