The first 459 times I suffered through product demos and webinars for market research and social media measurement solutions the companies all wound up with the same promise: We’ll give you a 50+ page PowerPoint deck each quarter that has 150 full-color charts and graphs you don’t understand or care about with a cover page of “actionable insights” that we spend about an hour coming up with all for the low, low price of $150,000 per year. Ever since, I’ve been in search of something that A) Produces more meaningful information and B) Is priced somewhere other than the “are you effin’ kidding me” range.

I think I found it.

ConsumerBase, a new, limited offering from NetBase, takes that company’s six-year track record of experience in linguistic analysis of scientific documents for the research and development segment of large corporations, combines it with the input of an advisory council that includes market research leads from five of the top 10 consumer product goods companies in the world, and turns it into a do-it-yourself market research engine.

Let me sum this up for you. If I were a brand manager for, say, Wii, I would want to know things like, what do people like and dislike about my brand. With ConsumerBase, I log in, put the word “Wii” into their search and in a matter of seconds (not three months and focus groups and survey analysis later), I get this:

ConsumerBase Screen Shot - Wii

Click for larger version

All of a sudden, I see people like that my product helps people get into shape, improves their balance and helps people recovering from traumatic brain injury? Holy crap! I didn’t know that before. I can also see that they don’t like it because they might sustain injuries from it and … oh my goodness … the Wii has some connection to persistent sexual arousal syndrome and sex addiction? Uh … can someone please explain that? (Wait, I can click through and see what the posts are. I don’t have to call the research firm and wait six weeks for them to go back and read something.)

When I saw ConsumerBase in action last Thursday, I was immediately blown away, but also skeptical. So, instead of CEO Jonathan Spier using his pre-programmed Wii profile, I asked him to enter my preferred search term into the tool. He obliged and did a scan of Kentucky Fried Chicken. This came back:

Consumer Base - KFC Screen Grab

Click for larger version

Again, without training the search term or algorithm, ConsumerBase told me, in a matter of seconds, people dig the fact KFC offered a rain check to Oprah fans who weren’t able to get grilled chicken dinners before the stores ran out, but that there are people out there who think the restaurant’s chickens are horrible mutant freaks. Everybody’s got an opinion, I guess.

The point is that without a lengthy set-up process, the ConsumerBase tool turned around information a brand manager can use right now to make decisions. And it’s much more than just likes and dislikes. This view shows a filter by emotions and behavior for Wal-Mart. Lots of people express love, like, need and prefer, but more express hate, dislike, detest and even loathe. Click on the word and you drill down to the references. More importantly, you can find out that people depend on or stay away from your brand and instantly click to see why.

ConsumerBase Wal-Mart

Click for larger version

To use a different example, here’s a view of a search for Prius. The only reason I really wanted to show it is for the headline of the second post in the listing of “Sound Bytes.” (Sorry. Just thought it was funny.)

ConsumerBase  Prius Screen Grab

Click for larger version

But let’s say you want to know what percentage of people like your brand and for what reasons. Jump over to the Insights and Themes analysis reports and you can see that, for Listerine, 51 percent of the online conversations around it (38,097 of them) show that people like the mouthwash because it kills germs. But 28 percent of people dig it because it kills toenail fungus. WHAT? And it’s apparently got some traction as a mosquito repellent.

ConsumerBase Listerine

Click for larger version

Frankly, I’d be some women would say it’s a female repellant, too, but that’s not based on research … per se.

Not convinced? Filter the reports by preference and see that for the iPad, of people who prefer some other type of computing device, 28 percent would rather have a Kindle, 25 percent an iPhone, 23 percent a laptop and 16 percent a “netbook.”

ConsumerBase - iPad

Click for larger version

You can also see what you are preferred to.

The big selling point here is that all this data is organized and easy to find in a matter of seconds after your search. Yes, it is prepared using automated scoring and computer analysis of human language, which I’ve complained about before. But Spier’s claims that six year of analyzing scientific research and development topics, academic and corporate reports and documents and so on have helped his team develop a more sophisticated, semantically driven and advanced analysis mechanism. They claim to have colloquialisms, slang, abbreviated spellings and misspellings down to a science. While I’m not skilled enough at analyzing computer code or applications to be able to assess the validity of the claims, when I saw the tool in action, I was convinced he was right.

