More and more researchers are waking up to the reality that mining the growing volume of conversations on blogs, message boards and social networking sites (i. e., "listening" to consumers) can provide timely, penetrating insights on a wide range of issues and brands.
A series of parallel studies we conducted with Procter & Gamble demonstrates that both surveys and listening are often required to tell the whole story. We looked at a number of brands and products: everything from orange juice, to razor blades, to the infomercial hit, the Snuggie.
While surveys provide a sense of size or magnitude but are not ideal for capturing passion or intensity. That's where listening comes in. Both magnitude and intensity are essential to capturing the "energy" associated with consumer beliefs. Perhaps the most significant finding of our investigations is that when it comes to deciding the best course of action to pursue in the marketplace, understanding intensity can be just as important as understanding magnitude.
One real-world case in which "listening" to consumers informed a course correction for Tropicana, was when they redesigned their Pure Premium packaging. After tracking intense commentary on the web, the brand went back to its original iconic look.
"What we didn't get was the passion this very loyal small group of consumer have," noted Neil Campbell, President, Tropicana North America. "That was something that came out in the research."
Another brand that employed listening was Snuggie, the blanket/robe hybrid that became a viral web sensation, spawning tributes, You Tube parodies, and enough buzz to land it on the "Today Show." "We were definitely in on the joke," noted Scott Boilen, CEO of AllStar Marketing, the firm behind the ads. "Do we expect a family to wear these to a football game? No."
Tracking Snuggie conversations online and employing Nielsen Online's Brand Association Map (BAM), the results show responses and associations with the brand that are more "right brain," allowing for more emotional, immediate and contextual understanding when compared with the survey responses.