Building an Insights Engine

Building an Insights Engine: How Unilever got to know its customers.

HBR September, 2016, p64

By Frank Van Den Driest, Stan Sthanunathan, and Keith Weed

It isn’t a bad idea, really. Pull together a few people from your organization to figure out what customers really want and call it an Insights Engine instead of a market research group. Unilever apparently did this and is used as an example throughout the article. Their Consumer and Market Insights group seems to have done good things for them. But how did they do it? There is a large body of knowledge called Design Thinking that is dedicated to discovering what customers really want and how to meet those needs effectively. It covers what Unilever’s CMI group has done and more. If you like the story that the article tells and want to implement it, you might do well to begin with a look at design thinking.

As you read the CMI story you might also give some thought to the caliber of people needed to understand what data to gather, how to analyze the data, and how to derive insights from the analysis. This is not covered in the article.

The management culture that is required to support an insights engine, such as Unilever’s CMI, is only touched upon at the end of the article. It is crucial to the success of any such group as an insights engine, that it must have an internal culture that is different from the rest of the organization to be successful.