And then there’s the kicker: Price.

A seat license is $250 per month and a five-pack of keywords costs $1,000 per month. The entry point for this tool, which is by far the most useful web-based market research tool I’ve seen to date, is just $1,250 per month. Keep in mind that one keyword is your brand, a single competitor is another, etc. But to monitor one brand, three competitors and a general one for your industry, you don’t have to break the bank.

Some observations:

  • ConsumerBase is being offered as a “limited release.” To my knowledge, this means that the full scale of its functionality is not quite yet available to everyone, but what I described above is in the current offering, so it’s solid. The five consumer product goods companies that are using it are probably getting the full Alpha or Beta version of the software. If you sign up, you’re getting a good tool, but it will probably get a lot better soon.
  • Because ConsumerBase was built with direct input and feedback from market research professionals at CPG companies, it gives brand managers, market researchers, R&D groups and the like more of what they need out of market intelligence than companies who built tools assuming they know what marketers want. This means the aforementioned people are going to like it better, the reports are more meaningful and the usefulness of the data is more apparent
  • While the tool is the closest thing you can get to easy-to-navigate and understand, full-scale market research in real time I’ve seen, you shouldn’t replace true, in-depth market research with it. But perhaps you can adjust the types of questions and information you search for in your annual research because this tool can answer a lot of the top-level questions you need answers to
  • The less unique your company or brand name, the more time you will need to set up your searches. A search for “Bloomberg” is going to return information about the news organization, the Mayor of New York and so on. So if you share a name, spelling, etc., you’ll need some front-end time setting it up like any monitoring solution, but ConsumerBase is as easy to set up as any I’ve seen.
  • When you talk to Consumer Base about their solution, they’re going to throw out a term called “Netnography.” I’m sure that will impress some people, but it’s just a scientific-sounding way to say, “we watch what consumers do online and report back.” It’s like online ethnography … they follow you around, watch you drink out of the milk carton, scratch your butt and so-on, then say, “This person is not a germaphobe.” It’s useful information, regardless of what they name the process.
  • ConsumerBase is not meant to be used as a social media monitoring solution. It’s not a “find conversations now and interact with people in the tool” answer like a Radian6, Scout Labs, Sysomos or Alterian. For the on-the-ground monitoring and interaction, you’ll need a monitoring solution and process in addition to this.
  • At some point, the pricing is going to have to change. This tool is far too valuable to stay that cheap. Spier and CMO Lisa Rosner even admitted as much and said the focus right now is to get people to use it, see what kind of value it can deliver and make the tool better. Expect some price adjustments down the road, but know that if it smells like a bait and switch, at least they’re being open with the premise that they may adjust prices down the road. Get in now and you might benefit from being an early adopter.

Give ConsumerBase a look-see. If you’re a medium-to-large marketer, market researcher or someone who needs good insights from your audiences regularly, this tool takes those expensive, quarterly reports and makes them cheaper with real-time access.

And for those of you out there at social media measurement/monitoring or market research firms, or those of you who always place a skeptical eye on overwhelmingly positive reviews, I’m anxious for your feedback. But just know that I was skeptical too, until I saw the tool in action. It’s solid.

The comments are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

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  • Jonny

    Ugh, yet another marketing dashboard. They sell, for sure, but they don't tell you the relationship between your voice on internet and actual buying habits. What people are saying on twitter or on the web, for example, may not be a good indicator of what you're trying to do with a brand like Tide or something like that. I still don't see any significant value in these tools, especially not the ones that are in the “are you f'ing kidding me range,” but I'd rather pay less for something that doesn't help than more. But I'd prefer not to pay at all.

    • MAD

      Jonny…I am a long time customer of Netbase and while I hear there is an overload of tools out in the world, I have to say from a standpoint of tools that help drive your ability to get information differently, this one delivers. I speak from a long track record of experience using web-based consumer insight development working with netbase's technology. This type of data collection is unique because it can help you find information you either don't have time to get or don't have the resource to buy. In fact, I have used this type of tool to help better understand the nuances of consumer thought that is difficult if not impossible to find with standard market research. What is great about consumerbase is that it is just launching and it seems to be hitting home. Imagine of what will happen when it gets more functionality and more feedback from their partners…This will take the game to the next level.

