Text Mining Provides Marketers With the 'Why' Behind Demand

Direct Shops Sift Through Social-Media Conversations to Explain Consumer Behavior Regarding Brands

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Stephanie Hoppe, 7-Eleven's senior director-marketing, knew there was an incredibly competitive market for iced coffee. But before entering the battle by expanding its own product across its network of stores this past June, Ms. Hoppe and 7-Eleven needed to figure out the why that was driving consumer demand.

Stephanie Hoppe, senior director-marketing, 7-Eleven
Stephanie Hoppe, senior director-marketing, 7-Eleven
Enter text mining, a process in which an agency can mine the conversations taking place on blogs, Twitter or other social-media sites in order to identify the emotional aspects and reasons behind consumer behavior. Typical database information supplies marketers with the who, what, where, when and even the how, but not the why.

Using a tool called Digital Anthropology from Omnicom Group agency Rapp, Ms. Hoppe got a deep-dive analysis of what consumers were saying about why they drink iced coffee, what flavors they prefer, what presence its competitors had in the social space and what people were saying about their offerings.

"It's not in a focus-group setting so we were getting explicit and authentic data," Ms. Hoppe said. "It helped us create an effective campaign that was a little out of the norm for us in that it was sassy."

Megan Bannon, cultural anthropologist at Rapp, said text mining can't replace traditional data, but the combination of the quantitative and qualitative data they both offer creates a more holistic view of the consumer. In most cases there is no name connected to the data compiled from text mining or text analytics but that may soon change. "It's moving to the point where maybe we start collecting Twitter handles or user names on these sites and matching the exact CRM data to what this person is saying online," Ms. Bannon said.

'Delving into the conversation'
Text mining has shown her that people will discuss anything online. Before recently using the tool for a company pushing a "very intimate sexual product" Ms. Bannon said she wasn't sure she would find talk about it because of its personal nature. "You wouldn't believe the details and conversations," she said. "People were giving intimate details not realizing marketers are looking at it. They don't know that marketers are pulling back these key words and delving into the conversation."

WPP's Wunderman has its own text-mining tool called the Listening Platform, which it has used for a number of clients including Microsoft. Slavi Samardzija, senior VP-insights and optimization at Wunderman, said the agency has used it for research, identifying influencers, acquisition, micromessaging, microtargeting for CRM, structuring ad programs and product innovations as well as locating barriers to purchase. Wunderman clients using the Listening Platform get weekly reports highlighting key changes in language that are customized for the business groups most affected.

"We might find there's a quality-control issue, so the report will be distributed to the product development team or the quality team," he said.

Wunderman recently used it for a consumer electronics company that had issues launching a new product. Through mining online conversations the agency found "a key insight" and identified the barrier to adoption. "Consumers did not understand the benefits of the product and that inhibited purchase," Mr. Samardzija said. "We created messaging and execution designed to address this key dynamic."

Sid Banerjee, CEO of the 5-year-old Clarabridge, a customer experience management firm, said text analytics is starting to replace the focus group because it's cheaper and faster. Clarabridge collects data from three sources: survey responses, customer/representative interactions and social-media sites.

Mr. Banerjee said these data are significant in a recession because it helps you make sure you are cutting the right marketing dollars. "Being able to micromarket when you're marketing is important but being able to microcut is also important," he said. "You want to take a scalpel to your business, not an ax."

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