Internet trends: marketing research & predictions

Crowds predict better than professionals: Google predicts the next flu

December 15th, 2008 by

Many of us came to believe that since Google is powering our search behavior– it has the power to predict the future.
We at TrendsSpotting used Google Trends to throw lights on brands , products, and of course the US elections.
We understand that it does not only reflect current needs and interests, but, if analyzed correctly it can help us build future patterns in any field you choose.
I find it amazing that by following human search you can actually decrease uncertainties and gain predictability even in fields which were perceived to lack human influence and control.

Today, by following the crowds, Google can share insights on the spreading of epidemics as the flu. It turns out that Google can accurately estimate current flu levels one to two weeks faster than any other professional report.
Marketing wise, health care and pharmaceutical companies can plan their marketing efforts more accurately, and effectively choose the right timing to advertise medicine and cold relief products.
Assuming marketing budget cuts– and a need for smart planning – the next graph indicates that it is much to soon to start advertising… (but for those of you in the health business – follow this trend as it will soon change its pattern!)

 Crowds predict better than professionals: Google predicts the next flu
Current USA Google Trends Flu Graph

This comes as a strong evidence for Google as the perfect handy tool for marketers to plan their marketing activity by location and seasonality.

About Google Flu Trends:
Each week, millions of users around the world search for online health information. We have found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Of course, not every person who searches for “flu” is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all the flu-related search queries from each state and region are added together.

Google Flu trends works!
Comparing Google’s query counts with data from a surveillance system managed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that some search queries tend to be popular exactly when flu season is happening. By counting how often we see these search queries, we can estimate how much flu is circulating in various regions of the United States. Google flu Trend results have been published in Nature.
During the 2007-2008 flu season, an early version of Google Flu Trends was used to share results each week with the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of the Influenza Division at CDC. Across each of the nine surveillance regions of the United States, we were able to accurately estimate current flu levels one to two weeks faster than published CDC reports.

google trends flu comparison Crowds predict better than professionals: Google predicts the next flu

This graph shows five years of Google query-based flu estimates for the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, compared against influenza surveillance data provided by CDC’s U.S. Influenza Sentinel Provider Surveillance Network. As you can see, estimates based on Google search queries about flu are very closely matched to a flu activity indicator used by CDC.

Can Google search queries predict better than 1500 doctors?
CDC uses a variety of methods to track influenza across the United States each year. One method relies on a network of more than 1500 doctors who see 16 million patients each year. The doctors keep track of the percentage of their patients who have an influenza-like illness, also known as an “ILI percentage”. CDC and state health departments collect and aggregate this data each week, providing a good indicator of overall flu activity across the United States.
It turns out that traditional flu surveillance systems take 1-2 weeks to collect and release surveillance data, but Google search queries can be automatically counted very quickly. By making our flu estimates available each day, Google Flu Trends may provide an early-warning system for outbreaks of influenza.

Benefits to disease detection:
For epidemiologists, this is an exciting development, because early detection of a disease outbreak can reduce the number of people affected. If a new strain of influenza virus emerges under certain conditions, a pandemic could emerge and cause millions of deaths (as happened, for example, in 1918). Google’s up-to-date influenza estimates may enable public health officials and health professionals to better respond to seasonal epidemics.

Note:

If you remember Google’s team April 1st joke: “Google lets you see search results one day in advance” (Google predicts tomorrow) – well that’s probably no joke at all – it might as well be Google’s new business model..

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Lipstick Indicates Economic Recession?

November 15th, 2008 by


At a time when the economy is slowing down it offers an opportunity to validate some of the quirky economic theories like Lipstick Indicator. Do lipstick sell well when the economic depression deepens? Google trends answers “Yes”.

3032269335 f3d1fc17bc Lipstick Indicates Economic Recession?

Estée Lauder Chairman Leonard Lauder reportedly coined the phrase “lipstick index” after observing sales surges during 9/11 downturns. Why? People reach for affordable luxuries to feel better. The New York Times notes that in the last few months, lipstick sales have shot up 40% . Even in Indian markets lipstick sales are growing steadily at 20 % & in the case of luxury brands that have a smaller base, extending even into the triple digits.

