I often hear people talk about writing with the premise that you start by “staring at a blank screen,” but a blank screen is rarely where I start. In most cases, the processes Break the Ice Media uses give a framework that jumpstarts our creative engines while keeping strategy at the forefront. Strategic models help organize data, focus thinking, take out the guesswork and these models also help when presenting the strategy to others. In the model Break the Ice Media uses for strategic planning, we work on developing strategic insights that inform the entire plan.
What are Strategic Insights?
According to Mercer Island Group, a top agency search firm that works with some of the world’s largest brands, a strategic insight is “a penetrating truth that elevates strategy, enabling highly differentiated tactics.”
Defining a strategic insight starts with collecting research and data points that fit into several focus areas. We pull all that knowledge together through evaluation and analysis to come up with a strategic insight for each focus area. These focus areas typically are brand, consumer, and competition. We’ll sometimes bring in community for a focus area too, as it fits so well with destination marketing.
Using Your Data
Once the data is collected, we look at it to draw conclusions and comparisons about what is there. The data is telling a story, and we want to look at what’s on the page and make sense of it in terms of the focus area it’s in. Look at your data summaries by section and start analyzing what you see. Ask questions about what you see and find the story your data is telling.
These are questions you can ask for every single one of the research focus areas. As you pull these interpretations out of the data, you’ll have distilled all of the research and work into clear, strategy-driving statements that will lay the foundation for your messaging, approach and tactics.
The Overall Strategic Insight
Creating the focus area insights involves going beyond the data on the page, beyond the comparisons and coming to the big-picture truth for each focus area that makes the most sense for your organization. In defining your strategic insight, you are looking for that point where your insights from the 3-5 focus areas that you have identified intersect.
It captures the direction the research pointed you to, is a compelling statement rather than a simple summary. It’s all at once an “ah-ha!” and an “oh! of course!”
Once we reach the strategic insight, it informs the messaging, tactics, approach and much of the rest of the strategy. It is a piece of the strategy that we come back to again and again to keep the marketing pointed in the right direction.
A Strategic Insights Example
This example was part of a proposal that we did for an off-the-beaten path ski destination in the west. This destination offers year-round experiences centered around the majestic mountains and outdoor landscape surrounding them. It attracts annual visitation 700 times greater than its population. We’ll call this destination Button Town USA.
Focus Area: Community
Button Town USA is built to hold not only its residents, but to have a continuous flow of people coming for the experiences. From the ski lifts to the music scene and many events and festivals, Button Town USA is a place for good old-fashioned family fun. And it’s a small but mighty community with the power to welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Community Insight: When you’re in Button Town USA, you’re local.
Focus Area: Environment
Not only is Button Town USA tucked in the valley among majestic Mountains, with a river flowing through it, it is overflowing with natural beauty in every way.
Environment Insight: Adventures in nature await in Button Town USA.
Focus Area: Product
Button Town USA is a mountain oasis, a secluded spot waiting for people to discover. With its many diversions, welcoming community and verdant natural surroundings, the town has a lot to offer visitors who find their way to it. It has a unique opportunity to maximize on the hospitality and treasures that are to many, yet unknown.
Product Insight: Button Town USA is a hidden gem.
Focus Area: Customer
In this case, we leaned into some of the secondary research that we found from outside sources*.
- 31.2% of American travelers considered leisure travel “extremely important” to their overall well-being and sense of happiness (2019 data)
- 23.7% of American travelers took at least one trip specifically focused on their personal health and wellness. (2019 data)
- 30.1% of travelers are aspirationally motivated by the general atmosphere of a destination, which is third behind “visited before” and “friends and family are there.”
- Families represent 33.9% of U.S. travelers.
- The top three motivators for families to travel are:
- for children to discover new places and experiences,
- to bond and grow closer as a family,
- to relax and unwind.
Customer Insight: Travelers are focused on the character of a place.
*Sources: Destination Analysts “The Future of Travel as a Brand,” Destination on the Left Virtual Summit 2019; Destination Analysts “The State of the American Traveler: Traveler Segments Edition” 2018 and 2019; Family Travel Association “2019 Consumer Family Travel Survey)
The Overall Insight
Now with our four insights identified, we looked at how these insights intersect and where Button Town USA could really stand out.
When you’re in Button Town USA, you’re local.
Adventures in nature await in Button Town USA.
Button Town USA is a hidden gem.
Travelers are focused on the character of a place.
From these four insights, we curated the overall strategic insight for the destination:
Everyone is a local in Button Town USA. Button Town’s true character is found in hidden adventures.