Insights are a key part of the APAC marketer’s toolkit

Martin Roll moderated the discussion. Simon Kahn, Google APAC’s Chief Marketing Officer, sat down to talk with industry experts about the anatomy of insights derived from consumer data as well as the role of culture in driving insight-led innovation.

Marketers need to be able to recognize and interpret the data signals that they encounter every day in order to create the kind of experiences consumers expect from APAC. Data insights are vital in a region growing at an unprecedented pace. They are essential for everything, from product development to marketing strategy.

How can marketers go from analysing data to activating insights in their marketing? Martin Roll, a brand and business marketing strategist, met with industry experts, including Simon Kahn, Google APAC’s chief market officer, founder of Asian Consumer Intelligence Nicole Fall and Stuart Pike, Google APAC’s chief commercial officer. They discussed the anatomy of an insight as well as the role of culture in driving insight-led innovation.


Martin: What does it mean to have an “insight?” It is not enough to rely on your gut instincts to find an insight in a world that demands certainty. Is there a right way to identify insights?

Simon: People often refer to “data” and even “insights” interchangeably. While data is an essential component of finding insight, it is not the only thing you need to build a story from. A connection between data and information is what creates an insight.

Stu Everyone has a part to play in identifying insight. It’s all about looking at what is already there. It’s possible to gain insight by watching how people interact with the displays at the supermarket or while dining out.

“The problem is that while there may be insight in an ocean of data without the discipline and processes necessary to find it, it can be difficult to find it.” Arnaud Frade Chief Commercial Officer, Ipsos

Arnaud A brand opportunity can be created when there is a specific tension, frustration, need or anticipation. There may be an insight in an ocean of data. But without the process and discipline to find it, it can be difficult to find it. Another misconception is that insight is some magical piece of knowledge that will fix everything. You can’t forget about the insights if a business problem isn’t well defined. You won’t be able find insights out of trivial data, even with all the information you have. You need to look at the problem you are trying to solve.

Martin: Is that to say business objectives should be defined as insights?

Stu You might only see 70% of the time. But you need to be open to seeing the opposite — “This feels like an opportunity” when you see something completely new.

Nicole: A favorite quote of a trend forecaster is “The future lies all around us; but it hasn’t been distributed.” It is important to have experiences and look around at the world in order to identify what drives human behavior. People are often afraid to make a decision and use research as validation.

Martin: How do you convince a board to invest in something with long-term potential, but not immediate returns?

Arnaud Courage is key. You might need to make uncomfortable decisions if you discover an insight that is not good for your product or industry. It’s up to you whether or not you have the courage and willpower to rethink your business.

“By formalizing disruption [forward-thinking] organisations are making an effort to break the rules instead of reacting to what’s going on around them.” — Nicole Fall (Founder & Head, Trends, Asian Consumer Intelligence).

Nicole: Forward-thinking businesses have established internal disruptive units or “skunkworks,” which are designed to disrupt the core business function. People often focus on maintaining the status quo. These organizations formalize disruption and make a proactive effort not to react to what’s going on around them, but to break the rules.


Simon: It all starts with the company culture. Marketing, for example, can have immediate impact through acquisitions or performance, but we also play an important role in shaping the future. Google breaks it down into three categories: Google’s established products (such as Search), larger bets (like Google Cloud), or moonshots (like our AI Experiments). To design these products effectively, you need to have a good understanding of the users. Because it manages customer relationships, marketing is crucial to this process.

Stu Practically, many marketers work for companies trying to improve their margins but can’t afford big risks. However, they will never be able to succeed if they aren’t willing to take risks.

Simon: Sometimes innovation comes from being scared. Try to find a brand that is struggling and go there. It is crucial to lead by example as a leader. It is harder for organizations to take risks as they grow, but great leaders encourage people to make big bets and show that failure is okay.

Martin: In this area, failure and experimentation are especially important without a proven-and-true path…

Nicole – Many Western brands that enter APAC feel they cannot change their legacy. Consumers in APAC say that brand legacy doesn’t matter. There’s an incredible opportunity to innovate. Nothing is worse than a brand refusing to change simply because they have done it the same way for 100 years.

It becomes harder for organizations to take risks as they grow, but great leaders support those who have taken big bets and show that failure is okay.” — Simon Kahn Chief Marketing Officer, Google APAC

Arnaud I love the idea of the legacy of brands. Myanmar is a country without a brand legacy. For those consumers, there’s no way to connect to global brands. This will be a benefit to smaller brands. Another example is the rise of Korean beauty brands. They have successfully taken on traditional behemoths by following their codes and offering solutions for Asian skin types and usage habits.

Simon It is clear that people have a greater willingness to adapt and follow the flow. Social commerce is an excellent example. People order items online in the United States through established suppliers. Social platforms are a popular platform for entrepreneurs to create businesses. People here are more likely than anyone else to use social media to find information and get things done. They are more inclined to tap into their networks and rely on human interaction to find the right information.

Stu: APAC marketers today require an experimental mindset. While our challenges are becoming more complex, the possibilities are even more exciting. Take “super apps” as an example. You might have several apps that do different tasks in the U.S.: one to browse the internet, one to send messages, one to make online payments and so forth. These services are all combined into one app in China: WeChat. Because there is one channel for reaching users, it makes it easier to increase adoption rates and offer new services and products.

Martin: What can marketers do to stay ahead in such a dynamic environment.

Featured Quotes

Keep curious and learning. When you have the right people, innovation happens naturally. Let them follow their passions and interests.

Simon Kahn

July 2018,

Accept an insight-driven culture

Marketers in Asia will have many opportunities to gain insights and discover their unique online behavior and interests. It is important to remember, however, that insights are not the same as data. Data is only one step. A new insight is a revelation about human behavior that is drawn from data.

It is not just the result of formal research. Everyone is responsible for finding actionable insights. To instill curiosity, it is important to create a culture that encourages ambition and experimentation.


More:   Brand Equity

Simon Kahn, chief marketing officer at Google APAC, is Simon Kahn. He is responsible for the strategy, research and brand management of Google APAC’s consumer products as well as business solutions in 16 countries.

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