The Insight Building Process Demystified

Chris Kocek

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You can also watch this interview on my Youtube Channel

*PS. Below you will find an auto-generated transcript of this episode.

Arek Dvornechuck: Hey, What's up Branding Experts, Arek here and welcome to On Branding Podcast. And today I have a very special guest, Chris Kocek. And Chris is the founder and the CEO of Gallant Branding, which is a creative branding firm in Austin, Texas.

And prior to that, Chris worked as a strategic planner at BBDO in New York, where he developed nationally recognized campaigns for iconic brands like AARP,, Lowe's Home Improvement, Hyatt Hotels, John Deere, and other brands. 

So Chris is also a public speaker on strategy and insights. And soon, he will launch his new book “Any Insights Yet?

Hello, Chris. Thanks for joining us today.

Chris Kocek: Hey, Arek. Great to be here. It's great to meet you.

Arek Dvornechuck: Thank you so much. In your book, you argued that the word insight is overused in business, marketing, branding. And so can you just explain what's the difference between an insight and an idea? What is an insight?

Chris Kocek: Yeah, no, it's a great question. So I think that a lot of times. People confuse insights with data points, with observations, with human truths. Those are all important things that lead people to an insight. And an idea and an insight do share a lot of similarities, but one of the ways that I distinguish the two is that, we could generate a hundred ideas right now in a brainstorm, right? But I don't know that we would necessarily say that any of those ideas are insights. Whereas an insight is this combination of all of these different things, those data points, those human truths, those observations, trends, you name it. You combine all of those things into, I like to use the analogy of a constellation. That you combine all of them into a constellation that becomes something new, and it's almost like a north star that gives you direction.

Arek Dvornechuck: So it's much deeper. So as you mentioned, we can have many different ideas, but they may not lead to any discoveries or any impactful things whereas an insight is much deeper, right? So it's about connecting those dots as you mentioned, right? It's a clear and deeper understanding of a particular problem or a situation. So can you give us perhaps some examples of insights when it comes to marketing and branding and in business in general.

Chris Kocek: That's always a tricky one, because to build an insight it takes time. And each insight is probably going to be unique to that particular brand or group of customers or the context or the situation that's happening in the culture. One of my favorite ones that I talk about in the book is with home improvement projects, right?

So have you ever done a home improvement project?

Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah, you mean home remodeling and stuff like that. Okay,

Chris Kocek: Yeah, exactly. So if you've ever done a home improvement project, or even if something breaks at home and you have to fix it, there are all these different things that will happen in the process. in the book, I talk about how you'll have things like, when you go into the home improvement store you don't necessarily know what the names of the parts are, you don't know how to describe what the problem is necessarily things get lost in translation with the associate, then you can end up having project creep where, you keep coming back to the store again and again because you forgot to get this thing or that thing. 

Another observation that, as part of this larger constellation that goes into the inside is people do already often bring the project in on their phone. So they have a picture of the situation and they say this is the thing I'm trying to get. This is the thing I'm trying to fix. So that can be another thing. 

So there are all these observations when you look at how people engage in home improvement projects now, and that led to, what I think of as an insight with that, which is that if it takes a thousand words to describe your project, right? To an associate, and if a picture is worth a thousand words, then why not start every project with a picture? So the insight there is that every project should start with a picture, and if you're Lowe's or Home Depot or any business in the home improvement space, then, create some kind of portal That would allow people to upload their pictures of their projects before they even walk into the store. That insight, that idea, which is both an insight and idea, would actually help solve all of those other issues and problems that I just mentioned with those projects.

Arek Dvornechuck: That totally makes sense. So in your book, your book is going to launch soon, in September and in your book by the way, thanks for sending over the book. And so in the book, you describe different techniques and provocative questions. To help us, connect the dots and build better insights and then validate these insights.

So can you just perhaps describe, maybe a few most important ones.

Chris Kocek: Yeah, for sure. My favorite one is just keep asking why, right? So don't take somebody's answer, the first answer that they give you. Why do people behave this way? Oh, it's because of this. Why? Why do they do that? So it's a very, very easy technique. It's something that kids do naturally, right? If you tell a child. Hey it's time for bed. Why? Why do I have to go to bed? Because you have to wake up at a certain time. Why do I have to wake up at that time? So they're natural at asking why. So that's a good one. I've worked on different projects over the years. For example, I worked on BecomeAnEx. org, which was a smoking cessation program. And, one of the questions was why don't people quit smoking. Why is it so hard to quit smoking? And they say we've done some surveys. We've got all these reasons. Here are the reasons why it's hard to quit smoking. But again, if you challenge those questions, which is hard, because in a group setting, when you're talking with the client or you're talking with other strategists or creatives, it's basically you're challenging them. And people don't always like to be challenged. They say, Hey, we've got the data, we've got the information, let's just run with this. But if you want to get to something deeper, you have to keep asking why. So that's one of them. Another technique that I love is creating conflict. You could say that why already creates conflict, but if you create conflict in a focus group or even in a campaign. Sometimes there are campaigns that already generate conflict and that creates all this information that comes pouring into the brand and through pop culture. And out of that, you might start to get some insights. 

