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FutureNow Post
Thursday, Jul. 3, 2008 at 6:53 am

New Customer Insight Using Oldest Form of Communication

By Holly Buchanan
July 3rd, 2008

What’s hot and exciting in customer research? A neurological breakthrough? A fancy new psychological tool? Nope – Analyzing text. That’s right – analyzing what people say.

A recent Advertising Age article, What All That Chatter Is Really Saying, talks about how text analytics can turn customer feedback into more meaningful insight.

Today it is marketers who are increasingly turning to text analytics to mine information from the mountains of customer data they’ve accrued from customer-service surveys, e-mails, online forums, hosted feedback sites and user-generated blogs.

“You can have someone read through 100 comments, and they will likely overstate the importance of some concepts, understate the importance of some concepts and totally miss other things,” said Tom H.C. Anderson, managing partner, Anderson Analytics. “For instance, if one person in 100 mentioned something, it would be missed. But if in 100,000 responses, 1% of people say the same thing, it could be noticed as important, like a new trend that’s developing or something wrong with a product that’s just starting to surface.”

So what are these companies learning? Unilever’s Dove brand is using text analytics to gain insight into who their customers are and what really matters to them.

In recent work for Unilever’s Dove brand and its Pro-Age marketing campaign, Anderson went digging for consumer insight on Dove’s own message boards, coding the text content against 43 different psychological attributes. Anderson found the vast majority of women who posted comments appreciated the realness of using older nude models. But they also discovered other common sentiments. For instance, most women over 50 strongly dislike the concept of “perfection” in beauty images. They also often talked about their mothers, grandmothers and daughters with concern about their portrayal in media. In fact, two in 10 women expressed real anger at how other advertisers portray women.

“Text analytics is a new methodology for us, and we were very pleased with the results and the depth of insight,” said Catherine Cardoso, associate insights manager at Unilever, in a statement. “The results were helpful beyond understanding reactions to our campaign. We also gained an understanding of what motivates people on discussion boards, which issues are most important to women in our target group, and how to create better products and messaging for them.”

Interesting stuff. At FutureNow, an important part of our persona development work is assigning value words to each persona – these are words personas may be typing into search engines, may use to describe their problems or the solution they are seeking, or may be words that appeal to their buying modality.

How do we determine these value words? One of our secrets is mining the text of customer correspondence, blogs, and live chat logs.

What are you doing to use your customers’ words to better understand who they truly are and what they truly want?

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Comments (4)

  1. Sure it’s their nickel, but they’re so screwed up you pretty much always have the upper hand. You can keep the high res or good versions in house, so they always have to beg you (and you can bill them upcharges, while doing a bit of sucking up and pretending you’re doing them a favor by giving them what they already own – beautiful, huh?).

  2. Sounds to me like actually LISTENING to the customer to find out what they want is always a good idea. Coming up with some kind of computer program to sort through it all, I’m not convinced. You need to read “between the lines” too.


  3. Jerry,

    I agree. Listening is crucial. There is nothing that can replace hearing from customers in their own words, whether it’s in person or in their written communicaiton.

    Part of the problem is, what customers say and how they behave doesn’t always match. If you look at enough correspondence, or interview enough customers, you can start to see trends. But the best information you can gather is on how customers actually behave.

    That’s why the Internet is so fascinating – you can actually measure customer behavior. Take the insight you gained from “listening” and plan experiences, then see if your customers respond to that experience. Cool stuff.

  4. @ Jerry

    Yes, listening is the #1 skill that many people and companies fall short on. I 100% agree with you.

    Another one is ASKING. Most satisfied customers won’t say a thing unless they are asked. So asking a customer how they felt about your product or service is the key ingredient to getting a response that we can Listen to. =)

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Holly Buchanan is a marketing to women consultant specializing in marketing to women online. You can read her blog at She is the co-author, along with Michele Miller of The Soccer Mom Myth - Today's Female Consumer - Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.

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