Without insight, life is fact

Without insight life is fact - image for article by Greg Alder
5 facts about insights that explain why they are so much more useful to marketers and interesting to audiences than facts can ever be.

The world’s biggest selling car.

Established in 1704.

The most powerful laptop yet.


Ready in 5 minutes.

The most extensive range in the country.


Over a million sold every day.

50% longer lasting.

All natural ingredients.

Absorbs 4 times its weight.

No cooking necessary.

Controls fleas and ticks.

3 times faster acting.


100% nuts.

7-year warranty.

It’s hard to find a brochure or box or bottle without some kind of claim. Each is designed to impress us, to persuade us to purchase. We accept most of these claims on face value, as facts supported by research, tests and history.

It’s easy to fall for these shiny facts. If we liked the flavour of the original product, this new improved one should be even better. If we didn’t like the original product’s flavour, maybe we’ll like this one.

The problem with each of the facts above is that they are simply factual. Nothing more.

Fact 1
All insights are factual, but few facts are insightful

It’s a fact that we need food. We need air. We need water. We need sleep. What happens when we’re denied these basic needs? At worst, we die.

Insights are linked to needs – from primal & survivalist to emotional and egocentric. Insights help us understand what to do with facts. Or they help us understand how a fact came to exist.

Insight: people don’t like changing toilet paper rolls. Fact: Cottonelle toilet rolls are double length. If people loved changing toilet rolls, Cottonelle’s double length would be pointless.

Fact 2
Not all insights are equal

Some insights are potent, others impotent. Some are useful in certain contexts, but not others.

Two facts from two different studies: 52% of people aren’t afraid of dying. 53% of people believe in life after death.

What if there was a third study that found that the same people who believe in life after death aren’t afraid of dying? That’s useless information for a motor mechanic, but it could be valuable to a grief counsellor or spiritual leader.

Fact 3
Insights are shy

If we’re presented with a fact, we’re inclined to accept it. (With one major proviso – we have to like the messenger to accept a fact as factual.)

Most of us don’t dig deeper than that. That list of claims above? We’ve heard them. We believe them. Maybe you can even identify what manufacturers make each of them.

Insights don’t reveal themselves the way facts do. To find the insights hiding behind each fact, ask a series of questions. Such as?

Take the first fact above. Why is it the world’s biggest selling car? Who’s buying it? Why? Who isn’t buying it? Why not? What are they buying instead?

If it’s the world’s biggest selling car, what are the consequences? Do we see more of them? Do we take them for granted? Are they devalued as a result? Do we see more of them broken down? In accidents? How do we feel about the people driving them?

The answers to any one of these questions will likely be fertile.

Fact 4
Insights open the door to emotional connections

When we make a connection, we make a lasting impression. We can use an insight to demonstrate that we know how our audience thinks, and how they behave. Audiences are more open to people & brands who show they understand them.

Fact 5
Insights make good stories

Facts rarely do. People share stories, but rarely facts. Facts are just numbers and dates. Facts are dull, lifeless and often thoughtless. Written by lazy manufacturers.

Insights are behaviours and beliefs and habits and prejudices. Insights require a bit more work, but the result is so much more revealing.

“The car driven by people who drive for a living” is a better story than “20,000 sold last year”.

Photo by Nick Fewings via Unsplash

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