Social Media

Silly Bandz: Using Digital Tools to Spot & Track Cultural Trends

July 21, 2010

ABOVE: Jackson, son of 360i Customer Insights Director Lara Hejtmanek, shows off his Silly Bandz collection.

One day you might have seen a few people with funny looking rubber bands on their wrists and then all of a sudden these bands seemed to be everywhere. It started with kids, but now it’s perfectly acceptable for people of all ages to rock the new craze called Silly Bandz. Marketers have the ability to assess and evaluate pop culture trends quickly and in real time through the use of online research.

ABOVE: Twitter users discuss Silly Bandz

WHEN DID SILLY BANDZ GO FROM ‘KIND OF NEAT’ TO A ‘MUST HAVE’ FASHION ACCESSORY/TOY? WILL MOMENTUM BE SUSTAINED?

Searches for “Silly Bandz” – June 2009 – June 2010 (Source: Google Insights)

There has been a steady increase in search interest since early April, with query volume peaking in May 2010. At first glance it looks like interest is on the decline, but it’s important to overlay press, marketing efforts, and other events on the graph to get a complete picture. The May peak coincides with the timing of numerous news stories about the bands being banned at schools (WSJ story and NBC News story).  This same trend was reflected in the traffic for the sillybandz.com site, which increased by 163% (over 300K unique visitors) in May (Source: Compete.com). Thus, a large search volume spike consists of not only kids, but also a more mature audience (maybe even parents) who were intrigued by news articles (Source: Yahoo! Buzz Index). It will be interesting to see if search interest continues to fall over the next few months.

Overall Buzz Volume for Silly Bandz (January 2010 – June 2010)

SOURCE: Sysomos (includes Twitter, Forums, and blog posts)

If search interest declines, does that mean that people are less interested in a brand or product? Not necessarily. Unlike search volume, buzz volume over the same period continues to increase.  One explanation for this is that buzz often reflects people that have already acquired the bands and are discussing their purchase.  The nature of these online conversations is that one comment on Silly Bandz can lead to many more.  This is different than people simply conducting searches on the topic in order to find out where they can buy them, or just to see what all the hype is about. Search behavior is often a one-time behavior to seek out a specific need or search for a specific product. More telling perhaps for cultural trends will be to see if conversations and the trading of Silly Bandz comments and posts die down in the coming months. Many times these online conversations are reflective of what is going on offline.

WHERE DID THE TREND START AND HOW DID IT SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE US? WHERE WILL IT GO NEXT?

Regional Searches for “Silly Bandz” – January 2010 – June 2010 (Source: Google Insights)

When taking a closer look at the search trend by region, it is clear that this search interest started in the southeast early in the year, and then spread up and down the east coast.  (Recent news stories support this trend.)  Six months later, it is starting to spread to the western regions of the United States. (See below)

Regional Searches for “Silly Bandz” (July 1 – 6, 2010)

HOW ARE MARKETERS USING THIS TREND?

There are quite a few marketers that have taken advantage of the opportunity to capitalize on the new trend.  Two of the early adapters have been professional sports teams and Disney whom teamed up with Logo Bandz and Character Bandz.  Logo Bandz include many popular sport’s team logos and include MLB, NFL, and NBA collaborations; while Character Bandz include things like Disney characters.

The NFL is also selling its bands for $9.99 on their official site.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MARKETERS?

There are a number of online tools that marketers can use to track consumer trends in near real time.  Search Informed Research and buzz analysis are useful approaches for assessing the strength and momentum of a particular brand, trend or product.  In addition to gaining a better understanding of your brand and how it’s being discussed and perceived, online insights can bring pop culture trends to light quickly. This can give marketers new product ideas or even just open the door for them to become a relevant participant in conversations around these “hot topics.”