How? You mentioned a superpower…
Insights professionals have a critical and unique role to play in helping the C-suite understand what consumers really want in order to drive through changes in governance. We are very good at helping companies make better products, but we need to go further and influence decision-makers at the highest level.
To do so, we need to use our superpower, which is – here it comes – our ability to listen, understand and communicate human stories. People are all subject to the cognitive bias known as the identifiable victim effect, or the singularity effect, which states that we are more moved by the plight of one identifiable human than we are by news of mass suffering. Or, as Stalin put it, “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic”. It’s not just about data. As Brene Brown says, “Maybe stories are data with a soul”. We need to bring the soul.
There are many examples of brands using human stories in marketing to influence consumers (whilst also selling products): one of the best known is the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty from 2004. But there are also some examples of how human stories have influenced senior decision-makers to change their organisations. One such is the story of Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky being moved to fight racism on the platform and make policy changes after hearing customers' individual accounts of discrimination. Another is the story of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who was reported as being embarrassed and ashamed by the racism experienced by two black men in one of the company's stores, and who responded by closing 8,000 stores for unconscious bias training, at a cost of millions of dollars.
Insights people have the skills and the ability to connect up to the board and back down to marketing and innovation teams, to use data to spin stories and to use stories to bring the voices of real people to those that need to hear them. Blaming consumers for the say-do gap is a cop-out. Let’s use our superpower to fight for real change instead.