Real human insights


So here’s the sitch…

Once upon a time I was agency-side, and poured through more market research papers and academic articles than I could poke a stick at. All the graphs, charts, tables, metrics, and conclusions were filtered through tiers of corporate approval to land squarely in my lap, and my biggest gripe was always the language.

It was inaccessible. It was chock-full of jargon. It obscured facts and insights behind layers and layers of superfluous data and purple prose that did little besides muddle its core truth. Who has time to digest all that? It didn’t take me long to discover that clients wanted tangible truths. They wanted translatable truths. They wanted the truths that got them results.

My goal is to skip the overly tech-driven, AI-befuddled, big-data-crunching malarky that makes so much of modern marketing unpalatable and get to the guts of it. The truth is, all great marketing campaigns are born from good old-fashioned behavioural sleuthing.

And here’s how I sleuth.


Data can be confusing and messy. Personally, we believe that the more accessible ‘small data’ has been ignored in favour of the big and the bold- which agencies the world over are rushing to secure. While it’s been in their interest to collect as much information on consumers as possible, it can quickly become overwhelming. What’s needed are translatable strategies to crunch the numbers and extract the relevant insights, because if it’s not applicable to a campaign or business strategy, it’s bunk. Only by looking at what people are doing, how they are doing it, and what they might do in future can we yield the most relevant insights. Here are some of the ways we do that.

Data Mining
The progress of any campaign can only be measured when peoples’ interactions with it are tracked over time, and mining behavioural data can provide the most telling insights. Sales statistics per region; capita; and demographic are most accurate, but variables such as TARP data; prompted vs unprompted recall; identification with statements; post-hoc attitudinal analysis; and motivated discussions all provide useful behavioural data that can be monitored on an ongoing basis.
Text Analytics
With all the focus on the quantitative in big data, the importance of qualitative methods across smaller research experiments are being overlooked. The freshest insights often come from these more localised datasets, which is why we use a variety of statistical techniques to deep-dive into the thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes of consumers and pull on the common threads.
Predictive Modelling
Tracking behaviours and analysing attitudes can tell us what is happening now, but without algorithms in place to predict what people may do in future, it can be hard to zero-in on a strategic plan. Machine learning and regression statistics can help, but we prefer a more human approach that takes into account all the niches, trends, and current events happening around us.
It can be hard to know what to look for amongst the noise. Data analysis is often a case of having too much information and not enough space to apply it, and without framing it in the appropriate context it becomes one giant scatterplotted mess. Our first point of order at Actor Observer is to distil and simplify. Getting to the essence of how and why people think and behave is the foundation of solid marketing, and it begins with stringing together tangible patterns and throwing out the rest.

It’s no mystery that with so many products, services, and markets in the world, a business cannot grow without listening to its customers. Any sound marketing plan has to take into account how users are buying and behaving in any given category and what environmental factors may influence them. How motivated are people to engage with you? How easy is the process of doing so? What triggers are out there that can spark an interest? Actor Observer uses the latest in research findings from many disciplines in order to formulate strong and tangible growth strategies.

Social Sciences
Psychology, neuroscience, and sociology are such rapidly developing fields that keeping up with the latest research is paramount when planning how best to reach people. We use the latest in research from scientific journals and archives such as Nature; Frontiers; Psychology & Society; the Journal of Consumer Research; and Games & Economic Behaviour when planning for your growth.
Behavioural Economics
We use emerging research from institutions such as WARC; Ehrenberg Bass; the University of Stirling Behavioural Science Centre; and the UK Behavioural Insights Team to drive our methodologyWe also incorporate effective and longstanding decision-making research from individuals such as Dan Kahneman, Rory Sutherland, and Robert Cialdini to build marketing plans that leverage of mental availability and make you known.
Campaign Strategy
We examine advances in strategic planning from a range of agencies and individuals to ensure that what we provide is relevant, current, and effective. Some examples of strategists we keep up-to-date with are Byron Sharp; Dave Trott; Adam Ferrier; and their respective creativ agencies.
A strong and relevant message is absolutely dependent on the behaviour of the people it is trying to reach, and designing a strategy around this ethos ensures that your message will reach the right people at the right time in the right circumstances. This is why Actor Observer specialises in planning for multiple emerging mediums and platforms such as print, email, digital, social, and field marketing.

The way data is collected can predict a lot about its outcome. Quantitative data is relatively robust and stable, but a lot of market research and insights come from qualitative research. This can provide a deeper reasoning for why and how people behave but becomes harder to quantify. Depending on the circumstances of the methodology, the data can vary wildly, which is why we use multiple online and offline research designs to ensure that any data gathered is conclusive and real.

Cognitive Discourse
Linguistic research methods have exploded in the past decade, and Cognitive Discourse Analysis [CODA] is one way of gaining insight into how people think. We use CODA to pinpoint any affinities consumers may hold for your brand, including those that may exist below the threshold of conscious awareness. We deep-dive into online and face-to-face techniques based on current psychological research, and discover how people are perceiving you in the market.
Trend Curation
Keeping up-to-date with the conversation and analysing current trends ensures that, whatever your positioning or strategy, you maintain relevancy in the market. Finding gaps in consumer demand is part of this. We track, gather, and observe conversations from a range of popular sources to determine what is being talked about and where the buzz is happening.
Narrative Research
Knowing how consumers think and feel about you can determine how to tell your story and how it might be received by your audience. In-depth conversations get to the essence of this, and we use the results to inform you on how best to get people listening. We design and utilise narrative research methods such as focus groups; face-to-face interviews; and surveys to ensure your brand becomes top-of-mind in its category.
We understand that qualitative research can be susceptible to biases and extraneous effects, which is why we use standardised methodology when designing any approach. This ensures that collected responses are as accurate, unbiased, and reflective of true feelings as possible. The simple fact is, if you can get to the root of how people are thinking and feeling, the potential to reach them with the relevant message is so much greater.


All great marketing begins with great INSIGHTS.

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