As we were developing ConsumerBase, one of our customers said to us, “We can’t find any technology that helps us answer our research questions.” We asked for an example of a research question and they said, “More and more men are wearing beard stubble. Why?”

When we asked how they’d typically go about answering that question, they said they’d convene a focus group and ask probing questions about why men wear stubble.

Well, at that time, I was wearing stubble, and it struck me that if I were one of the people invited to their focus group, I’d have nothing insightful or terribly informative to say about the question. It looks good? It’s popular? That’s the best I could do, and that doesn’t help much.

So we told the customer we’d research the question using our tools and get back to them. I searched the Web using ConsumerBase and found many people saying that stubble gives a more masculine appearance, or celebrities are doing it—not much more helpful than what I would have said. But then I came across a few individuals saying it enhances the profile of the jawline, giving it a more angular, chiseled look. That was an “aha moment” for me, because I realized there were a few people who had the insight to  clarify and pinpoint the real reason behind men’s decision to wear stubble—and that there would be a similar small group of insightful people for virtually any question a researcher could ask.

Reliably finding and understanding “the insightful few” is a huge advantage ConsumerBase has over focus groups. When you convene a focus group, there’s no guarantee that its members will include some of the insightful few—those individuals who have thought about a subject, care about it, have insight into it, and write about it on the Web. You want to hear from them, because they’re the ones who can provide information that goes beyond the obvious and becomes the basis for a product or a solution.

ConsumerBase finds them because it’s essentially convening a focus group of the entire Web and everyone who contributes to it. That means your ConsumerBase “focus group” is guaranteed to include members of the insightful few. With its semantic frame technology and the ability to read and understand sentences, ConsumerBase finds the richest expressions of opinions, needs and emotions. Those are likely to be the comments from the insightful few. After it cuts through all the noise of the predictable comments and finds the perceptive ones, you have results you can use to solve your business problem.

NOTE: As NetBase’s chief innovation officer, I experiment with different applications for our tools, including ConsumerBase, which is for researching brands. In this case, stubble isn’t a brand, but I wanted to assess the ability of the lenses that underpin ConsumerBase to help in searches for insights on things that aren’t brands.

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