Trending Brands In The World's Biggest Focus Group

Jen Handley was the media director of Indianapolis-based Bradley and Montgomery when it produced a video for a Microsoft developers' conference in the summer of 2009. The video generated it a lot of likes and follows on Twitter, which was itself just beginning to be a trending topic in marketing circles. So Handley called the social media agency for the account and asked, “Hey, what does this all mean? Who’s talking, what are they saying -- and just how big is this?”

Let’s just say that the response indicated that there was a gaping hole in the market for a social media research firm that could deliver such answers. Before the year was out, she and BaM colleague Ben Carlson had developed technology to sort through the millions of opinions being bandied about on social media and weave a collective narrative about what it meant.

As co-creators and co-presidents of Fizziology, which also has its headquarters in Indianapolis, they first focused on the movie industry. It was a great way not only to test their hypothesis that social media is “the world’s biggest, fastest, most honest focus group,” but also to insure their technology “reflected what was truly happening in the real world,” Handley recalls. Everyone talks about movies, after all, and there’s a new product every week. So Fizziology set out to see if it could correlate social media buzz to box office opening receipts.

Evidently, the results met expectations. Fizziology now works on about 85% of the films released each year, delivering both quantitative and qualitative results to Hollywood studios. It has branched out into television, talent -- and, most recently, consumer products.

Fizziology also publishes a subscription-based, twice-a-month report of macrotrends that, Handley says, “was flagging Pokemon Go as a megatrend that was going to take over the world” about six months before the rest of us caught on.

We’ve asked her to divulge something just as prescient for inclusion in our upcoming year-end predictions round-up.

In the meantime, here are five brands demonstrating increased online engagement over their competitors, who should be ringing up sales big-time in the coming months.

Dollar Shave Club
The male-focused razor delivery service, which was recently purchased by Unilever, is seeing more than a quarter (26%) of its conversation stemming from a female audiences. Of those organically discussing the brand on social, 93% talk positively about the brand. Beyond the data, however, is what women are saying and doing: Many indicate that they started out buying the razors and blades for their significant others and found they were just as good (and cheap) for shaving legs. Women are also sending referral codes to their friends. “They certainly have an untapped market there,” Handley concludes.

LootCrate stands well above the competition in the subscription box category, which has been expanding into niches such as gluten-free and fitness-centric. The geek/gamer-geared box is averaging well over 1,000 Twitter mentions per day, with users also going online to watch others unbox their LootCrates. The brand has more than 2.5 million Facebook fans and its own Reddit channel, where users discuss each box's content. “With 2017 dropping blockbusters such as ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2,’ ‘War for Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Star Wars: Episode VIII,’ there’s plenty of exciting and exclusive content to fill the next year’s crates,” according to Fizziology.

Riding a craze driven by the likes of LeBron James and Steph Curry, socks are not only cool to wear but also to give as a holiday present. Stance also has collaborated with entertainers like Gucci Mane, Rhianna and Willow Smith, as well as with Disney and “Star Wars.” “With nearly 1,000,000 Instagram followers, Stance has created a niche with Millennials and specifically with Sneakerheads,” Fizziology reports, “making their socks the needed element to take their #kickstagram to the next level.”

Lola, the organic tampon startup, combines the 2016 trend of subscription services with the growing attraction of natural, cleaner brands such as Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company. “This brand is disrupting the billion-dollar period industry,” Fizziology says. Founded in 2014, Lola has 129% more Instagram followers than Tampax and 6% more than U by Kotex. And proving that talk translates into money, Lola closed a $7 million round of venture capital funding this week with “Girls’” creator Lena Dunham as one of the investors, Handley points out.

The no-fee, ticket marketplace app “is putting the power into consumer’s hands,” says Handley, with users stating what they will pay for a ticket and the app then matching them with a seller. TickPick saw a 3,488% increase in growth, with 2015 revenue of $23.8 million. It's also No. 90 on the 2016 Inc. 5000 list. Satisfied customers are not shy about talking about it, including fan takeovers on Snapchat. “They’ve done a good job of understanding the macrotrend of … people getting exactly what it is that they want,” Handley reports.

No doubt there’s a macro-lesson there for all marketers.

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