Category Archives: Blog

Social Intelligence Beyond Monitoring: #1 Brand Positioning

Job Muscroft FACE MDWelcome to our new blog series on Social Intelligence Beyond Monitoring, from FACE MD Job Muscroft. In this series, Job will be showing how brands can get high-value insights from social media listening – first up, Brand Positioning.


There are now hundreds of social media monitoring tools on the market that allow you to quickly and easily mine thousands of conversations about brands and topics you are interested in learning about. In fact, as social listening has become an established part of brand health monitoring, most brands now subscribe to a platform and use key word search strategies to conduct basic monitoring around 2 main use cases:

  1. Measure how visible a brand is in comparison to its competitors.
  2. Track sentiment of customers likes and dislike about brand/products.

This type of monitoring is usually conducted by agencies on behalf of brands and feeds into the development of creative and comms strategies. This, in a world where digital and social advertising spend is now overtaking traditional spend, is crucial.

In this series of blogs I want to look at the emerging use cases for social intelligence which go beyond counting mentions of brands and quantifying consumer sentiment. I want to and talk about where the big value lies for companies who invest in building the capabilities of analysts and research teams to look at social data strategically – to go beyond saying what happened  to work out why, and what to do about it.

Social Intelligence for Brand Positioning


A large US female haircare brand with a strong legacy in the market is facing the reality that consumer perception has changed quickly over the last 2 years. It’s is looking to strengthen its brand positioning and identify new opportunities to engage with women.

Pinterest hair section

What we did

Our approach was informed by the fact that Haircare is a highly emotional category and generates high levels of conversation amongst women online. This social media discussion is highly visual who often share images within their networks in order to find the right solution for their hair.

  1. Started wide by listening to the whole category and identified a community of women driving the conversation around this product range and the most common articulated haircare needs
  2. Focused the next stage of the project on this active community by creating a social panel of women who we listened to for a month to give us insight into their lives beyond their care hair needs
  3. Aside from text analytics we spent time understanding the thousands of haircare images shared on Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter as an invaluable source of visual insight
  4. Workshop with client team to download insights and build positioning platforms together
Why this worked

The client stakeholder group found this approach to their challenge worked for them as it helped them to get closer to their consumers’ mindset than more traditional research groups or surveys. It additionally as it gave them strategic insights about both individual and group behaviour in the haircare market: it’s not just about one-to-one communication with your customer, but understanding how she shares with her friends.

  • Identified and brought to life a community of women that the brand needs to tap into if they are to reignite an connection with today’s consumers in this category.
  • Most importantly, it brough to to life the emotional struggles surrounding their ideals of beauty
  • Showed the specific language and aesthetic imagery that constructs the bonds within this community that can feed directly into more authentic creative executions
  • Gave insight into both individual and group behaviour in the haircare market: it’s not just about one-to-one communication with your customer, but understanding how she shares with her friends.
  • Highlighted the opportunities for the brand to position itself to engage the widest possible audience without alienating sub-communities

In the next blog in this series I will be highlighting how we can use social intelligence to help innovate products.

Connect with Job on LinkedIn or Twitter, or get in touch by email:

What’s new in… Retail & Ecommerce. 5 Reads & 5 Opportunities

If you follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn you’ll know that we are always on the hunt for the best content – futures, retail innovation, consumer behaviour, FMCG, mobile devices, and of course the latest in market research.

We’d now like to introduce our new blog series, which brings together our top reads from different industry verticals every week. We’ve done the reading: here’s the distilled summary of what’s going on and why it matters for your business.

This week, retail and ecommerce. Technological advances are dramatically changing consumer behaviour and the retail landscape, from using phones to pay for goods in-store, to “showrooming” and third-spaces. The retail experience is evolving and the challenge of making in-store and online work effectively together is considerable.

Here we’ve chosen the top 5 articles we’ve read recently that are an essential for those who want to understand this current exciting time for retail.