“Women always want to look beautiful, and what’s the easiest thing to buy? Lipstick. A tube of lipstick for $14.50 as compared to a shirt for $70,” says Jennifer Barnett of Origins.

Here is quick validation of other economic signs :

  • When the economy fails, we booze more. Google trend answers ‘No’ .

    “We drink all the time! What changes is where we drink. We drink at home more and go out less “, says Marcia Mogelonsky, senior analyst at Mintel International.

  • Skirt length theory or When times are good, women’s skirts get shorter; when times are bad, hemlines fall. The idea behind this theoretical trend is that people are carefree during booms and cautious during busts. Google trends again answers ‘No’ – as the search volume for ‘long skirt’ , ‘short skirt’ & ‘mini skirt’ bears no distinct seasonality pattern with recession .

Nothing cures the hangover from a failing banks bailout and rising unemployment rates like a shiny new lipstick.

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Bloggers – Friend or Foe?

November 13th, 2008 by

eMarketer estimates U.S. blog ad spending climbed from $283 million in 2007 to $411 million in 2008. eMarketer predicts that figure will hit $746 million by 2012.
3028347494 5385777839 o Bloggers   Friend or Foe?
We have reported this time & again that Internet users are highly involved in promoting brands & how impromptu blog marketing can create trouble for a brand. We also suggested how influencer’s marketing should work.

However when it comes to Generation X, the benefits of marketing through blogs may outweigh the risks.

What’s your take on this?

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Internet users are highly involved in brand promotion: evidence from McCann global research

October 7th, 2008 by

Universal McCann has just published an in-depth study, conducted on 17.000 active internet users in 29 countries. The research follows the different channels of influence, the “new” influencers, and the involvement of internet users in the process of brand’s promotion:

1. Many channels to influence through:

Among social network users:

  • 34% are sharing opinions on music.
  • 31% are writing a blog inside their profile (10% promoted a brand!).
  • 55% are sharing photos, 22% are uploading videos and 23% are uploading apps, all of which project opinions & endorse brands if included.
  • 32% bloggers have shared recommended websites, 29% reported their favourite music & 28% shared opinions on products & brands.

2. Friendship is no longer local or face to face: It’s becoming distant and virtualised.

  • Global adoption of various communication platform – Email (99%) , IM (81%) , Social Network (58%) , VOIP (51%).
  • Among the SN users 66% are using them to stay in contact with existing friends, 42% use them to meet new people & 18% for dating.
  • Blogs & SNs are now perceived as important platforms for socialising with friends , however the global impact is not geographically uniform. The Philippines, Mexico & India leads the way . 58% of South Korea web users and 66% in Italy see blogging as a platform for socialising compared to 26% in the UK & 24% in the US .
  • Globally we still maintain an average of 35 friendships face to face. However it is rapidly being equalled by email with an average of 32, social networks with 30 & IMs with 29.
  • Regional differences:
  • Brazil : 51 friendships via social networks.
    China : 51 friends on IM.
    India : 51 friends on Email.
    UK : Almost equal number of friends (30) in Social networks & face-to-face relationships.
    US : Email (21) vs. face-to-face relationships (20).
    Japan : Significantly smaller friend networks with email (8.5 friends) & social networks (7.4 friends) leading face to face (6.5 friends), but IM lags (2.9 friends).

3. Everybody is an influencer: The power to influence no longer belongs to the experts or “those in the know”. Many who do influence have no idea that they actually do have power and effect on others (see: Taggalaxy, (Flickr based tag visualization tool) & Brandtags – where consumers are actively involved in brand positioning).

  • Over 44% of users have shared an opinion about a product or service by IM with a friend in the last month & 42% by email.
  • More than 30% of people have commented on a product or service on a blog (29% recommended a product or brand on a blog in the past month).
  • Good personal experience with a brand is almost twice as effective as celebrity endorsement in spreading the word of mouth.

