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FAQ’s

FAQ’s
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Which Consumer Goods categories do you cover?

We can potentially work in any category, so if your category isn’t listed here, fear not. Get in touch and we’ll see how we can help. Our expertise: Packaged Food; Non-Alcoholic Beverages; Alcoholic Beverages; Skincare; Cosmetics and Household.

What data sources do you use?

A variety of publicly available Social data sources including: Blogs (e.g. HuffPost), Message Boards (e.g. Reddit), News Sources (e.g. The Wall Street Journal), Reviews, (e.g. Amazon reviews) and Social Networks (e.g. public tweets from Twitter). We can also utilise our specific regional social data partnerships such as Sina Weibo in China and VK in Russia.

How are you different from social listening?

Social listening monitors what is currently happening in digital conversations about pre-determined subjects. We go beyond simply monitoring what you already know. We build consumer defined category datasets that allow us to surface and identify emerging and unknown trends that you otherwise wouldn’t know about. Our TPV algorithm scientifically ranks each trend by its future importance to the category, enabling you to identify white space opportunities 6+ months earlier than any social listening tool is capable of.

What do you mean by irrelevant content?

Our goal is to set a new industry standard for Social data in terms of how clean, useful and reliable it is. To achieve this we spend a huge amount of our time and resource removing irrelevant noise and content from Social data. For example, if a beverage brand wants to understand how the Lemonade conversation will evolve, all irrelevant content - like Beyonce’s album of the same name - needs to be first removed. Otherwise, the data will be skewed and our subsequent predictions will be less accurate.

How does GDPR impact the work you're doing?

In short, it doesn’t. GDPR is a set of rules governing the privacy and security of personal data. Our work analyses macro level trends from publicly available, anonymised data – what people are doing at an individual level is of no value or interest to Black Swan Data.

What sectors do you operate in?

We focus on the Consumer Goods, Quick Service Restaurant and Travel sectors but our tools and processes have the potential to be applied to any sector. Put simply, if consumers are talking about a topic online, then we can analyse that conversation for business intelligence.

What predictions have you made in the past that have come to fruition?

Our predictions come to fruition most months, as new products come to the market. The top three which our clients have successfully actioned are a Matcha variant of green tea for Lipton, a seaweed flavour of healthy crisp alternatives for PepsiCo brand Off the Eaten Path, and a Wasabi flavour for Walker’s Sensations.

How can I access Trendscope?

Trendscope can be accessed via a monthly subscription which includes training and onboarding alongside access to our Insight Consultants to ensure you are maximising value from the tool. Typically, a new account can be up and running within a matter of days. Please contact us to start the conversation.

What is AI?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a broad term for techniques that enable machines or programmes to perform what are deemed as ‘intelligent tasks’ otherwise performed by a human with much greater capacity and speed. We use forms of AI, namely NLP and Machine Learning, to turn unstructured Social data into meaningful business intelligence.

What is Machine Learning?

A subset of AI that includes statistical techniques that enable machines to improve at tasks with experience. We use Machine Learning to solve complex problems where defining the rules of what the solution has to DO is impossible. Instead of programming rules we teach the machine via examples, so we define what we EXPECT from it and the machine learns the rules. For instance, giving precise and robust rules why a Social media post is positive/negative/neutral is impossible. Instead, we manually label several thousand posts then make the machine learn the rules based on this training dataset.

What is TPV?

TPV is a scientific ranking metric that helps brands identify which trends to prioritise for action. It assigns a comparative value to each of the thousands of trends within a category, enabling trends to be ranked objectively based on their predicted importance in +6 months’ time.

What is NLP?

Natural Language Processing (NLP) put most simply is the field of using computers to understand and analyse human language (inclusive of sarcasm, colloquialisms, emojis etc.) to gain an accurate depiction of its content and sentiment. It means we can read and make sense of millions of pieces of consumer generated digital content within a matter of seconds.

Does your approach replace traditional research methods?