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  • http://impulsemagazine.net Impulse Magazine

    Even though it will be much faster than it was before, will it still be as accurate

  • robert cardarelli

    i am a subscriber and think this is an excellent tool … way beyond the standard social monitoring applications. at the brand level, it helped me understand:

    what is the competitive landscape
    how to tailor existing advertising communications
    barriers to brand adoption (new product line)

    i personally believe the accuracy of the language processing for this service is superior to most i have used. very accurate. also believe it is a good complement to traditional qual research

    • http://www.netbase.com Michael Osofsky

      Hi Robert,

      Thanks for the comment! I'm from NetBase and am thrilled to hear about the value you've gotten from ConsumerBase. Could you share how you use it for competitive landscape assessment? I've heard some users search on competing brands, but have you found another way to do it? I'm always interested in creative ways users are applying the tool. We know the technology but you, our prized early adopters, are the experts in the application of the tool.

      Best regards,

      Michael

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  • http://www.smithgeiger.com David Gehring

    I'm with a research firm that has partnered with NetBase, and have also looked at too many tools out there to mention in trying to find something that would help us tune our survey questions for better quant research…we couldn't be more excited about the role NetBase will play in our efforts going forward. It's really a break through in both natural language processing and leveraging the social net for consumer insights!

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  • http://startups.com/ M_Dilli

    I totally agree with @robert cardarelli, as a matter of fact, I have never tried this specific tool before but after reading this article it makes me want to try it for my own business purposes asap. Now, my question is, how useful can this specific tool be for small businesses?
    thanks for sharing

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      That's a great question. Hopefully, the Consumer Base folks can address
      that. I'd caution that the smaller the business, the less conversation there
      really is out there, but if you pull back and look at the query from an
      industry standpoint, then you can still gain a good amount of intelligence
      that can help you.

      The only real way to answer the small business question is to try it.
      Perhaps Consumer Base can offer a limited trial or something to help? (Just
      a suggestion for them to consider.)

      If you do get in and try it, please come back to report. We'd love to hear
      how it works for the smaller brands.

    • Bill in NYC

      If you'd like more detailed info, please reach out to NetBase's website and someone will get back to you quickly. (http://www.netbase.com/company/contact_us.php)

    • Mark Hamilton

      If you care to see a demo of the tool, I can run you through it in about 45-minutes. Maybe that will give you a better idea of how it can fit into your business. Just shoot me an email and let me know what works best for you.

      Mark – mhamilton@netbase.com

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  • Elicia Newcom Gregory

    Jason, thanks for this great overview. I am going to contact Mark at Netbase for a demo, as I can see this meeting a need for some of my clients right now who have yet to venture into the realm of traditional market research due to budget constraints. I will be interested to learn whether you can initially sign up for one month just to get some fundamental learnings, then maybe start and stop as needed. I will report back on our experience if we get any takers.

  • cherryjones

    Thank you for bringing a well thought out and reasoned comment to the discussion.

    Tinting

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    Great overview Jason. This tool is absolutely incredible. I'll surely give a try.

    Thanks for this useful info!

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  • Anonymous

     To continue with the “Survey/Market
    Research” theme: (Nice blog spot here by the way)

    Honestly, every post that you see on the web
    describes the next BIG methodology when it comes to B2B Market Research/B2B/B2C
    Surveys. At my company Partner Source, which is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota,
    we approach the B2B Market Research/B2B/B2C Surveys subject with science, as it
    is our business. We have taken over 20 years of B2B Market Research/B2B/B2C
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    Here is what we offer, what do you think about
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    Telephone surveys from Partner Source can help
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    Who has Partner Source provided this service for?

    We have successfully created and delivered survey
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    Telephone Research Surveys – An Important
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    Savvy researchers understand telephone surveys
    still play an important role in market research, despite the growing popularity
    of online surveys.
    Telephone research surveys can be the ideal
    methodology for organizations that need to gather detailed data from
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    Sample at a local market level
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    Control the sequence in which survey questions are
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    Gather data on more sensitive topics by
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    Ask follow-up questions.

    Design, Administration and Analysis of Telephone
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    At Partner Source, our goal is to equip your
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    Design – Partner Source’s experienced researchers
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    Our Team: The entire call team for these projects
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    Partner Source (B2B Surveys & B2C Surveys
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    Minneapolis, Minnesota
    http://www.thepartnersource.com