There are books on the art of marketing and the marketing of art, but a new variant has recently come along: a work of art which itself is a marketing tool.
Technology guru Scott Klososky turned me on to Wefeelfine.org, a website created by two artists, Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar. The site is explicitly art, "an exploration of human emotion." But the artists' training was initially in other disciplines. Harris was a computer science grad at Princeton, and Kamvar is a former Google engineer and currently a computational mathematics professor at Stanford.
Their site searches millions of blogs around the world for sentences containing the words "I feel" or "I am feeling," and captures whatever words follow those phrases until it reaches the end of the sentence.
It also captures the gender, age and location of the blogger, as well as the time and local weather conditions.
The site is designed not only to "harvest human feeling"; it also contains the means to analyze these feelings. Users can sort the data in ways that I imagine could be very useful for the industry's marketers.
We figured out awhile back that if you're marketing a destination (and all the associated components needed to get there, stay there and have fun there) it's much more effective to evoke how one will feel while there (relaxed, exhilarated, happy) than merely list a destination's attributes (pink sand, calm water, great weather).
Exploring Wefeelfine.org, it is interesting to find that people who are in Las Vegas are 1,745 times more likely than the global average to write "I feel sexy." And it's interesting to compare that multiple with the one for people in Las Vegas who write "I feel romantic": only 73. You now have all the insight you need to understand the success of "What happens in Vegas ..."
Hawaii, on the other hand, has complete balance on the sexy/romantic scale. People there are equally likely to write "I feel romantic" or "I feel sexy" (both come in at exactly 219 times the global average). It might be useful to note that these feelings were most likely to be expressed by a 20- to 29-year-old woman when the weather was balmy.
How can all this intelligence be used? A baseline requirement for marketing is that the message you attach to a product, service or brand can actually be realized. One notable failure in branding a destination was the U.K.'s "Cool Britannia" campaign, which centered on ads that tried to attract visitors on the premise that Great Britain was a very hip and with-it destination. The postmortem on that flop determined that, in fact, travelers did not find the U.K. to be particularly "cool."
If only the creators of Cool Britannia had first checked Wefeelfine.org. It reports that, while in the U.K., people are 10.9 times more likely than average to write "I feel cool," numbers far less compelling than those feeling sexy in Vegas or romantic in Hawaii. And because "cool" also refers to temperature, it's safe to say that, given the U.K.'s clime, one could apply a generous homonym discount to that 10.9 multiple.
Alas, people in the U.K. are much more likely to feel weird (158 times the average), fat (443 times), lazy (446 times), miserable (698 times), numb (697 times), ashamed (654 times), useless (652 times) and upset (713 times) than cool. The good news is that people in the U.K. are more likely to feel smart (by an impressive factor of 1,443) and classy (a whopping 31,577 times), among other positive attributes.
How about the U.S.? Travel Industry Association President Roger Dow and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez have been duking it out (via press releases) about the image of the U.S., with Dow saying we're scaring people away and Gutierrez saying that clearly the country is doing a fine job of attracting people, as demonstrated by increasing arrivals.
A quick check reveals that people write "I feel intimidated" 3,651 times more often in the U.S. than the global average. Score one for Dow.
I searched for an adjective that might reflect the exhilaration of bargain hunting felt by Europeans shopping in the U.S., but I ran into difficulty. The numbers for "cheap" and "lucky" aren't bad, but neither of those words really hits the mark. So I decided to go in another direction. Given that "freedom" has practically been trademarked by the current administration, I ran the numbers on "I feel free" in the U.S. It came in a disappointingly low multiple of 121.
If it's any consolation for a nation that feels very intimidated and only tepidly free, all is not lost: We score a "cool" factor of 730. But to be honest, I'm a little nervous to check our stats on "smart" and "classy."
Email Arnie Weissmann at [email protected].