Our methodologies surface insight from ‘actual’, unprompted consumer behaviour via Social data. Our proprietary AI and algorithms use this data to identify and rank each and every trend in your category based on its future predicted value. This is how we scientifically distinguish between a fad and a trend, making it easier to determine when and how to act. Traditional research has both its advantages and disadvantages, but by asking consumers direct questions which are pre-emptive by design, you leave yourself open to blindspots.

What is Social Prediction?

Social Prediction uses AI and data science to go beyond monitoring what’s currently being talked about by consumers to accurately predict what will be most important to them in the future. We achieve this by building consumer defined category datasets from the ‘bottom-up’ and apply predictive models which can identify new and emerging trends 6+ months earlier than any other trend methodology.

Who are Black Swan Data’s competitors?

We see ourselves at the forefront of a new research-technology market that uses Big Data and applied data science to unlock rich consumer insight and accurate trend predictions from digitally generated consumer content. Given we are one of the only providers of this type of capability, we compete against many different types of companies - all of which don't do exactly what we do or as fast as we can do it, but offer services that solve a similar use case for our clients.

How can I commission a Horizon report?

Horizon gives you the most comprehensive and accurate view of your category now and in the future. It is a modular based reporting system which ensures we cover the business questions that are most pertinent to your brand, including: Category Strategy, Innovation, Communication and M&A. Because we use our continuous, automated datasets, Horizon reports can be compiled within a matter of days - what would take traditional research techniques months. Please contact us to arrange a call with one of our Insight Consultants to find out more.

Which new product innovations have you helped launch?

We work across a range of sectors and markets, helping clients understand which trends to activate and when. Our trend intelligence enabled Unilever brand Lipton to launch a Matcha Ice Tea months ahead of the market. Our consumer insights have helped PepsiCo launch successful new brands such as Bubly, Life Water and Off the Eaten Path.
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When my fellow founder Hugo Amos suggested “Black Swan” as our company name, my first reaction was “that’s pretty bold mate, do you really think we can do that?”. Seven years later the world finds itself in the midst of the impact from an unprecedented Black Swan event; COVID-19. Did we predict the emergence of a new virus strain at that specific moment? No, and whilst that’s never going to be possible, anticipating the human reaction to an emerging pandemic is absolutely predictable and we see this as Black Swan Data’s primary focus – to enable our customers to navigate this time of unprecedented change. Amidst ongoing concern for the vulnerable and our loved ones, we are laser-focused on using our Social Prediction technology, that analyses millions of public online conversations around the world, to help guide the path for our customers with objective data. Experiencing an unprecedented Black Swan moment like COVID-19 naturally leads brands to question what the immediate and longer-term future looks like and how they should respond. Unsurprisingly the digital world is not short of conjecture and opinion on this. The daily drumbeat of news, dominated by individual COVID-19 soundbites, may encourage brands to interpret and react with haste. However, in this artificial environment there is a temptation to react to what feels like a trend, identified using tools like social listening or traditional “question and answer” type research, only to discover it was a passing fad. It is crucial therefore to identify the trends and cultural drivers that will emerge, grow and sustain as COVID-19 plays out in a more sophisticated way. Surfacing these requires structured scientific analysis, using the tools and techniques of Social Prediction and crucially a sufficiently robust time-series dataset. Just a few weeks in to COVID-19 we believe it is too early to make meaningful long-term predictions and extrapolations. With extrapolation, for example, understanding underlying drivers of behaviour is crucial, and timing (will this sustain growth or taper off?) is everything, so patience is necessary. We’ll get more technical, covering S curves and exponentials in future posts! Having said that, there is much we can begin to make sense of, through cultural and category intelligence, to help brands in the shorter-term. By virtue of having ‘always-on’ access to our data sources, Black Swan has the ability to revisit and refine our historical forecasts with precision, by category, by market, and across cultures with new COVID-19 information. The current worldwide necessity of physical isolation, for example, may have vast implications across holistic lifestyles including cooking, in-home virtual workouts and […]

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From CES 2020, the best global technology show, we share our biggest take away – hint it wasn’t a robot launch or self-driving car…

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