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Guest Column<br>Reading Minds: Closer to creating a mind reading machine

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Guest Column<br>Reading Minds: Closer to creating a mind reading machine

Since time immemorial man has been obsessed with the creation of a mind reading machine – I believe that a combination of Search and Social media is the closest man has reached to accomplishing this dream. To explain it further, 6 billion searches are performed on Google every month; 25 billion pieces of information are shared on Facebook every month. It is this access to this database of Intent and action allows us read and more importantly understand minds.

Below are some ideas how organisations can use the above to build a competitive advantage.

Become Nostradamus

As one can see from the above graph, one could have foreseen the steady growth of Hannah Montana as compared to Mickey Mouse and Barbie – if something is doubling every month, we could forecast the date when it shall reach the tipping point. Imagine how valuable this information would be to an importer of such products. Could Google Trends and insights for search have helped builders anticipate the demand for green buildings or give an entrepreneur an idea to build a SPA, before a million others saw the opportunity?

Refine Marketing Strategies and Collaterals

Marketing strategies are built on consumer insights, consumer insights are drawn from consumer behaviour. Search and Social media make the best platform to observe trends and patters in consumer behaviour. Let me elaborate through a simple example. I was at a mall last 31st May (WHO no smoking day). The advertising campaign said “Stop Smoking for a day”, if I were a part of the WHO marketing team, I would have used the below insights.

The spike you see in the middle of the Graph is December, so looks like quitting smoking is the top New Year resolution. If so – should we have a “stop smoking day” in May? In relative terms the countries interested in quitting smoking are North America, UK, South Africa, Australia and a surprise entrant –India! Europe seems conspicuous through its absence.

Stopping Smoking (SS) versus Quitting Smoking (QS) - SS is three times more popular than QS in UK – while QS is much more popular than SS in India. So if you are planning an anti-smoking campaign in India, using “QS” in collaterals shall be more effective.I could go on and on…

PlanningProduct Features

Let’s say you are Cell phone manufacturer. You want to prioritise certain features in your phone, whether you should have GPS, 3G in your phone or is Wi-Fi on phone more important?

Looks like Wi-Fi on the phone is becoming quite critical as a feature on the phone, GPS is also gaining traction, however Wi-Fi seems more popular than GPS. Secondly Delhi and Western India seems more interested in these features.

However, when the above features are compared with searches for 3G – it seems 3G wins hands down.

The above example is to just elucidate the possibilities… in order to get accurate insights, one needs to analyse thousands of keyword combinations, number of searches performed on them divided into time of the day, day of the week, geo locations, etc.

These insights may not give you the map; however they can surely act like the compass.

Competitive Analysis

I would recommend every CXO to make a Google Ad words account, put 100 keywords into the account, bid on every single keyword and brand names of competition including their own product names. Imagine the advantage of knowing every single day how many people are searching for their brand vis-à-vis competition, broken up as per states and cities in different parts of the world.

I believe that the Mercedes CMO should have spotted the growth of Audi in India and its decline much before Audi became as popular as Mercedes

Research and Surveys

I believe that the answer to survey questions such as “what is your salary” is directly proportional to the beauty of the person conducting the survey – the more beautiful she is, the higher you will state your salary *smile*. Jokes apart, physical surveys are biased, furthermore reaching niche audiences is almost impossible. Example – if you want to do a survey of people who are thinking of quitting smoking, would it not be perfect to only reach out to people who are searching for “quitting smoking”, “nicotine gums”, “nicotine patches”, “smoking rehab clinics” etc – if they fill up the survey, you will know that you are getting answers from people who are currently in the frame of mind of quitting smoking.

The above is just the start, I could state hundreds of other ways how this data can be used to create actionable insights for most business, it does not take a Rocket Scientist to understand the potential of these mediums. The key is to start…

I believe that there is a potential of niche consulting companies who will advise large enterprises on business strategies based on data acquitted through search, social media and analytics.

‘Reading Minds’, I think we are closer to this dream than ever before.

(Vivek Bhargava is the Founder and Managing Director of Communicate2, which has evolved into one of the largest search and social media specialist organisations in India.)


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