6 or 23?: KingJames Number Theory

In the week since LeBron James’s announcement that he would be returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, one question has loomed large among the star’s fans: what number will the two-time NBA champion and Cavaliers’ all-time leading scorer wear on his jersey when he steps back onto the court? 

The issue excited particular interest on July 18, when James himself put the question to his followers via Twitter and Instagram: 

Each number holds particular significance for both James and the basketball world. No. 6, the number James wore in the Olympics and throughout his time with the Miami Heat, represents a powerful tie to the team with which he garnered many of his greatest accolades. No. 23, on the other hand, was the number of Michael Jordan – arguably the most renowned of all players in basketball history. In James’s own words, “I just think what Michael Jordan has done for the game has to be recognized in some way – soon… If you see 23, you think about Michael Jordan…. He did so much, it has to be recognized, and not just by putting him in the Hall of Fame.”

The gravity of James’s decision quickly became evident, with the original post stimulating thousands of retweets and sites across the Internet seeking feedback from users through surveys and discussions. One ESPN poll had received over 140,000 responses by midday on the 18th.

Using its proprietary Live Search function, DataRank analyzed a sample size from the 500,000 Tweets about LeBron James posted on July 18, 2014 in an attempt to predict James’s choice based on fan feedback. Querying for natural language based around sentiment toward what the player “should” or “ought” to do, DataRank found that 57% of the comments expressed a preference for the retention of #6. 

Comments also tended to follow a regional pattern, with users in and around Cleveland inclined toward #6.

Either of LeBron’s choices will ultimately represent a tie to the player’s past – either a personal connection to former glories or identification with a revered fellow athlete. And if James does indeed take his fans’ sentiments into consideration, his decision might well corroborate predictions formulated from a close examination of online conversation.

DataRank Lent Tracker

DataRank can help you track regional, seasonal, and preferential trends via interactive maps. DataRank is proud to introduce our Lent Fish Tracker for 2014. This map allows you to pinpoint where consumers are participating in Lenten sacrifices, which fish they prefer, where they are shopping-in real time.


Proposed FDA Rule Changes Build on Consumer Discussion & May Portend Packaged Foods Market Changes

In an ongoing effort to combat obesity and promote public health the Obama administration is promoting proposed Food and Drug Administration changes to food labeling, the first significant changes since 1993.  The agency proposed the update on February 27th as the and among the proposed changes are:

Updated serving sizes to more accurately reflect actual consumption

Larger, bolded calorie count font

New daily values which are displayed first

A new category called “added sugar”

 To see how well these changes resonated with consumer concerns DataRank analyzed consumer conversations around nutrition labels on a sample of consumer-packaged goods to see which ingredients got the most attention.

Given the large concern around calories, serving size, and sugar, the proposed changes play into consumer’s go-to indicators of health.  One area of change which has generated little discussion is “recommended daily values”, or the average amount of any vitamin, chemical, or quantity a person should consume in a day, indicates consumers rely less on these pre-tabulated measures than the raw values provided on the label. The FDA’s proposed updates and more prominent position will likely serve to bring more consumer focus to the daily values while enhancing discussion on already important indicators. Overall, the food label update is hitting consumers’ concerns. Other concerns, such as genetically modified organism labeling, are still relatively far from the FDA’s rulemaking docket regardless of activist pressure.

The nutrition label update could herald changes in both consumer and producer behavior.  Consumers, already sensitive to caloric intake and the role of sugars in their diets, may shy away from products with added sugar or become even stricter calorie-counters as the information becomes more prominent. Companies could also feel the changes as consumer preferences adjust to new information and attention is drawn to parts of the label that previously received little more than a cursory glance. Advocates of the changes argue the more prominently displayed dietary information may have just this effect, driving changes in the packaged foods marketplace. Firms may indeed feel the pressure with some companies considering changes to serving side or accelerating formula changes while well-positioned products may use their formulas as hero claims to gather disaffected consumers.

To read more about the proposed food label changes and the reasoning behind them take a look at this article at Tufts Now in the link below.


*Chart shows ranked discussion of traits by volume

^FDA insignia represent categories with proposed rule changes

Ukraine Generates more Online Curiosity than Arab Spring or Syria

Interest in Ukraine appears to be surging as Americans turn to the internet to learn more about the Maiden and circumstances in Crimea. Not since the American invasion of Iraq have US citizens been so interested in learning more about instability abroad. Depending on actions by the new government in Kiev and Russian personnel station in Crimea, we may be hearing even more about Ukraine and searches may surge further.

Whole Foods Lowers Prices, Results may Surpass Expectations

For some shoppers, Whole Foods is a way of life-like Black Friday everyday except with more vegetable. However for most shoppers high prices place the growing grocer out of reach. In an effort to broaden its appeal and continue rapid growth, Whole Foods has begun to lower its prices to appeal more tovalue motivated shoppers, those consumers that keep an eye on price but never take their gaze off quality. These pressures and have pushed Whole Foods to expand and promote its affordable store brand, 365 Everyday Value. Although this strategy results in decreased margins, Whole Foods believes the increase in average basket size and new customers will more than make up for per item losses with throughput gains at every store. Using DataRank, we analyzed consumer conversations around the Whole Foods brand and from early analysis the strategy may be just what Whole Foods needs to re-anchor consumer perceptions of price. Currently, a typical Whole Foods pricing comment sings the praises of high-quality, healthy foods but grumbles at the thought of paying a lot for it saying something like “I would love to shop at whole foods market but it is so expensive “. Pricing is actually such a negative for Whole Foods that it drags overall sentiment down by 18%.

