Each month ‘Insights in Action’ discusses how research and insight has made a commercial or societal difference and what you can learn from it.

the context

TED’s 2019 conference takes place between 15th – 19th April in Canada. TED talks have provided learning and knowledge via 2bn+ video views of presentations over 19 years. During TED’s rise to prominence, behavioural science’s relevance to marketing has become increasingly recognised. Rory Sutherland has used the TED stage to help drive awareness of this relevance. In doing so he’s provided many examples of insights in action.

the insight

Sutherland’s TED talk ‘Life Lessons from an Ad Man’ highlights the importance of context as a way to create perceptual value. Within this talk he references the relaunching of Shreddies – a square shaped wholegrain cereal – in TED 2019’s location, Canada. In 2008, Shreddies had low brand recognition in Canada. While brainstorming how to relaunch the brand to solve this, an Ogilvy & Mather intern suggested that Shreddies relaunch themselves as a diamond shaped cereal (a square turned at an angle). Despite diamond/squares being the same shape, focus group experiments implied that the ‘diamond’ shaped shreddies tasted and looked better than the ‘square’ equivalent.

the insight activation

Diamond Shreddies were launched. The supporting multi-channel campaign had a humorous and ironic tone which made consumers aware that the Shreddies product hadn’t changed. Instead the campaign joked that Shreddies had used ‘technological advances to achieve a new level of geometric superiority’. The campaign even included focus group footage showing people talking about their preference for ‘diamond shaped’ shreddies.

the impact

Diamond Shreddies’ light humoured campaign went hyper-viral. A month after the campaign’s launch, Shreddies had 52% greater brand recognition vs. competitors. The amount of web searches the campaign generated means that in the 10 years since it was launched, the terms ‘diamond shreddies’and ‘shreddies cereal’ have the same 10-year average for web searches in Canada.

The campaign’s virality and Shreddies’ increased brand recognition meant the brand increased market share by 18% during Diamond Shreddies’ first month on sale. Resultantly, the campaign was highly awarded. It won a 2008 Grand Clio Award, a CMA Gold and The CASSIE’s Grand Prix among others.

the learnings

For researchers:

  • Don’t test products in isolation. Always provide context. Identify if a particular context can add perceptual value to the product you’re testing
  • Ask irrational questions – like comparing the taste of the same products. Products are brought using irrational decision-making processes, so why should research design be overly-structured and based purely on rational questioning?

For marketers:

  • Sub-branding and product extensions aren’t the answer to increasing sales. They often only confuse people. Al Ries and Jack Trout first stated this is in 1994. The recent problems Coca-Cola have faced with their product portfolio is evidence of this
  • Instead of sub-branding and product extensions, look at your product in different contexts. This can identify new ways you can add perceptual value. The re-contextualisation of gin as a gender-neutral lower-calorie alternative to beer has helped double the value of the UK gin sector to £2.2bn

But these aren’t the biggest learnings for us all. Let’s remember the source of the Diamond Shreddies idea – a light-hearted comment by an intern. Yes, Diamond Shreddies’ success shows how insights can make a positive impact. However, it equally promotes the value of including people of all experiences in brainstorming ‘the big idea’.

This post was originally published on Research World 

By Jack Miles, Senior Research Director

if you would like further information, please get in touch via:


Featured Articles

youth on tech: youth’s opinion of social media

For the remainder of 2019 stay tuned to Research World for monthly articles that share the insights from a global survey with

northstar nominated for Global Agency of the Year

Northstar are delighted to announce that we have been shortlisted for Global Agency of the Year at the 2019 MRS Awards. This

northstar win bronze at ESOMAR Research Effectiveness Awards

Northstar are excited to announce that our co-authored paper with BBH won the Bronze Trophy at the ESOMAR Research Effectiveness Awards. This