NetBase Makes Market Research Faster, Cheaper

by Jason Falls |

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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.

About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls 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 Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).