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Monitoring brand using discourse analysis

 

Learning public opinion (or sentiment) about Your brand in traditional way is expensive because surveys or focus groups take much time and human work. Probably in near future alternative solution will gain recognition as some technology vendors launched tools for brand monitoring using text analytics. Initial review of these attempts appeared yesterday on SmartData Collective.

Monitoring brand using discourse analysis differs, to some extent, from the approach based on text analysis. I have very fresh example – a tool for monitoring opinion about retail nets (supermarkets). And now some words how it is made and how it works.

Building Monitor. Analysis of the discourse in the corpus of Internet discussions related to supermarkets gave a collection of subjects interesting for interlocutors, and a collection of expressions of their attitudes.  Using these results the complex queries for semantic search were built for the learning research. It is the crucial stage – we should learn very details of the discourse, and get its math at the same time, as the basis for justification and calibration of the Monitor. The final task is relatively easy – to implement the results and build a “machine” using accessible technology.

How Monitor works. The data for each retail brand is collected using semantic search. Monitor makes all the calculus according to calibrating formulas and provides figures ready for presentation. Please see the pictures made for presentation only (not production version).

First are the “profile” – how the brand is perceived, i. e. how it is distinguished vs the average Internet discourse. The result of such kind is often astonishing because the picture dramatically differs from that of Customer’s (user of monitor) wishes, from official image and marketing buzz. Moreover, the interlocutors’ categories (vertical in the charts) also differ.

Then there is a comparison of the brands monitored. The charts show how people value each brand with regard to the same categories.  2 charts with negative opinions (general index only) are presented as the example.

The third important group of results regards monitoring itself, i. e. presentation of the changes. It depends on the Customer needs. Some customers want to observe the effects of promotional campaigns, and for such purpose day-to-day monitoring is appropriate. Some want to know the general trends… etc.

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Discourse of excellence

 

All companies are good, and some are excellent. How to grasp the difference?

Companies active in particular sector are basically similar. Similar products, machines, technology, and people are doing similar things. Why some are falling, some simply exist stagnating, and some excel and are climbing – for example – to the top of World Class Manufacturing?

Excellent companies think differently. It is cultural difference, and many studies discovered the relationship between culture of the enterprise and its business results. Some 10 years ago I also made a study of this relationship, and discovered evolution of the values’ perception and hierarchy during transformation from centrally planned economy to the market economy. The essay on the “cultural revolution in business”, published in the press and in a book, won some renown.

The discourse of the company reflects its culture. There are, for example, some differences between the discourse of excellent and good companies:

  1. in the average company people think and speak in the terms of results, whereas in excellent companies people think more about processes (the flow, the quality, control etc.); in between are the companies in which the people of Board are focused on results only and the other managers are concerned with processes, and this discrepancy sometimes induce conflicts;
  2. in the average company, during break, people talk about sport, children, politics, last weekend etc, whereas in excellent companies lunchtime is full of the business chats – the sign that they are interested in business;
  3. the average company is quiet and politically correct and the wrangles are rare and full of accusation, whereas in excellent companies wrangles are almost permanent and focused on the problems not people – they are not wars;
  4. people in the average company take problems personally, whereas in excellent company problems are treated simply as tasks and expressed in the terms of figures and facts (objectivism);
  5. excellent company has the common language dramatically facilitating communication; in the companies with KAIZEN culture this language is replete with the terms of organisational techniques (“Pareto language”);

The discourse differ also in enterprising or innovating and average companies. For example, the attitudes to uncertainty: entrepreneurs are often “taking risk”, innovating companies are “looking for opportunities”, and average companies rather “protect themselves” against threat.

The difference means the opportunity to measure and analyse. The question is, of course, whether the analytics of the discourse of excellence could be useful and make sense. For example: could we monitor the entrepreneur climate more cheaply or more accurate or faster using discourse analytics instead of conventional methods? Or could we rate the companies more efficiently using analysis of the “discourse of excellence” instead of (or in addition to) traditional rating? Could we measure competitive capacity of particular company and identify the space for improvement using the analysis of its discourse? Could we monitor its culture and alarm if something goes wrong? Simply speaking – could we develop intangible capital analytics?

Above questions are inspired by the short discussion of Nicholas.Carbis’ post on AnalyticBridge. He develops “human capital analytics” (as he says). I think that broader idea of intellectual (or intangible) capital analytics is worth considering.

As far as I know there is no empirical evidence up to now of the relationship between Intellectual Capital (IC) and company productivity. Perhaps IC analytics could help?

There are so many questions about practical implementation of IC analytics. First: Data source. Second: Sometimes discurse reflects company’s culture indirectly, esp. when official language prevails and is used to hide rather than to reveal the issues…

Objectivity of subjectivity

 

For some months I study the discourse of attitude, and sometimes look back to the nice talk of Shilpa Arora and Mahesh Joshi. In the beginning of this work they consider a comment subjective if it cannot be objectively verified. Such definition seems to be quite reasonable if you are using some arbitrary judgement what can be objectively verified and what cannot. However, arbitrary judgement is subjective.

There is a long tradition in opinion mining to make some arbitrary classifications of the words or expressions. For example, many researchers consider opinions as subjective, and  the statements about facts as objective. Many use external standard dictionary to classify expressions as positive or negative, WordNet to identify semantic similarity etc. It’s no wonder that so many studies suffer problems of identifying ironic expressions, sarcasm etc.

In my studies on expressing attitudes the discourse is taken as is, without arbitrary classification. Instead, I examine in which contexts the expressions appear. And result (for Polish language) is different. In the rough picture expressions of attitude seem to fall into two categories: “at the point” statements, and private, even intimate statements. There is a sharp distinction between these two kinds of expressions, clearly visible in the matrices of context relatedness of the expressions.