1. Retailers must reinvent stores, says report
Business of Fashion, 27th January 2015

Retailers need to reinvent the store

“Nonetheless, to remain competitive, legacy brands and retailers must do more to reinvent their stores to better suit the behaviours and expectations of today’s hyper-connected consumers, while leveraging their traditional advantages, argues a recent report by PSFK”

Opportunity: Up the personal interaction of the in-store experience. It’s not just about payment, but personalised recommendations too. The iPad becomes a crucial surface to give sales associates access to the same algorithmic recommendation engines that make the website feel so ‘relevant’ to the customer.

2. The ‘Alone Together’ Customer Experience Trend: From Starbucks To Hotel Design To Retail Banking
Micah Soloman, Forbes, 31st January 2015

"Latte and Laptop" - changing the way we use public spaces

“The Futures Company has dubbed this the “Latte and Laptop” customer: the guest, customer or traveler who craves a communal setting where, paradoxically, she can do private work.”

The previous article talked about personalising the store. This is the next stage evolution: turning it into a public space. The rise in flexible and freelance working means people are looking for ways to work outside the office, but still among other people. (Starbucks has embedded this into their brand with the idea of the ‘Third Place’.) The opportunity? Make your store a nice place to hang out, with tables and free wifi. This will drive footfall, opportunistic sales, and brand loyalty.

3. Watch your online spending – How a handful of purchases can reveal anonymous shopping habits
Adi Robertson, The Verge, 29th January 2015

Online spending habits are 1 in a million

“When the authors mapped locations, dates, and prices of someone’s non-anonymous purchases against the whole database, it was usually easy to find a single, unique pattern. With three points or more, it was virtually a certainty.”

Data matching certainly offers an opportunity to give customers targeted discounts and better recommendations, and drive sales. But retailers need to weigh this up against the risk of creeping their customers out. (How did you know I was pregnant?) User experience research is essential to identify which data-matching opportunities are worth pursuing – and we might find some retailers forgoing opportunities here in order to consolidate a position as solid, trustworthy, don’t-scare-the-horses brands.

4. The sharing economy goes next level. Introducing the “Airbnb sub-economy”
Jenny Miller, Fast Company, January 2015

The sharing economy goes next level with Airbnb sub-economy

“A new crop of businesses are here to handle everything from key handoff to guest laundry. Call them the “Airbnb sub-economy.”

Companies such as Airbnb and Uber are sometimes described as a ‘rentier’ or ‘parasite’ economic model: the hosts own the assets (houses, cars) and provide the actual service, whereas these companies profit simply from connecting buyers and sellers. We now have subsidiary service businesses built on top of parasites… Not sure we can see an opportunity in that, except it’s all getting very derivative and the clock’s just ticked a minute closer to the next economic crisis.

Opportunity? Don’t build a service business that’s totally dependent on a sharing economy start-up with dubious regulatory compliance! It’s low margin and high risk.

5. How to get Abercrombie & Fitch back on track
Katie Smith, Editd, January 2015.

How to fix Abercrombie & Fitch

“It has been argued that the brand’s consumer profile of collegiate, wealthy American is passé: some say this consumer is now too well informed and more diverse.”

Abercrombie and Fitch’s business model no longer fits the direction of the industry. Changing consumer attitudes have meant A&F now has major issues with its product, pricing and positioning. Katie Smith takes examples from parallel UK premium high street stores Jack Wills and Superdry to showcase that with the right strategy and positioning premium brands can still win big on the high street.

Opportunity: Think bigger – it’s not just about brand identiy, but culture and demographics. Brand identities cannot stay static: they have to update as consumer trends and demographics evolve. In Abercrombie’s case,  key demographic trends would include the increasing ethnic diversity of young Americans and the changing college experience (the 4-year liberal arts degree is a tiny part of the whole). What cultural shifts in demographics, housing, transport, or employment might change your brand?


So that’s the lastest in retail and ecommerce, from Ed Hawes and Jess Owens.  Join us next week for another five reads from another sector – suggestions welcome at @FaceResearch!

Or check out our case study on Retail, where we used our Social Panels to explore the possibilities in data matching for a major UK store.

