Trendspotting with ThemeStream

About a year ago we (MotiveQuest) were talking with a potential client in the liquor business.  He asked if we could have predicted the Ice Tea Vodka Craze using our software. We thought this was a pretty interesting question and over a few glasses of Ice Tea Vodka we started to ponder.

There are lots of ways of looking at historical buzz and being smart after the fact but we thought it would be interesting to create an algorithm that didn’t just look at buzz but looked at momentum, exaggerating the effect of growth visually.  After playing for a while, a new tool was born that we christened “ThemeSteam”,  A tool that indeed could have predicted the Ice Tea Vodka Craze.  ThemeStream is now a tool that we use almost daily to see what is hot in the categories we care about.

ThemeStream determines the words most correlated with the category conversations for each period and then highlights (through exponential comparison of deviation from the average value) those words that are most dynamic.  This allows us to see emerging, waning, and seasonal trends.

For example recently a client was interested in seeing the impact of Jamie Oliver on the food conversation among parents.  Here is the chart.

Source: Data comes from looking at a combination of food and parenting datasets focused on discussion of kids lunches N=10,995

In this chart we see when the impact of Jamie Oliver begun to have an effect on moms’ lunch decisions and discussions as he is putting focus on nutrition education out-of-home.  Note that we see the Jamie Oliver conversations growing rapidly as soon as the show – Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution begins to air.

This was flagged as a issue for our client well before they would otherwise have been paying attention to it.  We are using this new tool for early trend identification across many projects from food to pharma to consumer electronics.

Tom O’Brien


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