Listen to your consumers and they will tell you.
My mantra is "you will never know until you ask the question." In the world of place branding, assumptions without data support can be the difference between success and failure.
A classic example is a community understanding their visitor. If an assumption is based on observation only, the possibility of missing the mark exists when it comes to actual consumer behavior, advertising placement, event development, etc. In order to develop actionable insights, design a study that speaks directly to visitors and ask the pertinent questions. Then, you begin to hear the customer speak directly to you and be objective.
Some key questions to ask:
What is the overreaching reason for the question?
What is it that we really want to learn?
What is my universe?
Are my insights meaningful and actionable?
We all tend to make assumptions, but if we take the time to ask the right question(s) the consumer will give the insight you are looking for. It may not be delivered to you on a ‘silver platter,’ but as you begin to study their answers, insights will begin to develop. And, insights should generate objective and actionable creative ideas.
So, to answer the question “where do insights come from?” They come directly from the consumer – if you ask the right question and just listen.