4. New “Super Influencers” rise above the mass: Not all consumer influencers are equal.

  • Regional: Brazil tops with highest group of “Super Influencers” (24%), followed by India (17%) & Mexico (15%). Surprisingly, US, UK & Australia have only 5% of their users falling into the Super Influencer category.
  • Super Influencers are much prone to create content via the tools of social media, particularly rich and involved formats like video and blogs.

You can download the report here [pdf]

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What makes Cuil to buzz? Case study for launching brands in a highly competitive environment

July 30th, 2008 by

 What makes Cuil to buzz? Case study for launching brands in a highly competitive environment
What stands behind Cuil buzz?

The answer is quite simple – can one ignore such provocative statements?
But what makes it so credible?

Is it the fact that someone “dares” to challenge Google with no fear? (a great tactic whether you have it or you don’t..)
Is it the fact that Cuil involves Googles’ former leading employees who are perceived credible enough to challenge Larry and Sergy. (Can they really?)
This or that, fact is so much has already been said, and still we all want to present our own opinion on the matter. Thats the real buzz source. We make it a buzz because its too strong to ignore.

Read Write Web points to the language Cuil uses to present their new product

” When you throw around terms like “pioneering”, “significant breakthroughs”, “ideal search engine”, “complete user privacy”, “next generation approach to search”, … well you better have a good product to back that up. “

Buzz Tracking post launch:
Search Trends:

Searching for Cuil – July 27:
Cuil gets to # 15 (Cuill)

Searching for Cuil – July 28:
Cuil gets to # 8 (cuil stock)

Searching for Cuil – July 29-30
Masked by the California earth-quake, Cuil does not make it to the top searches in Google.
At the same time, Cuil is is still starring at Yahoo Buzz..

Buzz in blogs:

One day only – to get to the peak (0.35% out of all blog citations), currently a steady drop down.

What will happen next?
My guess – the buzz will continue few days more over the blogs (until all web oriented bloggers will have their say on this issue: consider some gossip, tech reviewers, marketing opinions, and financial bloggers following Google stock).
The Buzz will slow down in few more days, probably until Cuil will try to throw another bomb (and i have a strong feeling they will).
For Cuil to attract early adopters – it will need a strong positive approach among professionals in search engines.
Following the Web Influencer reviews – its not.

In the battle between Google and Cuil – Cuil makes the right PR, but Google wins the first act!

anecdote:
no cuil search results for cuil in cuil..

(another lesson from changing the brand name (which was planned to be Cuill) prior to launch…)

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Coca Cola is trying to figure out how to launch products through blogs

July 8th, 2008 by

As can be learned from the recent Coca-Cola campaign on Portuguese blogs, Coca Cola’s current marketing strategy is as follows: Manipulate social media to work for you the same way classical media did in the old days. Create your campaign, send it to the media and pay for your advertising.

According to a recent TrendsSpotting research, Brands on UGC websites: The Coca-Cola case study, Coca-Cola, the world’s most successful offline brand has little online power and suffers from low presence on UGC sites.

Trying to work their way up on the social media ladder, Coca Cola cultivates a new breed of bloggers who believe that as long as they “follow” their inner truth – allowing brands to control their content is legit.

Although Coca Cola did succeed in bringing awareness to their new i9 product, the social media game is now much harder to play. Coca Cola cannot manipulate the blogsphere without being criticized and coined a ‘briber’.

Has Coca Cola anticipated that the greater buzz will come not from its new i9 features but from the fact that the company is well compensating bloggers?
Having said that, think it through-doesn’t bad reputation count?

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Where’s the Buzz: Coca Cola’s “Rent a Blog” Strategy

July 7th, 2008 by


2647783514 c94569879e Wheres the Buzz: Coca Colas Rent a Blog Strategy

Last Thursday (July 3rd), Coca Cola Brazil launched the drink i9 – Hidrotonico, the Brazilian version of Powerade. As a part of the i9 marketing strategy in blogs & social media, Coca Cola handpicked 9 prominent bloggers, custom made their homepage and gifted them a fancy USB mini fridge with the new product to be tested – a reason to blog about.

