Facts & Insights

In a recent brainstorming strategy session, I found myself and my classmates oscillating between getting excited about a new idea, spitting it out, then deflating as we said in unison “fact.” Sure, we were coming up with some cool ideas, but none of them could drive an entire strategy or inspire a campaign.

So what is a fact? Merriam-Webster would say that a fact is “a true piece of information.” In my own words, and in terms of advertising, a fact is something that you say and then the next person responds, “So?” Facts can give you a very important piece of information, but may not get to the root of the thing you are analyzing. Often, facts don’t include the “why.”

Facts by themselves are great. Each fact says something important. But when you gather multiple facts and weave them together, that’s when you find something really interesting – the thread that unites them all – the insight. Tony Zambito refers to an insight as “the edge. When you have it, it is powerful.”

Arriving at the insight can be very difficult, especially if you can’t figure out what they have in common. Advertising professional Julia Vanderput shared a formula for insights that I really like.

Fact + Fact + Fact = Insight

When I use the formula, I write the three (sometimes more or less) facts on a piece of paper. Then, I arrange them into an order that seems logical. Usually, at that point I’ll be able to see the natural progression of thought that leads to some insight. Here’s an example:

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This formula is also helpful for presenting an insight or campaign to your audience. You don’t need to lay the facts out in order with the plus signs, but thinking about this formula when crafting a story will help your readers reach what feels like a very natural conclusion.


Campaign Crush: California Avocados #BigGameAdd

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California Avocados showed good sportsmanship during Super Bowl 50. While they did not purchase a video spot, they certainly got a return on others’ investments.

For each of the major food/beverage advertisements, California Avocados tweeted a Tasty-esque video teaching viewers how to make a recipe combining California Avocados with the ad’s featured food/beverage. Here are a few examples:

They even made a video in collaboration with Avocados from Mexico – their competitor!

Avocados from Mexico made a huge mark when they purchased a spot during last year’s Super Bowl. But this year, California Avocados showed that there was room for more than one avocado in this game.

The #BigGameAdd campaign really shows the power of social media and how a million dollar Super Bowl spot is not the only way to get recognized on the big day. AdWeek spoke with the campaign’s agency, MullenLowe, whose executive creative director, Margaret Keene, said “It’s way more fun being a challenger. We all know brands will be doing social campaigns on Sunday. Smart, scrappy brands find ways to piggyback on big-brand hashtags and conversations, but honestly, we just wanted to come up with something fun that people could actually make and talk about during the game.”

While a social media campaign won’t get you the same results as a Super Bowl spot, I hope this will be a testimonial to the creative opportunities social presents.

Campaign Crush: REI #OptOutside

When I think of Black Friday, I immediately think that there is no way anyone could possibly come up with a fresh new deal, promotion, or offering. Attempts at innovating Black Friday have resulted in a complete take over of Thanksgiving day itself, and in some deals starting weeks in advance! How could anyone out-ad the other stores who are all debating for a minute of your hectic shopping day?

REI did it. REI found the one thing (insight) that made you go, “Oh, of course – that makes perfect sense.” Closing their stores on Black Friday is almost a no-brainer when you consider the REI brand, but it was also so taboo and unheard-of. As a retailer, you couldn’t not participate in Black Friday – you’d lose so much money! Right? Not necessarily. REI is all about being adventurous, going outside, exploring, physical activity – all things that contradict a whole day dedicated to shopping in a mall – and this campaign allowed them to boldly stick to their brand values.


To reach this insight and campaign idea, I would imagine that the planning team took a deep hard look at the REI brand and its consumer. What does REI mean to its consumers? What do their consumers love to do? Is Black Friday an event that their consumers normally partake in? And, I’m guessing that what they found is something like this:

Fact: It is almost impossible to stand out on Black Friday as a retailer.

Fact: Shoppers are fatigued by the bombardment of ads/promos that occur on Black Friday.

Fact: REI shoppers love the outdoors.

Insight: Celebrate your love for the outdoors on a day filled with consumerism.

#OptOutside resonated with me because of the unique interactive experiences it offered consumers. Consumers could “pledge” themselves with REI by sharing a photo and the hashtag #OptOutside. The result was a beautiful website featuring images of people doing the things they love and basically becoming ambassadors for the REI brand. Another fun aspect of the microsite was the feature for finding places to #OptOutside. Simply enter your zipcode, and the website pulls up trails near you! A cool feature, and it eliminated an excuse to not #OptOutside.

As with all campaigns, I think there are many people out there that this brand communication is not for – I mean, it’s Black Friday! Even if people thought it was a cool idea, there are certain people for whom Black Friday shopping is so ingrained in their traditional Thanksgiving celebrations that there is nothing that could have converted them. However, I think this brand communication was successful even if consumers did not decide to pledge themselves to #OptOutside. The campaign went on for weeks prior to Black Friday, giving ample time for buzz and interest to grow. From a brand awareness standpoint, I think this campaign was a success in a variety of audiences.