Agile Insight Tools: 5 insight innovation areas from IIEX Atlanta

Agile Insight Tools: 5 insight innovation areas from IIEX Atlanta

It has often been said that ‘may you live in interesting times’ is an old Chinese curse. No-one can be certain if that’s true, but I do believe that these are interesting times for the Insight industry. We are seeing an increase of innovation, bright new entrepreneurial talent from outside the industry and major VC investment flow into the space.

Whether you believe this is a curse or an opportunity is probably a matter of perspective. But either way it looks like change is happening and will continue at pace. Change that has the potential to disrupt the world of Insight and the business impact it has.

We were in Atlanta in June for the IIEX conference, checking out some of the latest developments in insight tools and innovations and meeting some of the CEOs behind them. Our focus was exploring tools for brand strategy and innovation, and we found plenty to think about that we continue to explore and experiment with.

These are 5 of the key areas of insight innovation that we think are ‘ones to watch’, now and for the future. It’s not everything that we saw (and didn’t see) in Atlanta, but hopefully you will find it a useful overview of some key areas particularly relevant for brand strategy and innovation.


1. Video: see the people behind the data – Video has always been an important part of the insight toolkit. The difference now is just how accessible this is. Mobile self-capture and powerful analytics platforms mean consumer video can be sourced and edited into powerful stories quickly, cost effectively and at scale. Having real people as a common currency of data and information within a business can have a powerful impact on decision-making and how Insight can make a real impact at the top table.

2. Social intelligence, not social monitoring – Social media sources can deliver so much more than tracking of brand mentions. But it takes some work to separate the insights from the noise. Both machine and human mining of these sources can uncover not only insights similar to those delivered by qualitative research, but also insights into fears and drivers that people would not surface in research. And because these are sourced from their natural conversations, this insight is placed in real context: you know not only who to target and why, but also how to connect with them in a meaningful way.

3. What they feel, not what they say – There have been great strides in the sphere of emotion measurement. These approaches open up the potential for the insight industry to have far greater influence on communications and creative development where there is a reticence to rely on what consumers tell you. Innovations in this space are diverse, from AI analytics of image and video, to facial recognition using mobile cameras and sensors to measure biometrics. Each has its strengths and weaknesses along with its supporting body of scientific research (and scientific challenge). Regardless of the arguments for and against these approaches, the investment of time, money and expertise in this area is immense.

4. Tapping into the crowd – Crowdsourcing has been an important development in ideation and creative development for years, and research communities are all but ubiquitous. But we are probably only at the start of how harnessing the crowd can provide an alternative source of insight to traditional research. Increasingly consumers, creatives and experts are being invited to take a more active role in the insight and ideation process, with the lines between these groups becoming more blurred. And AI technologies are making it possible for individual researchers to engage crowds in live conversation by analyzing responses of tens or hundreds of people and serving it up in real time.

5. The predictive potential of language – currently market research puts an extraordinary level of focus on the predictive power of survey-based responses. So much market research is spent on encouraging consumers to tick boxes in the belief that this will give us the information we need. In fact, many believe open language based responses can be a far better source for predictive analytics. This suggests we should see a shift from surveys with tick box responses to more open questions and free discussion, with analytical tools helping us to draw insight from large language-based data sets.

As always no one tool, agile or not, is likely to be the complete answer to your brand growth challenge, but each can play an important role. At Mash, we bring together all the pieces of the puzzle – people, agile tools, data sources and sources of outside inspiration – that it takes to solve growth challenges, and take teams through a creative process to make it happen.

Jonathan is co-founder of Mash, a strategy studio based in London that helps global brands to grow.

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