FACE is Hiring! Qual Senior Research Manager in the Consultancy team

We are happy to announce that FACE is hiring! We are looking to add an experienced Senior Research Manager to our team in London.

To find out more about FACE, watch our ‘Manifesto’ video, come meet the team, or of course read our blog (some great pieces recently on ‘social intelligence‘, the ‘business of products‘, and copycat brands in China). That should give you a flavour of what we’re about!

Then send your application (or any questions you may have) to our Head of Research,

Outline of Role:

The role of qualitative Senior Research Manager is key within the team, and to the FACE business as a whole.  Senior RMs are expected to contribute significantly to building relationships both internally and externally.  They should inspire clients with their attitude and professional application, and the quality of their thinking and work.  They are expected to provide advice, guidance and inspiration to junior members of the team, whilst supporting and giving peace of mind to RDs and the management team.

You are a forward-thinking qualitative consultant with at least 4-5 years’ experience, keen to play a key role in the winning, leading, and execution of research and innovation projects. This entails working on the full project lifecycle, from designing and setting up projects and conducting fieldwork, through to analysis, report writing, and presenting. You must have extensive experience of working successfully in teams and be able to manage projects, and help build successful client relationships where necessary – both in the UK and internationally.

Job Description:

  • Manage research projects on a day to day basis, using a variety of qualitative methods including face-to-face, online communities, and mobile ethno – and a desire to work with social media (experience not a pre-requisite here).
  • Be involved in project costings, including opening and maintaining communication channels with production, and building the costing sheet
  • Create task plans for and oversee delivery on online community research
  • Help facilitate creative workshops and co-creation
  • Run traditional qualitative approaches e.g. focus groups, in depth interviews, immersions
  • Proactively look to incorporate social media insight into qualitative approaches. When appropriate, work closely with social media specialists to produce social media reports
  • Co-write and present strategic proposals and pitches
  • Co-write and present strategic debriefs, client presentations and content for workshops
  • Contribute to the agency blog and thought leadership
  • Work tirelessly to deliver the quality standards set by the RDs and Head of Research

Skills and experience sought:

A desire to push the insight innovation agenda forward
Our agency leads the way in rethinking how innovation, strategy and insight is generated and utilised in the age of the networked consumer, so a desire to be involved with helping to push the insight innovation agenda forward will be expected.

Teamwork and a solution-driven attitude
In the UK we are a team of 20 all working across multiple projects at any given time. We have a democratic way of working that ensures everyone’s opinion – regardless of level or experience – is listened to and valued. Teamwork and a desire to assist others in the pursuit of value and quality very much lies at the heart of our culture. A positive mindset, an ability to work with and value others, and a solution-driven attitude, are prerequisites for this role.

Commercial savvy and client relationships
You must be able to think and act commercially, and assist in the building of strong client relationships, working with clients at a marketing and management level (beyond client research teams).
We operate a flexible account structure at FACE and the Senior RM will play a key support role on at least two accounts. You will work closely with the relevant RDs and / or Head of Research to devise an on-going account strategy. #

Smart project management
As a Senior RM, you will be able to think quickly and handle multiple projects and work streams simultaneously – being efficient in terms of personal time management, and the management of others.


Salary TBC – competitive
Bonus Entry into FACE account bonus initiative
Private health care Yes
Pension Automatic enrolment into FACE company pension scheme

If you’re interested in applying for this role and you’d love to join FACE, please send your application (or any questions) to  We look forward to hearing from you!

If this is not you but you know someone it might fit, please share on email, mailing lists, Twitter (we’re @FaceResearch) and LinkedIn. 


Social Intelligence: Not Just for Social Strategy

At FACE, we’re a hybrid group of “qualies” and data analysts who keep an open mind about what it means to be a researcher in 2014 – how research should happen and where the most valuable information comes from. We’re increasingly incorporating social media intelligence in our work, used either as a primary methodology or a layer of context in qualitative studies. However, we’re aware that some of our colleagues and clients are hesitant to consider social research methodologies.