Simply by looking at the extremely low pricing sentiment it is clear there is enormous potential to win new consumers who view the retailer as out beyond their pay-grade. Whole Foods has built a desirable brand, but if it wishes to continue to expand the retailer will need to appeal to a broader audience.

Gender Distribution by Retailer

A recent survey by Defy Media touts rising role of men in household purchasing, and DataRank online data agrees with men and women about split on average and many retailers skewing masculine. With more men taking shopping responsibilities the mix of retailers may changes as men check-in most at club stores and women are more likely to announce their shopping at regional grocers.  

Packaging an Important Indicator of Purchase Behavior, Even Online

It’s hard to imagine Tabasco without its iconic red octagon tops or Coke without its famous glass bottles. Campbell’s classic red and white soup cans are so synonymous with American culture that Andy Warhol painted them. And who can forget about Heinz’s ubiquitous ketchup bottles? These are just a few of the products that have benefitted tremendously from great packaging.

A new study from the University of Miami has confirmed what consumers have known for years—packaging directly affects purchasing decisions. The study found that the visual aspect of packaging affects purchasing decisions almost as much as initial brand preference, often contributing to that first moment of truth affinity and lasting long beyond. In store, consumers can touch, stare, and dwell on products - clogging up the aisle in the process. However, can mousing over a product in an online store or discussing a favorite brand online draw the same deeply held affinities about the look and feel of packaging?

DataRank applied its social listening technology to explore how consumers relayed their grocery store rubbernecking online via social media and reviews. Using a series of queries, DataRank searched for mentions of packaging within a sample of common consumer products. DataRank monitored consumer conversations around packaging and the role it plays in purchase behavior. Using a sample group of products of similar overall sentiment, DataRank measured sentiment and share of voice for packaging mentions as well as purchase intent. Packaging on average made up 8.17% of brand discussion; this includes the look and feel as well as function of a package. In agreement with the University of Miami study, as positive sentiment for packaging increased, so too did purchase intent positive sentiment. It would appear that even online packaging really does impact consumer purchasing decisions. 

DataRank Referees the Super Bowl (of Advertising)

With the cost of a thirty second spot on Super Bowl XLVIII averaging about $4 million, advertisers have increasingly hoped to gain additional traction via fans tweeting, debating, swooning over, and rewatching their favorite ads online.  Some advertisers have even moved for a form of a “soft opening” for their ads, debuting them before the big game in hopes of basking in the warmth of online buzz, youtube views, and maybe even a bump in incremental sales both before and after the main event. 

This year was no exception as typical fan favorites like Budweiser caused fans to collectively awwwwover its Puppy Love spot and Coca Cola, somewhat out of character, ignited debate with its America the Beautiful. Chrysler, in typical form, will make your patriotic advertisement—raising the stakes somewhat with Bob Dylan leaning on nationalism even more than Seattle on its defense. These ads, particularly in the environment of a lackluster game, certainly provided some fireworks online as millions jumped into the fray to discuss not only the tenor of advertising but also the role of internationalism in American society-pretty heady for a sport with a spotty track record for leading with its head.

Surprise winners included spots by H&M as hundreds of thousands swooned over David Beckham-driving a nice upward march in mentions for the brand. A nice reprieve for the clothing manufacturer following a bump in negative press resulting from a factory collapse in Bangladesh in late 2013. Transformers Age of Extinction, too, followed up its big spend on the big game by running an aggressive offense online and all signs point to a completion on the field of advertising-let’s hold off however on its performance on Metacratic. 

While some teams added Super Bowl rings to their advertising awards cabinets, others may find themselves questioning their play calling including Squarespace, Intuit, Weathertech and traditional powerhouse GoDaddy as many of these ads generated little to lukewarm online responses.

Best Technology to Keep Your New Years Resolution for 2014

For many Americans New Years Day heralds a new commitment to fitness, or maybe a recommitment depending on your resolutions from last year. While many pursue their resolution with a new gym membership others are looking instead to high-tech solutions to get in shape. Two of the most popular are the Fitbit Flex and the Jawbone UP. These devices are strapped to the user’s wrist and are intended to measure activity throughout the day as well as quality of sleep at night. Users then view their performance by syncing the device with their smart phones. With reviews comparing the two productshaving mixed results the DataRank team decided to see which product will help you quantify your resolution progress.

Comments about these products were analyzed for overall sentiment  in 4 sub-categories: price, reliability, associated smart phone app, and comparison to competitor. The Sentiment shown below represents the percent of online comments expressing either a positive, neutral, or negative opinion of the product within a subcategory.

Sentiment for Fitbit Flex and Jawbone Up

The Fitbit Flex evokes a much stronger reaction from consumers, having more decidedly positive and negative conversation than the more neutral conversation around the Jawbone Up. The higher positive sentiment in the price category for the Flex is unsurprising given lower price tag. Investigation into the higher percent of negative price comments around the Flex’s revealed a significant number of consumers frustrated with online retailers who were charging more than the recommended price for the product.

Reliability was a weak point for both of these products with consumers lodging the most complaints of any category. The Jawbone Up suffers particularly heavily in this category with 39% of all reliability posts mentioning a need to return or replace the product. Only 10% of Fitbit Flex reliability comments mentioned problems so extreme. The UP shows advantages in its smart phone app over the Flex , slightly outpacing the Flex in this category.

The most telling category, however, is the sentiment when a consumer compared the two products in a single comment. Consumers discussing both the Fitbit Flex and the Jawbone UP were far more generous toward the Flex than toward the Jawbone UP and tended to pick it.

While online conversation indicates consumer preference for the Fitbit Flex, neither product shows a particularly stand-out performance. Improvements may be necessary for both products before too many of us rely on either brand to help us get ready for beach season. Both companies are working on new products that will hopefully alleviate the reliability concerns.