March 30, 2016

Research identifies key changes required to make insights more effective partners in driving brand growth

Kuala Lumpur, 17th March 2016: New research from the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) highlights the need for a step change in the relationship between marketers and their internal insights teams.

The Future of Insights project, developed in partnership with the WFA’s insights partner, BrainJuicer, reveals a huge opportunity for insights transformation and for insights leaders to become drivers of brand growth.

Based on responses from more than 300 senior marketers and insights leaders across 94 of the world’s largest brand owners, representing a total annual marketing spend of US$75 billion, it shows how many marketers and insights team are not getting the best out of each other. The results are being presented today at the WFA’s Global Marketer Conference in Kuala Lumpur.

Though half of the insights leaders surveyed feel positive about their role, 16% expressed negative sentiments about their function citing frustrations relating to too few resources, too many silos and seeing hard work getting wasted, poorly packaged and ultimately ignored.

33% of senior marketers reported that they were happy with their insights function but almost a quarter were negative. Senior marketers who were negatively predisposed reported that methodologies are too traditional, insights derived too obvious and difficult to action, and a perceived lack of passion and real business understanding amongst insights professionals.

However, this is far from the case for all companies. The report reveals that 50% of insights leaders and senior marketers see insights teams as efficient, expert, trusted advisors and educators, who build on ideas and push recommendations.

In these companies, insights and marketing are more likely to work in physical proximity, with a 15-point increase in positive sentiment in companies where this is the case.

Critically, The Future of Insights finds that senior marketers and insights leaders share a common aspiration to turn insights into an internal consultancy that delivers challenging, business-centric views and helps develop a strategic roadmap to achieve that.

For many companies, achieving this insights nirvana requires three practical steps:

  1. Closer integration between insights and marketing teams, both physically and organisationally;
  2. Broader adoption of new methodologies that create commercial advantage, and a spirit of open-minded exploration and experimentation around those which show promise but whose commercial value is not yet proven;
  3. Seizing the opportunity to challenge stale-thinking using the most up-to-date findings of marketing science about communications, branding, and consumer decision-making.

On both sides there is a clear mandate for new methods based on behavioural science and behavioural data, as well as recognition that methods that scrutinise, explain and ultimately influence real behaviour have the ability to deliver commercial advantage.

However while the two groups agree that new behavioural techniques such as Ethnography, Behavioural Science, Behavioural Data and Storytelling are worthy of further effort, marketers are significantly more in favour of biometrics, media monitoring and data analytics.


Insights teams tend to be much more sceptical, particularly where functions such as the social media “war room” or data analytics are separate. The solution is to develop a programme of experimentation, supported by rapid uptake of methods that prove their worth.

“The Future of Insights project doesn’t always make comfortable reading for insight specialists. Yet we need to rise above any siege mentality and grasp the opportunity for leadership as our organisations go through dramatic transformation. This project can be a catalyst for change, a spark to have the confidence to review ways of working, methodologies and capabilities both within our own companies and as an industry, through organisations such as the WFA” said Elinor Bateman, Director, Insight & Research at Barclays.

“There’s an opportunity here for insights leaders to be bold, and become the kind of strategic consultants they want to be, ones that challenge assumptions and push a business forward. On the topics of consumer irrationality, emotional advertising, and brand-centric communications, our study shows these challenges should find a willing audience.” said John Kearon, Chief Juicer at BrainJuicer.

“Actionable insights are an essential part of great marketing. Firms that get their insights teams delivering new tools and insights that they can leverage across the business will be in a better position to deliver sustainable growth.” said Robert Dreblow, Head of Marketing Capabilities at the WFA.

The next stage of the project will involve a series of interviews with CMOs and Heads of Insights to explore the findings and reactions to The Future of Insights.

The full report can be downloaded here:


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