Social Signal Informing Traditional Research And Brand At WPP’s Millward Brown

Millward BrownResearch agency Millward Brown (part of WPP Group) and Kantar Media Cymfony announced yesterday what it calls “a new suite of online listening solutions merging Kantar Media Cymfony’s analysis of social media and online discussion with Millward Brown’s brand and communications research.” Read the release.

Ann Green, Partner, Client Solutions at Millward Brown discussed the new product and why brand marketers should care. Why is there a need for online listening solutions?

AB: I think clients are understandably enamored with social media monitoring tools, because they provide the organic voice of the consumer. What has been lacking or needed is context for this information. In other words, how do I use this information to build strong and healthy brands and manage my communications? The way in which we can do this is to come up with best practice integration of social media monitoring alongside traditional research.

What are some of the important metrics that get tracked with this solution?

I think what you can find out is it provides a lot more texture. So let’s say that the image of my brand is declining. Sometimes from a tracking study, it can be difficult to diagnose why that decline is occurring. What social media allows us to do is to listen to consumers at that point in time and in an organic fashion and help us to diagnose – based upon their own words – why imagery might be on the decline.

What types of actionable insights might be pulled from this solution? Any use case you can share?

There are a few ways in which social media can be brought together with traditional research. The key thing that I would emphasize is the integration of the solution.

What social media can do is, for example – alongside a tracker –  it can flag an emerging trend. It can flag a change in the competitive context. It can flag a change in how people are talking about brands or the category that can then be built into a tracker.

So if you think about a survey instrument, namely a tracker, which is fairly fixed in nature, it helps you to make that survey a bit more dynamic, respond quickly to changes in the marketplace, and be able to quantify them and quantitatively measure them.

The other way to think about it is similar to the example I gave you before.  Sometimes in traditional research you find that there are patterns in the data that are difficult to diagnose. So often social media can be used after the fact to diagnose the pattern and help to course correct or enhance what is going on with the business.

Who on the client-side is this solution for?

It is a solution for the traditional brand marketer. So this is not about TV. It is about brand management and truly understanding what is going on behind the scenes of your brand.

What do you see as next steps to a solution like this?

Well, I think right now the bigger picture is around connecting the dots. Here we have a specific solution that is designed to take social media and news monitoring and combine it with traditional research. But where the research and consulting space is going is towards holistic data integration and actionable stories.

And how do you think that might play out at Millward Brown? Is that going to mean that you’re going to have more technology in-house, for example?

I think there are three primary areas that have to be considered for a business to evolve in that fashion.

  1. Technology – There is a vast amount of data out there. How do I manage data and make it easily accessible?
  2. Analytics – How can I empirically connect the dots?
  3. Storytelling – How can I tell actionable stories that drive businesses so I focus less on the individual data streams and more on the implications in driving businesses forward?

Is real‑time important element in this solution or even in the broader research solution today?

I think real‑time is important in that it provides you with a means to address arising problems, concerns, trends, as they occur. What we have to be very careful of with real‑time data is it can force us to think in more tactical terms as opposed to strategic terms.

So it is very useful, for example, if you launch a new product and you find that people don’t like this specific feature. So I launch a camera and they’re finding that the shutter speed isn’t fast enough. Well, I can take that very quickly back to my product development people and say, “You know what, we need to fix the shutter speed.” That’s a great way to use it.

Now it doesn’t mean to say though that I, as camera manufacturer, should walk away from my broader strategic vision. It simply says I have something very specific that I need to fix. And so both are incredibly relevant.

So brand can use real‑time maybe in part, but there is a broader timeline that really needs to be considered to understand brand?

Yes and to drive strategy.

Is there a particular timeline you recommend? Or is it just different for every brand?

I would not say that there is a specific model. It very much has to focus on the nature of a brand, the nature of a category, how fast‑moving or dynamic that category might be.

For example, if a competitor comes into the marketplace, I am going to very quickly want to understand what that competitor is doing to my brand. On the flipside, I want to make sure that I am understanding my vision, setting it and course correcting it on a regular basis, but in a very informed basis. That may be three months, six months, a year. It will vary a great deal.

By John Ebbert

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