These days, it seems that everything is an “insight.” The reason I call that dangerous is that that term confers a perceived value on the information it’s describing. All too often, that value just isn’t there.

As a result, a lot of brands set out to buy “insights” and end up disappointed. They may get accurate data. They may get correct facts. But it’s not enough, and as a result, their brands’ creativity is stifled. They’re not getting what they need to succeed.

At the other end of the spectrum, many brands use what you could call “fake it till you make it” creative. Someone has an idea, and a team retrofits data to validate it. Sometimes, they get lucky, and it succeeds. But it’s the cart leading the horse.

These two situations play out often. To talk about how to avoid them both, let’s talk about what an insight really is.

Musicians will tell you that music is the reshaping of silence. It isn’t just the notes. It’s the gaps between the notes. What’s there tells you one thing; but what isn’t there is just as important.

Insights are like that. Data isn’t insight. Insight is what comes from smart people reading between the lines in data. It isn’t just what’s on the page: it’s what isn’t on the page.

Insight is understanding a motivation, or a desire – what’s behind an action or behavior. It’s understanding how or why people think what they think.

 An idea is a reaction to that insight. You understand what is needed and how to respond to that need. At minimum, it’s an acknowledgement: you understand how to validate your audience’s experience. Better yet, it’s a solution: you understand what you should offer them.

Simply put: an insight helps you to understand WHO; the idea is WHAT you do for them.Here are three examples. I hope they show the difference between facts – even interesting, accurate, even poetically phrase facts – and true insights.

Fact: Smokers try to quit nine times.

Insight: Smokers measure distances in cigarettes – for instance, a smoker knows that the store is two cigarettes away.

Fact: Breathing with COPD is like breathing through a twisted straw.

Insight: COPD sufferers don’t think dry powder medications go as deep into lungs as pressurized medications, because they can’t take deep breaths.

Fact: According to the Cleveland Clinic, as many as 52% of men experience ED.

Insight: Some men with ED don’t seek relationships because they’re concerned it could lead to intimacy.

Insight is putting into words what usually goes unspoken. It’s a quirk of behavior. It’s the kind of poetry that people whisper to you. It isn’t obvious. But it’s what becomes the heart of your work.

To really work with insight, you need more than data, and you need more than a lucky idea. You need cutting-edge data science that can parse information at scale. You need powerfully intelligent strategy. And you need brilliant creativity. It’s not an easy combination. But when you have all three, that’s when your work can truly change lives.

Mike Hartman is chief creative officer for Intouch Solutions.