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You Can't Solve if You Can't See

When the Internet gives feedback to brands, the hammer is harsh. 

A well known example  — when Peloton split the Internet with a benign
holiday ad. Critics called it "unsettling," "sexist" and "dystopian." Others saw it as "normal," "great PR'' and viewed the outrage as creepier than the ad itself.

Given the gravity of issues making headlines, it’s surprising that a single ad for a niche product caused such a reaction. The stock took a $1.5 billion hit as as people swarmed like bees around the story. Two months later the price hasn't recovered. 

And yet Peloton's business fundamentals are on solid ground. According to
Bloomberg, the company has a customer affinity brands would die for, a fan base that's 1.6 million strong, and the potential to grow even faster through a new fashion line and subscriptions that don't require a $2,000+ downstroke. 

With a business model showing so much upside potential, why did financial markets react so strongly against them? I'd argue they underestimated the impact cultural nuance can have today. Lacking an intelligence model to anticipate varied reactions, the brand they've been so expert in building got socked.

The key to avoid being upended by viral narratives is to anticipate what trigger points might be. Our own research at Weber Shandwick found that 76% of global executives who experienced a reputation crisis in the past two years felt it could have been prevented. In a different context, Gartner reports that 76% of marketing leaders already use data and analytics to inform key decisions. 

My sense is the disconnect is in large part due to one-size-fits-all intelligence models that fail to account for the critical role of culture. As culture advocate Grant McCracken points out in a recent
essay, we need new systems to mind the gap. Most miss the necessary spectrum of data needed for culture-based planning as well as the modeling and human analysis necessary to inform decision-making and risk factors. 

In partnership with some leading thinkers in the field, we've been hard at work building a first-of-its-kind
Global Intelligence platform to test this hypothesis. The platform uses artificial intelligence to sift and sort through billions of data points from forums, earned coverage, video transcripts, audio files, social media, search data, survey data and more. 

We're still in the beginning phases of building this capability, but have found interesting early returns and see immense potential to avoid misdirected communications efforts and unearth new growth opportunities. 

One thing that's become crystal clear in time spent building an expanded intelligence approach  —  it's hard to solve new problems if you can't see the full picture.

Chris Perry

A version of this post can also be found on Medium.

As always, if you find this newsletter valuable we would be grateful if you encouraged others to sign up by directing them here.
What We're Reading
Media Forensics
Echo Chambers Are Getting Worse
By Sara Fischer, Axios

Over the past five years, Americans have become increasingly polarized in their media consumption diets based on their political affiliation, according to new data from Pew Research Center.

Content Experience
Why Millennials Refuse to Let Go of Physical Media
By Bonnie Stiernberg, Inside Hook

Millennials are notorious for killing things: the power lunch, diamond sales, breakfast cereal. But all this obsession over what this generation isn’t buying tends to overshadow the fact that, in an increasingly digital world, they are by and large the ones keeping physical media alive.

Media Forensics
Misinformation About the Coronavirus is Threatening to Overwhelm Tech Platforms

By Casey Newton, The Verge

The global outbreak of a coronavirus that originated in China has given us fresh reason to consider the downsides of an internet where social media posts are amplified by engagement-hungry algorithms, and vetted by fact-checkers only days later—if at all.

Content Experience
The Way We Write History Has Changed
By Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic

Smartphones have changed the ways historians collected and manage information, which transmutes what they can learn from it. There has been, as historian Ian Milligan put it, a “dramatic reshaping of historical practice.” Different histories will be written because the tools of the discipline are changing.

Platform Dominance
On Cheer, and Journalism Beyond News Pegs
By Alexandria Neason, Columbia Journalism Review

On Netflix, the documentary boom fills a space that perhaps magazine journalism once did. Where engaging with journalism is today often seen as labor—stories are too long, too boring, too hard to understand, too much and not the mood—Netflix provides a salve: the sweet nothingness of a binge watch.

Media Forensics
The Aftermath of a YouTube Apology
By Arjun Kakkar and Russell Goldenberg, The Pudding

The Pudding uses data to quantify the lasting impact of a YouTube controversy and the ingredients of a successful vlogpology—an apology video released when a famous YouTuber makes unwanted headlines.

Content Experience
The Empathy Economy Is Booming, but What Happens When Our Emotional Connections to Others Are Designed, Packaged, and Sold?
By Liz Stinson
, Eye on Design

The empathy economy is booming, and understandably so. Empathy is, in theory, the perfect antidote to the anger, tension, and world-weariness that so many people currently feel. It’s a sentiment that, inevitably, people have learned how to profit from—perhaps nowhere more than in the design world where the concept of “user-centered design” has become the default methodology. 

Emerging Technology
Vine Reboot Byte Officially Launches
By Josh Constine, Tech Crunch
Two years after Vine’s co-founder Dom Hofmann announced he was building a successor to the short-form video app, Byte made its debut on iOS and Android. Byte lets you shoot or upload and then share six-second videos. The tiny time limit necessitates no-filler content that’s denser than the maximum one-minute clips on TikTok.
Deep Take
Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2020
By Nic Newman, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
The next decade will be defined by increasing regulation of the internet and attempts to re-establish trust in journalism and a closer connection with audiences. It will also be rocked by the next wave of technological disruption from AI-driven automation, big data, and new visual and voice-based interfaces. All this against a backdrop of economic and political uncertainty which will throw up further challenges to the sustainability of many news organizations.
Copyright © 2020 Weber Shandwick

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