Capturing the Cultural Zeitgeist with Trend Tracking
Kimberly Surico |
 01/25/23 |
5 min read

Capturing the Cultural Zeitgeist with Trend Tracking 

Trend identification and tracking are fantastic ways to capture insight into audiences and the things they love. With it, companies can develop strategic plans to promote existing ideas or uncover entirely new ideas.

The exercise offers a bevy of exciting and unknown opportunities just waiting to be discovered, and we discussed how this benefits the media and entertainment industry in our latest interview with Jeremy Whitham, Strategist in Customer Success at NetBase Quid.

This is the second in our series on how consumer research and data analysis are important assets for any industry, and for the entertainment and media industries specifically. Be sure to read our earlier piece that acted as an introduction to the concept: Entertainment Industry Primer: How Creatives Should Use Consumer Research to Validate Ideas.

What’s the importance of tracking a fad, and is the entertainment and media industry tracking both fads and trends?

So, if there’s a fad, you want to capitalize on it quickly because you are still determining if it will turn into a trend. In the unscripted space, there are a lot of fads to track. But, it’s funny – there’s this ‘cultural zeitgeist’ that happens. Multiple times, when I’ve had an idea for a show and go into the pitch, the show executive would say, “we’ve had two pitches exactly like this in the last week.” And I didn’t know the other people pitching. It’s just something organic happening, and it could prove a powerful indicator – or just a fad.

The problem is that the entertainment industry has many siloed places, and many areas only track these opportunities after a show has aired. As a strategist at NetBase Quid®, if a creative came to me wanting to develop a show in a specific area, I could quickly put together reports to provide insights into that space.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some forward-thinking and innovative teams who understood the value of business intelligence in the creative process. They’re asking the right questions and taking full advantage of advanced AI-powered tools with similar explorations.

Summary metrics show conversation around a given topic

Summary metrics show conversation around a given topic, with peaks and valleys that can reveal trending conversations taking shape or dissipating.

Share an example of using consumer intelligence to track trends to inform entertainment efforts.

If an entertainment client wanted to explore the conversation around a popular reality show, for example, we could tell which characters people are resonating with, including specific conversations, keywords, and associated sentiment drivers. This information can then be shared with the editing teams, giving them guardrails for their editing process to ensure popular characters figure prominently in upcoming episodes. The data reveals how much of a given character to include, what storylines are the most interesting, and how this sentiment shifts from week to week. They may realize they need to include as much more or less of a specific character in the next episode because consumers on social media love or despise them.

Trending characters in the TV show Three Pines

Trending characters in the TV show Three Pines, shows actress Anna Tierney trending at this point in time. Trend scores are valued between 1 and 100, and incorporate many factors, including a change in volume and percentage of change over time.

And how does it help with marketing?

Westworld is an example I have from my time with HBO Max. I’d watch the show as a fan on Sunday. And each Monday, I would use NetBase Quid® to run a Boolean query and return all the social posts related to the episode. From there, I’d begin distinguishing some themes, sentiments, and sentiment drivers around the trending conversation.

It would tell me precisely how people felt about the show, along with specific commentary. I’d have a list of trending characters, storylines, music cues, and scenes that I’d have in mind to explore, and the data would always reveal things I hadn’t considered—or had under or overvalued. It’s one thing to make informed assumptions, but quite another to have data to bear them out—and it’s pretty incredible. The data provides marketing teams with reliable information they can use to design messaging to promote the next episode.

options to filter using themes

There are so many ways to slice and dice the data too, with options to filter using themes or by specific channels or geographies.


create a Boolean search for a detailed query with limitless criteria

One can even create a Boolean search for a detailed query with limitless criteria.

It all combines to allow entertainment companies to narrow down data to reveal what is trending where and who is talking. This way marketers always reach the right audiences in the right place, with the right message!

Share a time you used trends to inform a competitive move.

Competitive analysis was a significant part of my earlier analyst role at HBO Max. I would examine genres, high-level audiences, and heat maps that revealed the sentiment surrounding various things, including evaluating options for creating potential spinoffs when there were multiple contenders

For example, I was there when they were developing “House of the Dragon.” And even though Game of Thrones was off the air, we did a massive analysis of the last season, which was less popular than the rest of the show. We wanted to find critical takeaways to apply to the Game of Thrones spin-off by answering questions like:

  • What didn’t the audience like?
  • Who were their favorite characters?
  • What were their favorite storylines?

The report was very dense, with a lot of audience insights. From it, we knew that Jon Snow was trending at the top of the list of best-loved characters. Interestingly and not coincidentally, they ended up with a spin-off focused on him. The teams at HBO Max were very tuned in to their business intelligence to answer critical audience questions like this.

Game of Thrones (GoT) co

Game of Thrones (GoT) conversations sorted by those about actors, characters, story, and costumes. Character conversation figures prominently to this day.

Overall, when entertainment and media companies vet ideas, they need to have an informed understanding of what resonates with their audiences. And a data-driven exploration provides intel to inform the confident creation of new characters and storylines. Crucially, AI-powered consumer intelligence offers clarity around emerging trends. It helps entertainment professionals accurately distinguish between long-term concepts to invest in and fads that they can take advantage of right now but should avoid devoting extensive resources toward promoting.

Trend identification and tracking keep top shows on the cutting edge of what audiences crave, regardless of how niche the psychographics profile may be. If you’d like to learn more about the exceptional intel Jeremy has unleashed for entertainment brands and apply it to your own efforts, be sure to reach out soon for a demo!

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