How important are insights, really?

There are no coincidences in marketing.

But sometimes there are remarkable similarities. Take, for example, the new Qantas campaign: You can watch it here. It tells the story of an Australian living in London, taking a Qantas plane home. And then there’s the new British Airways advert. You’ll need a little more time, but you can watch it here. Both talk about the role of the airline in taking people home.

From the outside in, it seems remarkable that both airlines would release a campaign with such similar thematic content, at such a similar time. But really, this is very much a function of the ‘marketing process’ that now drives so much activity:

Step 1: Research the market
Step 2: Uncover emerging trends
Step 3: Define target market
Step 4: Identify insight
Step 5: Match creative.

This is so straightforward it’s a wonder we see any bad advertising at all right? In this case, both would have identified the continued trend towards ‘global families’, the heartbreaking tyranny of distance – and of course those great airport reunions (so beautifully captured in the movie Love Actually). And they’ve executed the advertising accordingly, albeit made culturally relevant to different target markets. So step 3 above may have been very different, but the outcome is pretty much the same – which indicates that sometimes market definition is less important or impactful than you think.

If I were to pick a winner, it would probably be British Airways for more effectively achieving the objective – winning hearts. At four minutes, it manages to tell a much deeper story. But to get this over the line, they had to be prepared to break the rules of online video time. Four minutes is on the outside of the widespread attention deficit disorder now considered to affect most of the world.

At the end of the day though, I can’t help feeling it’s still just advertising. The young, globally mobile market they’re talking to is bound to feel a little cynical. If we accept as marketers that we’ll all be looking at the same research, and getting the same insights, there has to be greater pressure to deliver a more unexpected response than just an ad. How could this insight have been channeled to fundamentally change the product or service experience?

That would have been a far more interesting brief, but the result would have been something that wasn’t quite so easy to copy. And even if the advertising had looked incredibly similar, there’d have been a clear winner as to who truly understood and owned the insight. The insight is the easy part. Truly embedding it into your business is another matter entirely.

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