Marvel’s “Endgame” drives 50% more Buzz than Game of Thrones


Iron Man deserves the Iron Throne. While delivering the biggest opening box office weekend in U.S. history, the movie Avengers: Endgame, drove 50% more fan conversation as did the final season of Game of Thrones.  During the week ending April 28, Americans engaged in conversation about the Avengers movie 91 million times, versus 60 million for Game of Thrones, which recently launched its final season and aired a highly anticipated episode against the Avengers release. It was word-of-mouth equivalent of Batman vs. Superman or Ali vs. Frasier. A lineup of more than 20 Avengers super heroes—including Iron Man, Captain America, and Black Widow—who easily stole the iron throne of Westeros from Cersei Lannister, Jon Snow, and Daenerys Targaryen. In fact, both franchises are proven drivers of consumer conversations, but never have they released so close to each other, creating enormous competition for attention.  Indeed, both fell short of their prior records.  A year ago, the movie Avengers: Infinity War hit 107 million consumer conversation impressions in a single week, whereas in 2017 Game of Thrones hit its own record of 78 million.  Conversation impressions are an estimate of the number of instances that people were exposed to conversations about the topic.

Conversation Trends for Avengers, Game of Thrones

Conversation Trends for Avengers Game of Thrones-1 In the weeks ahead, both franchises will have opportunities to beat their old records, since movie conversation levels sometimes build after the opening week, and the finale of a notable TV series usually drives lots of fan talk.

Sentiment for Avengers vs. Game of Thrones

Sentiment for Avengers vs. Game of Thrones Besides beating GoT in conversation volume, Avengers won in another way, too.  People who talked about Avengers were almost universally positive about the film.  The movie earned a remarkable “Net Sentiment” score of 91, which is calculated by subtracting negative and mixed sentiment (only 4%) from the staggeringly high positive sentiment about the movie (95%).  The net sentiment for Game of Thrones was 64, based on 15% negative and mixed sentiment subtracted from 79% positive. Avengers: Endgame also appealed to a wider range of fans.  The people talking about Avengers were more balanced between males (54%) and females (46%) compare to GoT (66% male; 34% female).  Also, Avengers talkers were both younger and older than the Game of Thrones fans. Fully 31% of those talking about the Avengers movie are under 21 years of age, versus 14% of those talking about Game of Thrones.  In addition, 17% of people talking about Avengers were in their 50s, compared to just 8% for Game of Thrones, which performed most strongly among people in their 30s. But in something of a consolation prize, Game of Thrones beat Avengers by 60% in the volume of conversation it received in the United Kingdom.  While this might be due to the decidedly British feel of the GoT franchise versus the more American sensibility of the Avengers, it is more likely because of a pattern of British television shows beating movies in fan engagement, in contrast to the US where, among television programs, Game of Thrones is the clear leader. Neither Game of Thrones nor Avengers came close to defeating the word-of-mouth champion of the entertainment industry in America—Star Wars The 2015 release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens produced 276 million conversation impressions in the US, more than triple the level of the recent Avengers movie. In fact, both Star Wars movies in 2015 and 2017 had four weeks bigger in terms of conversation volume than any Avengers movie.

Biggest Conversation Weeks for TV and Movies

Conversation impressions for weekly winners Biggest Conversation Weeks for TV and Movies

Both Star Wars releases in 2015 and 2017 were released just prior to Christmas, and this may have been crucial to driving conversations levels to record levels. The films have multi-generational appeal and were released when families were spending lots of time together.  Kudos to the word-of-mouth marketing strategy behind the Star Wars franchise. The marketers behind the Avengers may have stolen the fictional Seven Kingdoms here on Earth, but the marketing team behind Star Wars controls the Galactic Empire.

Dwyane Wade Scores Big for Budweiser, Driving Positive Social Media Conversations

Dwyane-Wade-Budweiser-commercial Basketball great Dwyane Wade finished his NBA career this month having scored 23,165 points and made 5,701 assists during a 16-year career.  One of his final acts was a marketing assist for Budweiser that scored bigger than Budweiser’s recent Super Bowl commercials, generating a surge of positive social media consumer conversations about the beer brand. On April 9 Wade appeared in his final home game for the Miami Heat where players and spectators enjoyed a special evening of tributes. One tribute was a four-minute video sponsored by Budweiser beer in which Wade heard from five people about the enormous, positive impacts he had on their lives. The five thanked Wade for:
  • off-the-court generosity toward the family of a teenager killed at the Parkland, FL shooting
  • supporting a family that lost everything in a house fire
  • helping a young woman who needed help with college tuition
  • being a role model to a young man who needed it
  • sticking by his mother while she spent time in prison for “going down the wrong path”
Broadcast in the arena and on television, the video drove 14,000 Budweiser mentions on social media, more than the brand enjoyed during the recent Super Bowl where the brand was the biggest spender of any brand, investing more than $33 million according to Kantar.  Offline conversations about Budweiser also trended up by 3 million impressions, but that was not an unusual increase for the brand.


ONLINE MENTIONS OF BUDWEISER HIGHER THAN DURING RECENT SUPER BOWL WEEK Even more impressive, Budweiser’s online net sentiment—positive minus negative comments about the brand online—rose to the highest level ever measured for the brand we have ever measured.  In fact, for the week ending April 14, 2019, Budweiser had the highest online net sentiment we have measured in a year for any beer brand!  In social media, Budweiser’s tribute to Dwyane Wade generated remarkable levels of brand love.  


BUDWEISER’S ONLINE SENTIMENT AT HIGHEST LEVEL IN THREE YEARS The reaction on social media has involved incredible levels of content sharing, much greater than what Budweiser experienced during the recent Super Bowl. On YouTube the Wade commercial has been viewed nearly 5 million times by late April. Engagement Labs has a metric called brand sharing, which measures the degree to which people are sharing the brand’s content on social media or talking about the brand’s advertising in offline conversations. Both the online and offline brand sharing metrics have shot up to their highest levels in three years, suggesting the Wade video has been an enormous driver of engagement.  


BUDWEISER ‘BRAND SHARING’ LEVELS AT RECORD LEVELS, ONLINE AND OFFLINE All of this matters for Budweiser because, as we’ve written in the MIT Sloan Management Review, research shows that both online and offline conversations drive purchases.  But to achieve success in driving those conversations, brands need to think beyond paid television advertisingand tell compelling stories, as Budweiser did with Dwyane Wades’ assist. What’s Dwyane Wade going to do after his basketball retirement? We suspect he’s taking more than a few meetings with the nation’s leading marketers.   SIGN ME UP TotalSocial Briefing  

Social Media vs. “Real Life”: Why Brands Should Care

Social Media vs. “Real Life”: Why Brands Should Care After years of beating the drum on the huge differences between consumer conversations online and those that happen offline—in “real life”—we are happy to have some prestigious company. A new report by the Hidden Tribes Project reported in The New York Times concludes “the Democratic electorate on Twitter is not the actual Democratic electorate.”  The study finds that while 53% of Democratic party voters “in real life” are moderate or conservative, the same is true of only 28% of the more left-leaning Democrats who post opinions on Twitter. Writing in The New York Times, data journalists Nate Cohn and Kevin Quealy conclude “it would also be a mistake to assume that outrage on social media means outrage throughout the broader electorate.” At Engagement Labs, we’ve seen the same pattern impacting the consumer marketplace for several years since we launched our TotalSocial data and analytics platform that measures both online and offline conversation trends for brands. Most recently we wrote about the near-opposite reactions that Gillette experienced in social media versus “real life” when it launched a campaign to encourage men to be more respectful of women. In social media, the reaction was strongly negative, dominated by Twitter users who thought Gillette should stay out of social issues like the #metoo movement.  In offline conversations the reaction was moderately positive.  


TOXIC MASCULINITY CAMPAIGN DROVE GILLETTE'S NEGATIVE SENTIMENT ONLINE BUT NOT OFFLINE Similarly, after Dick’s Sporting Goods announced it would stop selling assault rifles and restrict other gun purchases, the reaction online was very negative while the company received a much more positive offline reaction. Across a list of nearly 600 brands we measure continuously in the US, we find that net sentiment—positive conversations minus negative ones—are barely correlated to each other on a week-to-week basis. The trend correlation is about zero, on average, as we have reported in the MIT Sloan Management Review.  At the same time, these two data streams both matter, because together they drive 19% of consumer purchases, on average. For the most recent 12 months, many brands in our database have extremely different rankings among nearly 600 brands tracked, depending on whether the conversation is happening online or offline.  For example, the Golden Corral restaurant chain is ranked very high in terms of positive offline conversation sentiment, at number 45, putting it in the top 10% of the brands measured.  At the same time, Golden Corral is ranked in the bottom 10%, at number 528 in social media, due to having quite negative online sentiment, as indicated in the table below. BRANDS WITH BIGGEST SENTIMENT DISCREPANCIES OFFLINE VS. ONLINE What accounts for this big difference? In face-to-face conversations about the brand, the consumers primarily talk about the quality of the Golden Corral customer experience—the food, the buffet, the enjoyment, and so on.  But the online discussion is mostly related to Golden Corral being an advertiser on the Fox News Channel, and to related criticism and boycotts by a small but digitally vocal slice of consumers.  As The New York Times has reported, these social media users are not representative of the broader population. The difference can also be shown graphically in the chart below, called a TotalSocial® TalkScan, revealing very strong offline sentiment compared to very low online sentiment. TotalSocial® TalkScan Golden Corral The opposite situation is found for the American Family Insurance brand. For this brand, the net sentiment online is ranked number 3 among all 574 brands—the top 1%—while offline net sentiment is ranked at number 481, placing it in the bottom 20% of all brands.  Why? The low offline sentiment performance of American Family is quite typical of insurance companies, including GEICO, Aetna, MetLife, Allstate.  Generally, the insurance category is at a disadvantage—a lot of insurance conversations happen when somebody is sick or injured or made homeless by a disaster—and thus conversations are not particularly positive. Indeed, insurance is about spending money on a product you hope you never use.  Yet American Family has been very successful in driving positive online conversations in response to its philanthropic efforts, particularly its Dream Foundation grant program and a related #DreamFearlessly hashtag.  These efforts have dominated the positive online discussion about American Family insurance. TotalSocial® TalkScan American FamilyMany other brands, including Pillsbury, Kaiser Permanente, Body Shop, Windex, Frigidaire, and Ruby Tuesday all have very different sentiment results online versus offline, reinforcing the idea that brands can’t just focus on readily accessible social media trends to understand the health of their brands and reputations. The answer is not to ignore social media, which we have proven is often an important driver of business results.  But we can’t generalize from social media to the population as a whole.   Rather, marketers and corporate communications professionals need a holistic approach that considers both the digital and the analog consumer reaction that together drive 1 in 5 purchases. As we like to say, the goal for optimizing business performance is to make every conversation count! SIGN ME UP TotalSocial Briefing  

Social Media’s Missing Conversations in Beverages, Beauty, Groceries

Cardi B in Pepsi's Super Bowl LIII commercial. Back in 2010, Pepsi dropped out of the Super Bowl, the marquee marketing event Pepsi has sponsored for years, before and since. The game plan was to shift dollars into digital marketing, particularly social media.  The experiment proved disappointing, and they quickly returned to the Super Bowl the following year.  In 2019 Pepsi sponsored the half-time show for the seventh time in a row, taking advantage of the buzz that the Super Bowl often generates for advertisers. Consumer conversation data from Engagement Labs helps to show why that 2010 digital experiment was unlikely to succeed, and why brands like Pepsi are no longer betting the farm on social media.  The beverage category, in fact, is poorly represented in digital conversations, making it difficult for beverage brands in general to rely on an online social media strategy. In the real world, beverages get an enormous share of consumer conversations—12.8% of all face-to-face and voice-to-voice discussion about brands is about beverage brands, second only to retail and apparel brands, which earn 18.0% of the offline discussion. This makes sense because beverages, both alcoholic and non, are highly social.  People very often enjoy beverages when together socially with others.
But in social media, beverage brands are merely 1.8% of all conversations. The share of conversation online is just 11% of the share they get offline, the worst ratio of any category measured.  
Other categories with big shortfalls in social media are household and beauty products, supermarkets, health, and food, all categories that receive in social media less than 30% of the attention they earn in face-to-face conversations. Social Media's Missing Conversations One key reason for this is that three categories—technology, media, and sports, get massively larger shares of social media discussions as they do offline conversations.  Sports—teams, leagues, etc.—get eight times as many conversations online as offline.  Media brands—TV shows, networks, movies, etc.—get seven times the share online as offline.  And technology brands—such as Apple, Samsung, and Sony—get 41% greater share of conversations online compared to offline. The surplus of sports and media category conversations make sense because social media, after all, are media, and increasingly platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become distribution systems for news and entertainment. Every other category, including retail, travel, finance, telecom, and restaurants, get a smaller share of conversations online compared to offline.  While people love widely sharing family celebrations and cute household pet videos, consumers are less motivated to share personal finances, favorite condiments, and preferred supermarkets—the ordinary stuff of our lives as consumers. These are conversations more likely to occur face to face or voice to voice. Research by Engagement Labs recently published in the MIT Sloan Management Review shows that both online and offline conversations are important drivers of purchase. On average, 19% of all purchases are driven by conversations, including 10% driven by offline conversations and 9% by online ones.  For beverages, the total impact is higher, 22% driven by conversations of both kinds, but the ratio is 13% offline to 9% online. Despite big volume shortfalls in social media, online discussions still an important role in driving purchases even for categories like beverages where the share of online conversation is tiny.  The reason is that social media give conversations can be seen by hundreds and sometimes thousands of consumers, whereas offline conversations are usually just among a few close friends or family members. Thus, brands in every category must have a TotalSocial® strategy that includes both offline and digital brand engagement. But too many brands are focusing exclusively on social media to spur social engagement and recommendations for their brands, and that’s a one-sided strategy unlikely to succeed, particularly for grocery staples that are more often talked about over a kitchen table than on Facebook or Twitter. Academic research has found that offline conversations about brands are principally about “emotional sharing,” and focus on everyday products and services.  By comparison, social media discussions tend to be about “social signaling,” or wanting to demonstrate one’s superior knowledge and expertise about exciting new products or services.  For marketers of packaged goods, that means it’s very important to be stimulating and listening to the conversations that happen in the relative privacy of our homes, automobiles, and workplaces. Every marketer should be thinking beyond social media, but that’s especially true in the categories for which social media discussions fall short of the share that occurs offline.  Our advice to marketers: Mind the gap between online and offline conversations.

Who’s Winning the Bud Light #Corntroversy? Depends on the Field of Play

Bud Light vs Miller Lite #Corntroversy Anheuser-Busch InBev unleashed a mighty brawl among leading domestic beer brands when one of its Bud Light Super Bowl commercials accused rival light beer brands from Miller and Coors of using “corn syrup” in their brewing processes. The commercial got lots of attention thanks to a humorous creative tie-in with HBO’s Game of Thrones, scheduled soon to start its final season. One of the more memorable quotes from an early Game of Thrones episode was spoken by Queen Cersei Lannister: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” Which raises the question of whether, post-Super Bowl, Bud Light is winning or dying? If you are monitoring the social media conversation about Bud Light and rival Miller Lite, you would add Bud to the impressive Game of Thrones body count. The “corn syrup” commercial helped produce for Bud Light the biggest increase in social mediaconversations of any 2019 Super Bowl advertiser, according to Engagement Labs’ TotalSocial® platform. It also increased the Miller Lite volume, though not by nearly the same margin. Bud Light vs Miller Lite Corntroversy: Online Volume Unfortunately, for Bud Light, a lot of that online conversation has been negative, while Miller Lite’s clever damage control measures have driven increasingly positive conversation for their brand.    In what Miller Lite has dubbed a #corntroversy, the brand has used the attention to criticize the campaign as deceptive and anti-farmer, while promoting its own brand as better tasting with fewer carbohydrates.  Miller Lite is winning the social media battle, based on rising positive conversations as Bud Light’s are headed downward. Bud Light vs Miller Lite Corntroversy: Online Net Sentiment But don’t send the undertaker for Bud Light.  If you are monitoring the real-world, face-to-face conversation, you would find that Bud Light is no more dead than the heroic Jon Snow at the end of season five.  Offline conversations about Bud Light are turning much more positive, in contrast to the social media conversations.  For Miller Lite, it is the opposite pattern—less positive offline, initially, although recently improving significantly. Bud Light - All Online and Offline Sentiment ScoresMiller Lite - All Online and Offline Sentiment Scores So which brand is truly winning the corn war?  It’s too soon to tell as this remains a very fluid (no pun intended) situation as the recent lift in Miller Lite’s offline sentiment demonstrates. What is clear is that online conversation can tell one story, and offline quite another.  This is consistent with our analytics as published recently in the MIT Sloan Management Review in an article entitled Deriving Value From Conversations About Your Brand, which demonstrates that offline and online conversation each contribute about equally to business outcomes, but that the correlation between the two is generally low.  The ultimate winner here will be the one who can garner strength both online and offline.  Stay tuned, and contact us if you’d like an update.

Four Digital Horsemen: Amazon by a Length

Four horsemen of the digital age Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is talking about breaking up the “big tech”companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, which we’ve previously written about as the “Four horsemen of the digital age.”  She may think about “big tech” as a monolith, but consumer conversations make very big distinctions among them. Today, Amazon and Apple are overwhelmingly popular with consumers based on their online and offline conversations, with Google only slightly behind.  The strong performance of these three brands makes them “Conversation Commanders,” who excel at driving positive conversations both online and offline (see chart). Amazon is particularly strong at offline conversations that mainly occur face-to-face, giving it an overall edge. About 80% of all offline Amazon conversations are positive, versus only 12% negative.  For Apple and Google, about 65% are positive, while for Facebook only 50% are positive versus 40% negative.  


ONLY FACEBOOK FAILS TO QUALIFY AS A “CONVERSATION COMMANDER” Consequently, Facebook falls into the “Whisper Brand” category due to the very negative sentiment of both kinds of conversation, making the largest social media platform a more attractive target for aggressive oversight. Though Amazon and Facebook perform very differently in consumer conversations, they have one thing in common.  Both brands suffered extreme declines in positive conversations in April 2018.  Facebook’s online conversations became much more negative and less positive as it was revealed that the company allowed the marketing agency Cambridge Analytica access to private data on some 50 million Facebook users, as part of the 2016 Presidential Election.  Soon after, President Trump drove down net sentiment for Amazon by criticizing on the company over its ownership of the Washington Post and the deal it struck with the US Postal Service for delivering Amazon packages.


For Amazon, the negative downturn was short-lived and confined to social media.  For Facebook, however, both online and offline conversations suffered, and both streams of conversations have remained quite negative since.  



The pattern recently repeated itself for Amazon, as social media conversations have soured since founder Jeff Bezos revealed he was in a battle with the publisher of the National Enquirer over salacious photos related to an affair and resulting divorce. Offline conversations have stayed highly positive, a common pattern we’ve seen in our politically charged era. Why has Facebook consistently under-performed in conversations against its big tech rivals?  One factor is simply being the biggest social media platform, and thus a lightning rod to criticism. But Google is the biggest in Search, and Amazon is the biggest in eCommerce.  Consumers are not automatically against “bigness,” which is something for political candidates to bear in mind. Besides its market dominance, Facebook has been repeatedly in the news for failures to protect data, for a lack of candor over its impact on the 2016 election, and, most recently, for allegedly criminal behavior in its sharing of private user data with big business partners.  Thus, Facebook is really in a different category than other “big tech,” companies, and consumer conversations reflect that fact. If Senator Warren gets her way and a big-tech break-up materializes, Amazon, Google, and Apple will have reason to blame Facebook as the black sheep of the four horsemen of the digital economy.

Unpopular but Impactful, Super Bowl Ads for TurboTax and Olay Drove Engagement

TurboTax’s “Robo Child” commercial They say sex sells.  Does creepy create conversation? Two of the least popular 2019 Super Bowl commercials were among the most effective at stimulating both online and offline conversations, which research shows is a key factor in driving brand purchases. According the USA Today’s Ad Meter, which measures fan reaction to Super Bowl commercials, the offerings of Olay skin care and TurboTax were among the least popular, ranked 30th and 56th, respectively, among 58 commercials measured.  Yet both brands were among the 10 biggest gainers in both online and offline consumer conversations during the week following the big game broadcast, according to Engagement Labs’ TotalSocial® measurement system. TurboTax’s “Robo Child” commercial emphasized the humanness of its “CPA on Demand” by showing a childlike robot that lacks the emotional sophistication necessary to help people with their taxes. Another creepy commercial—called “killer skin” for Olay—showed actor Sarah Michelle Gellar reprising her role in the horror movie I know What You Did Last Summer. Chased by a creepy masked villain, Gellar’s character is unable to call for help because the facial recognition system on her mobile phone couldn’t recognize her recently softened skin. Ad Meter voters didn’t like either commercial, but big game viewers talked a lot more about the brands after the Super Bowl, both on social media and in face-to-face discussions. TurboTax enjoyed a remarkable increase of 132% in offline conversation and a 135% rise in online conversation when compared to the weeks prior to the game.  Meanwhile, Olay enjoyed a 35% increase offline and a 41% increase online, impressive increases compared to the average advertiser which earned lifts of 13% offline and 123% online. Post-Super Bowl Conversation Increases by Engagement Labs Importantly, these increases in conversation have been shown to drive purchases, as reported in the current issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review.  The study found that conversations drive 19% of consumer purchases, on average, which translates into $10 trillion in annual consumer spending. USA Today’s Ad Meter is not designed to measure marketplace impact, but rather, popularity.  USA Today announced its 2019 winners within hours of the New England Patriot’s plodding victory over the lackluster Los Angeles Rams.  The newspaper’s online Ad Meter voting system found that the National Football League won the ad contest for a glitzy house ad featuring numerous current and former NFL stars in a banquet room pick-up game.  Amazonand Microsoft came in second and third, respectively in the popularity contest.  But while the NFL drove a lot of additional conversations due to its ad—and the game itself—conversations about Amazon and Microsoft plummeted in the TotalSocial® system, possibly due to the weakness of branding in the commercials. The conversation champ of the big game was Bud Light.  According to TotalSocial®, Bud Light drove a 91% increase in face-to-face conversations during the full week following the game, and more than a 1000% increase in social media conversations, thanks to a provocative series of ads that ended with an homage to the popular HBO series Game of Thrones. Bud Light was the only brand to earn a “top three” gain in both online and offline conversations, according to Engagement Labs’ TotalSocial® measurement system, while ranking 16th in Ad Meter. In addition to Bud Light, six other brands altogether enjoyed success both online and offline, and thus stood to gain at the cash register if not in Ad Meter’s ad popularity contest. In addition to TurboTax ad Olay, Pepsi, Bubly, Verizon, and T-Mobile all gained large numbers of online and offline conversations. Top Performing Brands in TotalSocial and Ad Meter by Engagement Labs The success of TurboTax and Olay notwithstanding, ad creatives should not conclude that creepy always works.  Burger King’s “#EatLikeAndy” commercial showed a confusing vintage clip of the late Andy Warhol quietly eating a Whopper.  It was rated dead last among 58 commercials evaluated by Ad Meter.  It also earned the brand a 45% drop in offline conversations—the worst in TotalSocial—and a 14% drop in online conversations as well. Consumers may like eating at Burger King, but they don’t want to eat like Andy Warhol—nor do they wish to talk about it, either.