So when it comes to creating conflict, whether it's in focus groups or in other situations, you can, ask somebody a question. That, that challenges them and an easy framework for the conflict question is just using the word “or”. So, which is better ? And when you ask somebody, which is better, which is the worst thing, then you're naturally going to start to get people, taking sides, right and saying, “oh, this one is better than that“. And then you go back to that question. Why is it better? So a lot of times, you'll end up defaulting back to that question “why?” which pushes you deeper and deeper.

Arek Dvornechuck: That totally makes sense. So just for our listeners. Just keep asking “why”. That's probably the main thing you want to do, you want to challenge people, whatever you are doing whether you're meeting with your client with your team and you want to create some conflict as well, as you mentioned, right? So you can just give them a choice. You can use the, “or”. So “which is better, this or that”, and just try to create a conflict. And then go back to keep asking why. So that's one of the techniques. and as you mentioned, insights are often hard to capture and they're elusive. But we all need to think more strategically as marketing, branding experts, strategists and business owners. 

What are some of the other key takeaways from your book? I just wanted to give them an idea of what they can learn or what they can take away from your book.

Chris Kocek: Yeah, absolutely. There are definitely some other techniques that are in there besides asking why. One of them is interrogating language. So a lot of times people will think a word means one thing and it really means something else. Or, when you're listening to people, listening closely to people's pain points you can find just these little subtle nuances that can make a big difference in where you go with a particular campaign.

I'll give you an example. With 1 of our, clients, it's a quick service food restaurant. They sell healthy food and they want to talk about eating healthy. And then we were talking with one of the customers. And they said, I like to eat. I like to eat healthy. I like to eat. So wait a minute you use that word. A little bit differently than healthy. What does that mean to you? And then they started going deeper into “well, healthy means, eating food without flavor”. It's eating brown rice and broccoli and unseasoned grilled chicken breast because you're trying to eat as healthy as possible, whereas eating well. There's actually, some sort of decadence that can happen with that. It can still be full of flavor, but it doesn't have to be junk food, right? And so we focused in on this idea of eating well and that really transformed the client's thinking, and it transformed the direction that they went with their campaign.

Arek Dvornechuck: That's a great example of how we can use those insights with our clients in brand building and so on. What are some of the other use case scenarios for, coming up with better insights when it comes to business and branding and marketing campaigns.

Can you think of maybe, from your past experience, working with different brands or on marketing and branding campaigns. Can you give us some other examples?

Chris Kocek: Yeah, for sure. So there was a beanship brand that we were working with so the CEO said that Americans just aren't interested in beans. They're not interested in beans as a product category. And so, we started out by challenging that assumption, and saying, is that really true? Maybe people are actually interested in beans. What is it that we can find out there? And so we started asking, that goes back to the conflict idea. We started asking people are beans boring or exciting? It was a very simple question to ask people, and it raised a lot of emotions for people. Believe it or not you wouldn't think people would be that excited to talk about beans, but you ask him, Hey, are beans boring or exciting? And we found out that 60 to 70 percent of people in focus groups and other conversations raise their hands and say, Oh, beans are super exciting. They're colorful. They're versatile. You can use them in all kinds of ways. They're full of protein. They carry flavor in lots of different ways.

And so that was one part of it, was finding out that okay, people have these big feelings and these passions about beans, and they actually think they're really exciting. The second part of that, that we had to connect the dots with, was that we're not just talking about beans, we're talking about bean chips. So bean chips are not something that you usually take on the go, they're not a convenient fast food. But once you put them in chip form, then all of a sudden, you've got a whole different direction that you can talk about. And the fact that beans are not really known for innovation.

But there was this tension between that truth, that beans aren't known for innovation, and now here you've got this innovative product in the form of bean chips. And now you can really start to talk about, “hey, it's the best thing to happen to beans since ever“

Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah. So that's a great example. When it comes to branding and marketing and so basically finding an insight is all about, making those connections, right? And articulating them. The data, the observations and things like that, and trying to really have a clear and deep understanding of the problem or situation, and then come up with some, perhaps unusual or not ordinary solutions, right to that, and you describe different techniques and you have the whole step by step process on how to do that. What's the right way to do that, what's the most efficient and effective way to do that. So we're going to link to your book. Your website is and then you have your agency website, which is for you guys to check it out.

And what's the best way to connect with you? Are you active on LinkedIn?

Chris Kocek: Yep, I'm on LinkedIn and just any of the social channels, you should be able to find me.

Arek Dvornechuck: Okay. So we are going to link to your social media for you guys to check it out. And I recommend you check out the book. When is the book going to be launched?

Chris Kocek: September 19th,

Arek Dvornechuck: So by the time this podcast goes live, the book should be live as well. So thanks for coming on the show. I really appreciate that.

Chris Kocek: Thanks so much, Arek. I appreciate it. 

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