2647427412 72b5908630 Wheres the Buzz: Coca Colas Rent a Blog Strategy

As can be expected, Coca Cola’s message and marketing strategy surreptiously got spread , until the story was picked up by BlueBus. Making a mockery of Coca Cola’s strategy to buy bloggers, it introduced a new term to refer to the picked blogs :”blogs-de-aluguel” or “rent-a-blog“. Bloggers reacted to that with “I am not a rent-a-blog blogger” manifesto.

The Manifesto reads:

“A blog is a personal page, is a time logbook, is expression, is someone saying what they think/reckon/believe for those who want to read it. There aren’t bloggers’ union, wages, holidays, but we do lots of overtime. A blogger is not a journalist or an advertising agent: they can be everything and nothing, teenager or mother, hairdresser or CEO. Each one has the audience they deserve, the credibility they have conquered.”

Legitimizing ads through blogs they stated: “Advertisers are discovering how best to use this tool to reach niche …. Currently, the best alternative for brands come in blogs”.

Adding a pinch of salt to the Coke strategy to curb bloggers democracy, Cartoonist Andrew Dahmer published a satirical comic strip on false democracy.

2647783670 e43f00a2df Wheres the Buzz: Coca Colas Rent a Blog Strategy

The discussion was all over in blogs and tweets.

Coca Cola’s i9 marketing program may not be successful (or has it already created the i9 buzz?) – but it surely brought to some “street fights” on Portuguese blogs. We feel – this ethical issue will soon be discussed globally.

Worth spreading!

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Google ranks Number 1 in reputation: Why reputation matters?

June 27th, 2008 by

2616209157 ea7acb16f8 Google ranks Number 1 in reputation: Why reputation matters?

Harris Reputation Quotient (RQ) measures the reputations of the most visible companies in the U.S. The company reported few days ago its 2007-2008 research findings.

The top 10 companies in reputation scores were:

1. Google
2. Johnson & Johnson
3. Intel Corporation
4. General Mills
5. Kraft Foods
6. Berkshire-Hathaway Inc.
7. 3M Company
8.The Coca-Cola Company
9. Honda Motor Co.
10. Microsoft

Companies reaching highest in reputations score, by relevant category :

  • Social Responsibility – Whole Foods, Google, General Mills, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson
  • Emotional Appeal – Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, General Mills, Google, 3M Company
  • Financial Performance – Berkshire Hathaway, Google, Microsoft, Intel, Procter & Gamble
  • Products & Services– Johnson & Johnson, 3M Company, Intel, Google, P&G
  • Vision & Leadership – Berkshire Hathaway, Google, Microsoft, Intel, Apple
  • Workplace Environment – Google, Johnson & Johnson, General Mills, Intel, Kraft

Why should one care for reputation?

In this survey, a strong statistical correlation was found to exist between a company’s overall reputation and the likelihood that consumers will purchase, recommend or invest in a company or its products and services.

What does it take to get to the top?

The Google case study: Four years ago, the company was not included among the top 60 most visible companies on the list. But this year, Google rose to No. 1, beating last year’s RQ reputation leader, Microsoft. Google also beat this year’s second-runner-up, Johnson & Johnson, which was the top ranked company, until last year. According to Fronk from Harris Interactive:

“For Americans to hold a company in high regards today, clearly more than just profits are needed – companies need to focus on overall corporate social responsibility and how their employees are treated in order to build trust with today’s consumers.”

Methodology

2616209161 752196def9 Google ranks Number 1 in reputation: Why reputation matters?

Harris Reputation Quotient (RQ) measures the reputations of the most visible companies in the U.S. for nine consecutive years beginning in 1999. The annual study involves a two-step process which began with a “nominations phase” of telephone and online interviews with 7,105 people to identify the most “visible” reputations according to the general public.

