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  • Writer's pictureJon Darby

"Send three and fourpence. We're going to a dance."

Over the weekend I came across an amusing video doing the rounds that got me thinking about the challenges we face as research and insight professionals in communicating messages  – have a look below (you might want to skip the middle section as it becomes obvious what it’s all about). 

There are countless famous incidences of failures in communication resulting in death and disaster: the famous quote above originated from communications along the frontline in the first world war.  The message, passed down the line from radio operator to radio operator, was morphed in the process from the original: “Send reinforcements. We are going to advance”.

The Charge of the Light Brigade, too, was the direct result of miscommunication.  Ironically, the captain who received and wrongly communicated the order was killed inside the first minute of action.  

It’s not surprising, then, that when so much less is at stake insights, messages and themes can easily become distorted during transmission.  The impacts may not be so obvious in our worlds but miscommunication can lead at best to underperformance and at worst total failure.

Our biggest challenge is not so much generating the right insights in the first instance (hard though that is) as ensuring that insight is taken forward by organisations to make an impact.  

Of course the ‘so what’ might be hardwired in the minds that are close to the initiators of the brief and indeed the buyers and primary users of the output, however, to make a meaningful ROI on the initiative does require the wider ‘team’ to drive through the implementation and make the action happen.  

Insight should impact on the full development chain, from npd and ideation / concept development through product development and testing, packaging, communication, product placement and instore activity.

That gives opportunity for an abundance of creative licence - which of course is part of role of the insight, and should be encouraged – to inspire.  But this must come with a big health warning. Within most organisations, there are a good few steps from insight generation to deployment.  Each step has the potential to dilute, misinterpret and weaken the overall meaning of the learning when it comes to growing brands and gaining share. 

Some of the more obvious breakpoints include: 

- During the insight journey, invariably, those who are part of the creation of the insight, have to ‘let it go’.  It then lands in the hands another part of the chain of command: there are those that take on the mantle and interpret what [they think] it means and yet others who decide what to do with it and how to apply it.

- There is a is a process of trying to ‘humanise’ that insight to make sure that it is fit for the business.  This can be affected by lack of expertise or depth of knowledge [in interpreting research data or insight] and there is a risk that the original context is lost.  - Research that was done to challenge the status quo because sales are flat and have been for a while is very different from work that is designed to investigate the market for new opportunities.

- Understandably and correctly, during the insight journey the data and the conclusions are invariably challenged, particularly if the research was done in one ‘place’ and there is the desire to roll out the learnings.  The originators of the research might not be there to uphold the ‘truth’ in the right way.

- By the time of implementation of the insight it has probably done the rounds through repeated ‘design’ attempts around creativity/activation both inside and outside the organisation with other collaborators - it becomes hard to ensure that the brief reflects the insight.

Embarking on an insight journey thus requires as much care about the transmission of the results and insights that lead to action as it does about the design and execution of the research itself.

Here, we believe that great research, coupled with an in depth understanding of how organisations function enables insight generation that is both actionable, consistently communicates the story and ensures ‘dancing’ is involved only at the right moments:  it’s important to have fun too!

If you want to understand more about how we ensure insight is adopted within your business, talk to us on

Jon Darby

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