I’ve been reading a lot about trend identification and real-time marketing lately. I wanted to put the subject into some context. For the last year, I have been working with a new start-up, Blab, which is based on the idea that trends are what get people’s attention, that their attention is very short lived and that understanding trends is only valuable for marketers if they can act in real-time and leverage people’s interest in a particular trend.
Historically, in marketing, trend identification was the prevue of market research companies and typically involved a combination of quantitative (surveys, data mining and modeling) and qualitative research (focus groups and observation). The trends that were identified tended to be macro in nature and were described as the shift in ideas and conduct over time, most commonly measured in years.
The output of these processes were delivered to creative groups and agencies and used to create the “big idea” upon which a marketing campaign was created. They were designed to trigger emotional engagement, leaving a consumer with positive brand association. Validation came in the form of public acceptance, measured again through quantitative and qualitative metrics. Impact was independently measured, typically as a product of reach (the number of people exposed to the “big idea”) and frequency (the number of times an individual was exposed to the “big idea”.)
This methodology has been pervasive over the last half century and continues to be used by most consumer brands in conjunction with the creation and distribution of marketing messages across traditional marketing channels (Broadcast, Cable, Print, Out-of-home…).
Direct marketing provided marketers with access to specific and detailed data relating to who viewed a message and what action they took after consuming the message and outcome. This data driven approach has been applied to email, search, display, web and other digital channels. It has also allowed marketers to improve their ability to identify trends through data mining and modeling techniques, resulting in behavioral analysis leading to predictive analytics, which is intended to give guidance to a company as to when, where and how a consumer will be more receptive to their product/service offering. Like brand marketing, the insights delivered through this type of research are typically delivered to a creative group or agency and used to create a series of campaigns, targeted to like sets of audiences and addressed to identified individuals. Validation is measured by actual response behavior.
More recently, with the advent of social networking and the near ubiquity of Internet access, trend identification and validation has taken on a new meaning. Trends proliferate virally in a matter of minutes and hours rather than months and years. It is possible to spread a message via Twitter or Facebook to 500 people who each forward to another 500 almost instantaneously, reaching 500² or 250,000 people who by their voluntary social association share interests, attitudes and behaviors.
In this context, my company, Blab, has authored a specific and unique methodology and associated algorithms for identifying and validating these volatile and transitory trends in real-time, providing marketers with insight into the pulse of the culture at any given point and the resulting ability to contextualize their content to align with the appropriate topical trends.
Over the next few weeks, I will dig deeper into our ideas around how to identify trends, categorize them and then use that information to inform contextual content creation and publication.