I’ll get this out of the way upfront: social analysis is not the right fit for every research objective. Yet social is often dismissed simply because clients assume that anything social is not in their jurisdiction. That’s what I want to argue against in this blog post – instead, let’s start thinking of how social media can inform every dimension of brand planning.

Here are some familiar examples of the reasoning behind why social gets cut from budgets or even passed over in favor in of much more expensive approaches:

  • “This data may be interesting, but our brand doesn’t tweet, so social media stuff is not for us”
  • “Looks like you have strong social capabilities, but that’s not really relevant to my team; maybe I’ll put you in touch with our PR department.”
  • “We’ve got a dedicated team working on social marketing. They’re not set up for research, exactly, but I can have them pull any reports I need”

It seems there is a not uncommon perception that social data is exclusively for social strategy: analyze social conversation and sharing to become a better social conversationalist and sharer.

I disagree. In fact, the value of social understanding is far more expansive than that. Incorporating social insight is an exercise in lateral thinking that can make research more potent across the spectrum of strategic planning.

Stanley Pollitt's book 'Pollitt on Planning'

Stanley Pollitt, co-credited with starting the ad agency practice of account planning, had an important take on this theme long before digital social networks were in play:

“The account planner is that member of the agency’s team who is the expert, through background, training, experience, and attitudes, at working with information and getting it used – not just marketing research but all the information available to help solve a client’s advertising problems.”

This perspective is relevant beyond advertising problems. Research must be focused, but focus shouldn’t mean “same old” or one-dimensional, whether that’s traditional focus groups or brand trackers. If your strategic goals are ambitious, your research goals – and methodology – should be too. “…all the information available to help solve a client’s problems.

We’re now living in a world where the subjective emotion we share and the measurable data trail we leave behind are both signs of our humanity. So as a researcher you’ve got to love talking face-to-face with a consumer as well as studying how that person comes to life in a spreadsheet.

Social is a unique stream of information and is there, as Pollitt would suggest, “to get used.” Social data is exciting in that it’s vast, readily available, and relatively cost effective to access. Moreover, social conversation is generally unprompted – a chance to throw away the discussion guide and purely listen. What you’ll hear will inform far more than how to write your next tweet.

Beyond social marketing strategy, here are several thought-starters for how to get smart from social insight and use it across your brand or business, not just for social media strategy.

1. Audience Profiling

  • Segment social users talking about a brand  or topic to learn more about existing customers – or discover potential new target audiences
  • Improve recruitment for subsequent research, e.g. build a smarter screener based on fresh insight into demographic and lifestyle parameters

2. Advertising effectiveness measurement

  • Optimize media spend by detecting regions of brand interest before messaging is in-market
  • Track impact of online or offline advertising by region, based on social reaction (either organic reactions or in response to a call to action, such as a promoted hashtag)
  • Gauge performance of local activations, e.g. in-store events or franchise promotions
  • Assess PR activity such as news editorial coverage and native advertising
Pulsar location map - US by state

Pulsar location maps can show where people are talking about your brand, stores or advertising

3. Understand your online sales funnel

  • Measure links shared to Ecommerce properties to understand where consumers are talking about buying your products or competitors and the category at large
Pulsar most shared Media visualisation  by domain

Pulsar’s Media visualisations analyse the links being shared within a topic of discussion

4. Design Inspiration for products & services

  • Identify consumer-generated content and use it as stimulus for brainstorming for new product development, creative production, packaging design and more
  • Gather unmoderated feedback on a purchase journey or product experience to inform future UX design

Social media allows real-time customer journey feedback

These four options are just a start: there are many other ways to get more creative and more analytical with social data. Studying social conversation provides a window in to consumer mindset and behavior, not just a view of popular chatter. It’s helpful to think about social media by breaking it down to its basics: networks of people sharing opinions, speculating about the future, and reviewing experiences. In that lies true insight for business problems, so there’s no use in being anti-social!

For more ideas for leveraging social data, see Fran D’Orazio’s Future of Social Media research blog post.

Marc Geffen is based in our US office. If you want to discuss how he can help your business in the New Year then send him an email: