Data-Driven Storytelling: Looking at an Entire Industry

Data-Driven Storytelling: Looking at an Entire Industry

Many of us use a single tool to report on a single topic and present a single chart. But what happens when we use a complete set of complementary tools and free reign to get creative? We wanted to have a little fun, so we used our monitoring suite to dive into the fast food sector. Is this the most universal, most American of guilty pleasures? Bring your appetite and read on to see how we approached and analyzed an entire industry of established players.
Omid Mirshafiei
3 August 2016

Meltwater media monitoring listens to over 30 million conversations a day across social media and news, from small-town publications covering bake sales to national coverage of politics and even global events like Brexit. What trends can we uncover? What perceptions can we challenge? These are the questions we ask when writing data-driven stories, from tracking the popularity of the Stark characters in Game of Thrones to analyzing the impact of fast fashion on the Met Gala.

An American Classic

For our first industry report, we chose to examine the fast food and quick service sector. It’s a competitive industry and one full of iconic, household names. Even as SoulCycle and CrossFit memberships grow and we look for nutrition facts on bottled water, our favorite purveyors of fast food keep us coming back for more, with mobile apps for effortless ordering and Twitter-based customer service; they have savvy social media teams managing the brand’s online persona; and their fans flood Instagram with evidence of their appetites.

Wendy's blackberry lemonade on Instagram.

Brands use social media to see what products people are enjoying.

Media Tug-of-War

One of the big questions we started with: Do the same brands gaining traction in the media gain parallel popularity on social? Using our share of voice tool, we saw who was getting the most news exposure (whether good or bad). But were they the #lifeoftheparty on social media? Not always.

Dunkin Donuts sentiment analysis across news, social media.

How does social media react to mainstream news?

Categorically Speaking

The classic American meal—burger, fries, and shake—is as much a part of our heritage as the car culture that drove the roadside dining movement. The pizza box is as iconic as red Dixie cups. And for most of us, the smell of fried chicken is an id generator. These strong associations are the results of brilliantly crafted campaigns and years of sensory bombardment. Do we think logos, and crave brand names? Do we announce pizza for dinner or sell the invitation with Pizza Hut? Does the image of Colonel Sanders trigger a phantom scent of fried chicken? To help map these circuits of the American subconscious, we analyzed social media sources to determine which brand carries the torch for its segment.

Benchmarking (share of voice on social media) fast food brands: Burger King, McDonald's, Sonic, Wendy's, Carl's Jr (Hardee's).

Whose burger rules the drive-thru? We used our share of voice tool to measure brand popularity within each food category.

Chief Executive Scorecard

Consumers are the lifeblood of any retail business, but brands have to appease shareholders, too. Demands for accountability beg for a public face, which at times becomes the literal face of the brand: the CEO. It’s a tough job, and although some have the magic touch, most would probably agree that their title might as well be Public Pincushion.

To find out which CEOs have been bringing their A game and which ones might need a bit of a boost, we filtered out the most positive news coverage across all brands. What we found was that the top five CEOs generate almost 70% of positive news mentions.

Benchmarking CEOs of fast food: McDonald's, Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, Domino's, KFC, Arby's
A match made in media heaven? Some all-stars carry their teams. How do the top five CEOs perform relative to their brand?

Follow the Viral Brick Road

Although we think of influencers as people with broad sway—celebrity, athletic ability, recognizable face—sometimes the real influencers simply share with us a glimpse into their daily lives.

We uncovered some of these less likely influencers using a new addition to the Meltwater product family: Executive Alerts.

Executive Alerts helped us discover the top influencer of the past 30 days for each brand. We then looked at characteristics of the conversations—follower count, retweets, likes, and general bio—to assess the viral potential of each user’s post. By knowing the who and the what, we get closer to the why.

Twitter influencer @AliMaadelat shows off Jack in the Box tacos in his Lamborghini.@aliMaadelat, a young entrepreneur and marketer—unaffiliated with the brand—gave an unexpected boost to Jack-in-the-Box by showing off the two $1 tacos he bought against the steering wheel of his Lamborghini.

The Pen: Still Mighty

We used our Influencers tool to find the top journalists influencing the perception of each brand. To do this, we didn’t just look at who has the loudest voice (and writes for either the most popular or prestigious publications), we looked at those influencers who break from the crowd and pull readers over to their side.

Using our sentiment score tools, we zero in on brand influencers who differ from their peers in traditional media. Comparing the reporting of media influencers with their mainstream peers helps you identify which media relationships to start massaging.Media monitoring and sentiment analysis of the Wendy's. fast food chain.
We compared the most impactful articles of top journalists with their peers in the mainstream news.

Brand Health Check

An industry report wouldn’t make sense without a scorecard of the key players. We used a combination of metrics to see how each brand’s ranking (by revenue) was proportionate to its coverage across news and social. Does sentiment across news or social stagnate for established brands because people are tired of talking about them? Do only the new kids on the block get the most buzz on social? These brand sheets are like quick start guides, giving you just enough of a macro view to make you want an analysis of the micro. This dual-lens approach gives you digestible, shareable info while facilitating deeper conversations about company strategy and consumer behavior.

Media monitoring, sentiment analysis, and top tweets for Dunkin Donuts fast food chain.

Brand performance at a glance. How’s your favorite U.S. chain doing?

We filtered millions of conversations to bring you these insights in our first ever industry report. Stay tuned for more posts on the strategies we used to analyze the American fast food landscape.

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