The second part, or “ratings phase,” of the Annual RQ study is an in-depth assessment of the reputation of the most visible companies in the U.S. and included 20,477 online interviews. The RQ instrument rates a company’s reputation on 20 attributes (each measured on a 7-point scale) that fall into six key dimensions: Emotional Appeal, Products & Services, Social Responsibility, Vision & Leadership, Workplace Environment, and Financial Performance. In addition to the 20 attributes, the study includes a number of reputation-related questions that help provide a comprehensive understanding of public perceptions. The “nominations phase” of the 2007 RQ survey was conducted from July to August 2007, the “ratings phase” was conducted from February 7 to March 3, 2008.

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Amazon Kindle Buzz – Was that a Hype?

May 28th, 2008 by and

Amazon launched Kindle November 2007 following its predecessors much trodden path. It uses the Sprint EVDO network to read over 110K Books + Newspapers, magazines & blogs. Immediate to its release “Kindle” grabbed enormous attention in the blogosphere – which weaned in the subsequent weeks. Surprisingly, kindle was out of stock in only few days after its launch.

This May, Citigroup Analyst Mark Mahaney claimed they expect that Amazon would generate between $400 million and $750 million in revenue from the Kindle by 2010, or 1% – 3% of Amazon’s total revenue.Citigroup backs their predictions partly by reviewing the public data as provided on Amazon’s customer reviews.One can clearly throw doubts on the value of customer reports on Amazon, the exclusive retailer selling Kindle. So whats’ the truth about Kindle? If the blogosphere can reflect a success – and we believe that it most certainly does, one can observe the low vibes Kindle is generating since its launch.

To generate a better understanding on how kindle is being perceived by the public, and to unfold the mysterious kindle phenomena, we have presented this observed trend at forums dedicated to e-book readers and tech & gadgets hard core users. Note that our questions concerning Kindle were not focused on the products characteristics, rather we intentionally kept that open to free flowing discussions.

Once again we were overwhelmed by the amount of valuable information we received. Evaluating the responses, we wondered who are kindle’s true competitors: palm based PDF readers? Sony reader? Or is the iPhone crossing territories once again?

2530571667 c7693311c8 Amazon Kindle Buzz   Was that a Hype?

We have categorized the responses according to the core feedbacks

  • Visibility, Convenience and Design Factors
  • Technological Factors
  • General Feedbacks

A. Visibility, Convenience and Design: E-book experienced readers reported the convenience of reading books using palm size devices. Kindle with its large screen holds a distinct advantage. Most of the critiques we observed primarily wails on its poor design and Kindle as a single purpose single source device (versus the iPhone).

1. Screen Size – Visibility :

“The Sony Reader is much easier on the eyes if you’re going to do a lot of reading but can’t beat the convenience of something palm sized when you’re standing waiting for the train.”

” The screen [ iPhone ] is rather small for an ebook reader, however, I find it works great for me.”

“…the iPhone is a poor e-book reader because the screen is too small.”

2. Convenience on the go, multipurpose devices

“Before my iPhone, I used a PDA. I find the iPhone to be significantly better. I have not used or even considered any of the dedicated ebook readers such as Sony’s or Kindle simply because they are too big. If I wanted to carry something that big, I’d care the actual book”.

” A Sony or a Kindle being as big as the book, the advantage is that it is as big as one book, but can hold dozens. So if I am going to spend, say, 3 months in China I can take all of my books in the space needed by one book…OTOH, when spending 1/2 hour standing on a NY (or Beijing) subway the PDA or iPhone is much more convenient. “

” Today’s wired or is it wireless, world prefers the convenience of a single device containing all the technologies that users require in terms of social networking, business tools (outlook, excel et al) and entertainment. So, give me facebook mobile, my pictures, videos and cool im/text messaging on my iPhone and I’m golden “.

