My firm, Nielsen BuzzMetrics, recently launched a new tool called the Brand Association Map (BAM). The tool essentially takes vast quantities of CGM (up to millions of comments) and, through the use of advanced text mining algorithms, organizes it around an anchor theme, topic, or issue on a circular map. In many respects, the map helps uncover key truths about what I call "Brand DNA." How do consumers really talk about brand, and what specific associations do they make in relation to the topic at hand? Recently, my team decided to put all the relevant CGM related to American Idol Sanjaya Malakar contestant into a BAM map, and we discovered a few interesting thing.
- Sanjaya Malakar, one of the last remaining contestants, has few positive attributes as reflected on the BAM map
- Howard Stern and Vote for the Worst, are closely associated to Sanjaya as American Idol, suggesting the two campaigns are supporting Sanjaya's notoriety
- Many bloggers agree that Sanjaya lacks talent and does not belong among the top contestants. Many fans think Sanjaya is making a "mockery" of the contest and believe it would be downright "wrong" if he won
Is this fair? Better yet, is it accurate? More importantly, what is truth? In the case of Sanjaya, something very strange is going on. The BAM map suggests there is unmistakable skepticism about the talent, but a marketing campaign by a "key influencer" (Howard Stern) is urging that he be kept on the show....no matter what. The tell tale sign here is the close approximation of the term "Howard Stern" to Sanjaya. This doesn't entirely solve the riddle of Sanjaya's popularity, but it does provide a few good hints, or at least force a few new questions. Looking beyond this particular issue, brands constantly need to take a close look at the "DNA" that surrounds their identity. Key associations might reveal, for example, that competitive brands you considered on par with your brands are nowhere to be seen on the BAM map. Or you may find that despite all your good PR efforts, consumers can't stop talking about "poor employee conditions" when talking about your brand? Such is the power of CGM.