Many companies spend millions trying to understand the consumer,and much of this often seems wasted. Hours, days and weeks are still spent watching eight strangers drinking cheap wine trying to remember which brand of toothpaste they bought 3 weeks ago, and give twenty reasons why (can you even start to remember?!). And a lot of brand teams still make the mistake of using research like a drunk uses a lamp-post: for support not illumination. They rely it on it to give them an answer, rather than relying primarily on their own intuition and judgement.
I've come to conclude that many of these problems stem from marketing people being too far divorced from the brands they work on. I've seen people working on beer who prefer wine. People without kids promoting Pampers. And far too many people working on food brands who never cook.
Contrast this with Nike's policy of only hiring people active in sports. And by active, I don't mean watching every match in the 6 Nations rugby from the comfort of your couch, like yours truly. No, active means taking part and being really into the sport. This is why Nike don't spend a cent on pre-testing their communication with consumers. Its made by consumers.
Another great example of this approach to insight is the Harley Davidson brand. In an interview with the Mack Collier from Marketing Profs, the grandson of the company's founder revealed how their main form of insight is riding with some of the million members of the Harley Owners Group (HOGs for short).
5-minute workout: take a look at the team working on your brand. Where do they sit on a scale from "Category heavy users" through to "never use the product"?