3. Design & Product Attractiveness:

” It just seems that the ‘promises’ of “ease of use”, space savings,e-book outlet etc are not enough to overcome it ‘s somewhat unattractive shape and the ‘love for the real thing’ (i.e. book) that people have…”

” poor product design “

” problems with the design of the Kindle hardware “

” (1) accessing menu items & turning pages is a bit slower than on the Palm TX I was used to, (2) difficult to read in dim light so like a real book, (3) the cover is poorly designed in that it presses the scroll wheel when closed “

B. Technological Factors :

Going by 2007 most popular e-book format PDF is the most downloaded E book format. Kindle currently does not support PDF nor can their conversion service change it to a compatible format.

“It’s lacking some key features that are preventing me from purchasing one, namely the ability to natively import and display PDFs as well as potential DRM challenges”.

“The strength of the Kindle is its e-paper technology (granted, not unique to the and the free & widespread wireless access”.

“Since all of the Kindle ebooks you purchase from Amazon are in their proprietary DRM format , you are not able to share them with friends, there is no way to move them to another device or a computer. You are locked into the Kindle and you are locked into Amazon.”

“It’s weakness is DRM, DRM, DRM.”

“Kindle is a rather static device as opposed to the iPhone which is hacked a new way every month.”

C. General Feedbacks:

“inadequate vision, poor product design and lack of adequate marketing strategy led to the creation of a mediocre unsuccessful product.”

“Kindle is a neat device. Everybody likes it but nobody needs it. And nobody buys it. Kindle’s doesn’t address any need that paperback and hardback books don’t already address perfectly well. And books don’t require a reader device that costs a lot of money, eats batteries, and will be discontinued some day, rendering your entire library obsolete….Good idea .. just a little too late in my opinion”.

Evaluating by the responses, it emerges that Kindle could not get associated into an iPod / iPhone- like emotional bonding with its potential users. Even among the existing users – we found constrained reactions. The fact that the overall discussions were focused on technological features and design critiques, hardly on the fun and experience can teach us that Amazon will have to work hard to raise the excitement it needed as part of the brands promise.

Kindle 2: What’s next for Kindle?

While skepticism was heard right from the start concerning the potential of a new e-book reader to exit its small niche. Kindle has enjoyed the power of the press, following what “the One to already build a better bookstore” has to offer. Acknowledging Amazon’s ability to embrace the brand, we feel that the Kindle has much more to offer. Kindle 2, may improve not only by design but also by embracing more openness, by its ability to support multiple formats (pdf), and by providing multiple reasons to its users to carry the device around (Nokia?).

To match up to Citygroup prediction – Kindle has miles to go!!

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Research 2.0: free association brand tags experiment

May 17th, 2008 by

 Research 2.0: free association brand tags experiment

I’m always excited to find new concepts for research 2.0 tools. As a market researcher I’m in constant search for ways to follow internet users attitudes and perceptions in natural surroundings. As you well know, Google Trends/ Yahoo Buzz (search trends), Blog Pulse / IceRocket (blog citation trends) Omgili (forum citation trends) are frequent visitors in TrendsSpotting. Moreover, TrendsSpotting has been collecting consumers’ attitudes via forums and Q&A websites.

Tagging as a research tool:
At TrendsSpotting, we have been using tags to follow trends on the social media: We have been predicting future trends through tagging the predictions suggested by web / tech and marketing influencers, and displayed common trends by using cloud tags. We’ve been following top websites to use tags in order to understand the interests of web users.

Having that said, you will probably understand my excitement over Noah Brier’s (one of the leading advertising focused bloggers) experiment with brand tags.
Noah Brier describes the idea behind Brand Tags: “If brands exist as the sum of all thoughts in someone’s head, then if you ask a bunch of people what a brand is and make a tag cloud, you should have a pretty accurate look at what the brand represents”.

What Noah Brier actually accomplished from a market research perspective is to provide the Top of Mind / Front-of-Mind
free association test, regularly used to understand the brand’s hard core values. Using brands’ corporate logos, Noah is now collecting free spontaneous tags associated to few hundreds top global brands.

What do you think about it?

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