Discovering Human Truths: Moving Beyond Consumer Insights

During Isabelle's career, she has seen the industry shift from focusing solely on "consumer insights" to exploring "human truths". This reflects a growing understanding that we need to view people as complete human beings, not just as consumers.

4 min read
4 min read

Throughout my career in market research, I've witnessed the industry undergo numerous transformations. One relatively recent one is the shift from focusing solely on "consumer insights" to a deeper exploration of "human truths." This change is not merely a passing fad or a trendy buzzword; it reflects a growing understanding that we need to view the people we study as complete, complex human beings, not just as consumers or customers.

Why the shift?

Several key factors have contributed:

Authenticity has become a top priority for consumers. People value genuine connections and experiences more than ever before. By studying the whole person, not just their purchasing habits, we can help brands forge more authentic relationships with their audience.

Looking at the totality of human behavior, emotions, and motivations, brands can uncover the profound truths that enable brands to truly resonate with their target audience.

Embracing this shift should lead to a more empathetic and curious mindset. And that should lead to deeper insights that help companies make decisions that are based on a more complete understanding of the person.

What it means to understand the human

Let's consider a hypothetical example. Imagine a research project for a food delivery service. Traditional consumer research might focus on factors such as pricing, delivery times, and menu options. While these aspects are undoubtedly important, they don't necessarily capture the full picture of why people choose to use the service.

And what are the human truths here?

People often turn to food delivery when they're feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or in need of comfort. Perhaps they're working late, caring for a family member, or simply having a rough day. In these moments, the act of ordering food becomes more than just a transaction – it's a small way to reclaim a sense of control over time.

Armed with this insight, the brand can craft messaging and experiences that acknowledge and empathize with these feelings, positioning itself as a supportive and understanding ally in times of need. The company can forge a deeper emotional connection with its customers, fostering loyalty and advocacy that extends beyond mere convenience or price.

To uncover these human truths, researchers must dig deeper – and explore the rich, nuanced stories and experiences that shape people's lives. Understanding the "why" behind people's actions and choices reveals the deeper emotional and psychological drivers.

I've found that the most powerful insights often emerge when we create space for people to share their stories and experiences in their own words. By listening with empathy and curiosity, we get to the hopes, fears, and dreams that drive human behaviour. It's in these moments of authentic connection and understanding that the true magic of market research happens.

How companies can benefit from this knowledge

In short, they can create products, services, and marketing messages that resonate with people on a deep, emotional level. And that is the right direction to more revenue.

Consider the earlier example of the food delivery service. The company can create a brand experience that feels genuinely supportive and empathetic. This could manifest in various ways, such as:

· Crafting marketing messages that acknowledge the challenges and stresses of daily life, positioning the brand as a helpful and understanding partner.

· Training delivery staff to be more attentive and compassionate, ensuring that each interaction reinforces the brand's caring ethos.

· Developing new product offerings or features that specifically cater to the needs of customers, such as a "comfort food" menu category or a "self-care" bundle.

By aligning brand strategy with human truths, companies can build emotional connections with their customers.

But, approach human truths with authenticity, sensitivity, and respect. Attempting to capitalize on a human truth in a way that feels exploitative, insincere, or manipulative can backfire. It can erode consumer trust and damage the brand's reputation. The key is to approach these insights with genuine empathy and a sincere desire to understand and serve the needs of real people.

As market researchers, our role is to help brands uncover and apply human truths to create value for both the company and the consumer. We must approach each project with an open mind, a willingness to listen, and a deep respect for the people we seek to understand.

As I look to the future of our industry, I am excited by the possibilities of this shift. By embracing the power of human truths, we have the opportunity to not only drive business success but also to contribute to a more understanding, empathetic, and connected world.

Isabelle Landreville, M.Sc
President and Chief Insight Seeker at Sylvestre & Co.