As the media and entertainment industries move more into programmatic and big data initiatives, we now refer to consumer targets that go beyond the “proxy’ of age and gender and more into a “new-speak” of audience segments or communities. But there are insights and technology companies that have a long history of measuring audience feedback in the context of communities. One of them is Vision Critical, which bills itself as a customer intelligence software company. Over the past fifteen years, Vision Critical has developed online communities of behavioral segments that gather consumer feedback in real time to be used by their clients for ongoing feedback and insight.
Jack Myers, chairman of MyersBizNet, speaks of “Emotion Tech,” where technology enables us to better connect consumer emotional responses to their motivations and actions. “The current wave of new research is transitional,” Myers believes. “It will be transcended by new neuro-based technology that will connect emotional responses to media and advertising, creating a completely new set of valuation insights. While this may be a few years away, once this data begins appearing, and it will, I believe it will make many of the current performance-based data sets moot.” Myers notes that “Emotion Tech will make panels such as those developed and managed by Vision Critical even more relevant, as consumers will be identified by their emotional patterns and responses in addition to their traditional demographics, psychographics and sociographics.”
I sat down with Bruce Friend, President, Global Media & Entertainment at Vision Critical, and asked him a few questions about his online community-based research service and its impact on the industry.
CW: How many different online community groups are there? How do you create new ones?
BF: We work with hundreds of businesses and organizations globally that interact with approximately five million people within and across all the Vision Critical Insight Communities. Specific to media and entertainment, we work with over two hundred brands today.
We launch Vision Critical Insight Communities every week. We work closely with our customers’ research, product, marketing and digital teams to build an engaging online community where members can interact with our customers. Once the online community is built, Vision Critical works collaboratively with customers to populate the community with members. Once the Vision Critical Insight Community is healthy with enough members--anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000 people, customers can begin engagement activities to gather feedback and insight.
CW: Have your customers been able to get insight that’s been surprising to you? Surprising results or surprising applications of the results?
BF: Our customers engage with their community audience in a variety of different ways. I’m sure that much of the feedback is either interesting or surprising in some way and drives more informed decision-making. Aside from driving advertising revenue, online communities are playing a huge role in anticipating trends and preferences so that networks and publishers can deliver exactly what their consumers want, when they want and how they want. While in some cases we have visibility into how companies use their communities and the results, our software is created in such a way that companies can run with it on their own. We have great examples on the Vision Critical website with regards to how companies have used communities. The Allure, Discovery Communications and Yahoo customer stories on our website are all great!
More specifically, I think the most surprising and inspiring thing I see overall is our customers’ willingness to learn how to leverage their Vision Critical Insight Community and use our technology to run their own projects. The benefits here are that they realize they can turn projects around much faster (sometimes within hours) at a lower cost, when they run the projects themselves.
CW: Have your insight communities been used to make programming decisions and if so can you give an example?
BF: Yes, there are many examples of our customers turning to their communities to help make decisions surrounding programming. We’ve seen our customers launch new channels, come up with TV show names, inform new and returning show greenlight decisions and much more, as a result of working closely with community members. We have a case study available on the Vision Critical website, which highlights how Discovery Communications turned to its community to launch the Destination America channel—it was quite a success.
CW: What is the process in recruiting members for the online communities and how do you keep them engaged?
BF: Vision Critical works collaboratively with our customers to promote the launch of an online community through internal databases, social media channels and email lists (e.g., subscriber lists, loyalty programs, etc.) and so on. We’ve even seen customers promote their communities at public events. Through this promotional effort, people interested in being part of a community join and actively contribute. The members have a vested interest in the company and its success, so we find that they’re eager to share their feedback in order to help make business improvements.
The companies we work with engage their members in projects on a regular basis through dynamic questionnaires and discussions. We’ve also found that community members enjoy seeing how their insight has translated into decisions—so what we call “sharebacks” encourage ongoing engagement and satisfaction, as well.
CW: What kinds of metrics do your clients gather?
BF: Companies use the Vision Critical customer intelligence software platform to gather different forms of feedback and insight. Feedback from consumers via the insight community is captured, analyzed and reported in real-time. Our customers gather different attitudinal and behavioral metrics depending on the kind of information and insights they’re looking to derive from their community. For example, a lifestyle network may be interested in launching a new show targeting affluent women. In that case, this kind of network may want to target that specific audience via its insight community to learn about their behaviors, patters, purchases, etc. in order to deliver a more targeted show.
CW: How do your customers decide on what audience groups or types to target?
BF: Vision Critical customers decide who they want to engage for insight based on people they want or need to better understand, such as specific demographics (age, sex, zip code, etc.) and attitudinal groups. In further detail, our customers can also target and report on behavioral segments, based on their own passive first party data that is collected from various sources such as customer subscriber lists, sales transactions and even recently, digital media platform usage, including social, from both desktop and mobile apps.
CW: How does the data your customers gather relate to sales or content performance? Can you give some examples of how this data can be used?
BF: As mentioned, our customers use their communities in a variety of different ways. Some turn to community members for feedback and insight to dive new product development. Others turn to their communities to improve marketing efforts, such as ad campaigns. We know that feedback from Vision Critical Insight Communities has improved sales efforts and has support content efforts. However, we just can’t provide specifics here, as this data is our customers’ and as such is proprietary.
CW: How do you think your measurement will most benefit insights into cross platform consumer usage?
BF: In many cases Vision Critical’s platform is already enabling a number of our customers to measure usage, satisfaction, performance, etc. of their content and services across multiple media platforms or of those platforms specifically (including OTT services, MVPDs, Digital Radio, etc.).
We only see this increasing, as more and more of our customers take control over their own product and content distribution data. This evolution of our community platform is really the Holy Grail for us and our customers. Our customers can now:
· Build large scale communities, numbering tens and even hundreds of thousands of members,
· Leverage Vision Critical’s customer intelligence platform to capture passive consumer behavior data, which can then immediately trigger surveys and discussion forums to understand who is consuming and the “whys” behind those ongoing behaviors.
What’s most exciting is that we are just scratching the surface of all the possibilities this new type of customer intelligence community can bring.