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When Text Analytics is Your Brand: What I Learned About Personal Branding at #IIEX

I encourage everyone to give some thought to their personal brands. Unlike corporate brands they don’t have to be perfect. If they were, they would be very boring and one dimensional. Just be you – and let others know it!



Editor’s Note: I’ve written extensively about my personal journey in brand building before: my “magnum opus” is the post My Life On The “V List”: How Social Media Reach & Influence Translate Into Offline Opportunity and my position hasn’t changed much since then. If anything, I have now come full circle where I have leveraged my personal brand to build several businesses that are doing well and am now considering the need to scale back my personal brand identification with them so that the business brand can thrive without my direct involvement. It’s a tricky issue to navigate, and one that many folks who build a business around themselves face; after all, businesses need to be scalable and that is one thing individuals are not.

All that said, today there are unprecedented opportunities to engage in effective brand building via social media, self-publishing, events, etc… and many individuals in our space have emerged as brands unto themselves using these channels (Ray Poynter, Annie Pettit, Tom De Ruyck, Tom Ewing, Tom H.C. Anderson, Dave McCaughan, Kristin Luck and Dan Foreman all come to mind as great examples) to help grow the businesses they are aligned with. Since quite a few of these folks were attending IIeX in Atlanta last week, I thought it would be interesting to pull together a panel on this topic.

As a prelude, Annie Pettit conducted a short open-end survey asking what comes to mind when thinking of her, Tom Ewing, Tom Anderson, Dave, and I. The results weren’t surprising: most folks had a very positive association with each of us, with a small but vocal minority of “haters”. Like any brand study, the goal here was to understand what attributes are associated with the brand and then explore ways to amplify those that fit with the strategic vision and downplay/correct those that could detract from that strategy.

Annie Pettit did an awesome write up of her key takeaways from the survey and the panel: How to create a personal brand #IIeX. It mirrors my own feelings and is a great primer on the topic for anyone interested. Dave McCaughan also wrote a great piece: WHEN THE BRAND IS YOU : FOOTNOTES ON MEDIA, MARKETING AND PEOPLE from the perspective of an ad agency veteran that is well worth a read.

Finally, Tom H.C. Anderson put his thoughts to paper, with the added bonus of using his OdinText software to do additional analysis on the survey results. It’s a piece that only Tom could write, and is actually a lot of fun and very smart, just like the author.

I hope all of this navel gazing on our parts has produced some useful insight for you. It would be great to see the number of personal brands in MR increase as we all explore what the future of this new dimension of our world means.


By Tom H.C. Anderson

Coming back from Insight Innovation Exchange (IIeX) this week in Atlanta and thought I’d blog briefly about the two panel sessions on Personal/Digital Branding I was asked to participate in.

Text Analytics

My main reason for attending IIEX was actually to give a brief presentation on how intuitive our OdinText text analytics software is, and how it really can turn any market research analyst into a powerful Data Scientist. This was the first time we’ve ever given any kind of demo of OdinText in public. Usually our presentations are approved case studies about how our clients like Coca-Cola, Disney, Shell Oil etc. are using the tool.

Also, text analytics remains a very competitive field, we prefer to share details around the software with those we know have the kind of data that OdinText can help with. However, since we’ll soon be launching a new version of OdinText and I was assured by Lenny Murphy that, contrary to what I believed, a lot of attendees actually want to see software demos rather than just hear use cases we agreed to do a short demo.

In case you missed it, I’ve posted a brief teaser video below, along with a shameless plug before I go on. If you regularly collect comment type text data, we’d love to hear from you and get you more info about OdinText (Request Info Here). Shameless ad plug over.



Personal Branding

Other than showing off OdinText though, I was also honored to be asked to sit on a personal branding panel with prolific market research tweeters Tom Ewing and Annie Pettit, as well as Dave McCaughan who is a well-known name in East Asian and Australian market research circles.

On the Summer Friday (at 5:30pm no less) before our Monday morning session, Annie Pettit came up with the idea to field an impromptu convenience sample survey, and to my surprise by Sunday afternoon we already had about 150 comments relating to the panelists. Lenny Murphy who has also accumulated a loyal #MRX following on Twitter and on the Greenbook blog was also included in the survey which asked something like “Q. What three things first come to mind when you hear each of these names/personal brands?”.

Though this sample is a bit on the small side for OdinText I quickly visualized the comments to give us some idea of how similar/different each of these 5 ‘brands’ are and what specific topics most frequently co-occur with each of them.



I’m sure all of us were equally interested in the findings, because let’s face it, while EVERYONE has a personal brand (even if unfortunately not everyone recognizes it), few of us ever get an insight into what it really means to people in this unaided top-of-mind market research sort of way.

We agreed not to share any of each other’s raw data, but I’m fine sharing the first 40 responses I received (both good, bad and ugly) below, sorted alphabetically:


American linked in conversationalist
Analytical, ever-present, helpful analytics omnipresent
analytics geek
beard, omnipresence and self publicity
Cool Guy
Fun honest text analytics
Hans Christian Anderson
He’s all about new, cool & hip in the quant world
His banner ads pursue me remorselessly around the web marketing
know his name but can’t recall…
Lover of anything that reminds him of the Swedish socialist utopia
next gen guy
odin text – text pro
OdinText Text Analytics, smart, trustworthy
respected, helpful, innovative smart
Self promoter
Social media junkie
straight shooter. willing to challenge hyped claims. maybe falling too in love with his own methodology
text analysis
text analytics
text analytics odintext
Text analytics pro
Text Analytics, expert, outspoken, industry leader,
text analytics, NGMR, vikings
Text master, text Analytics
The first to advocate Next Gen Market Research, especially Text Analytics and Data Mining,The first market researcher to truly understand social, AND bold enough to stand up against trade orgs on behalf of mid-small research firms. A true research hero
Tom is a great example of focusing on one thing you really care about and want to make better,and then actually doing that..
Tweeted this survey
up against trade orgs on behalf of mid-small research firms. A true research hero.


A first thing that struck me looking at both the responses for my ‘brand’ as well as those of the others on the panel was that the negative comments, while few overall, were also rather consistent proportionately across all of us.

I think this may have come as a surprise to some of the others, as I expected a few negative remarks related to some of the positions I’ve taken about market research, which while I know were popular among the majority of US researchers, weren’t as welcome by an outspoken few researchers more closely associated or working for these trade organizations I took issue with.

Of greater importance, and more surprising to me, was that our company brands were almost never mentioned for any of us. I’ve in fact been concerned whether my comments related to other areas of consumer insights research have taken away from what I really want to be known for, OdinText and Text Analytics. The good news was that when market researchers who know me think of me they think Text Analytics. The bad news, was that few mention the brand OdinText. But how bad is this really?

A few months ago I wrote about personal branding and Kristin Luck (someone else whom I definitely think should also have been on the panel). You can read that piece here. I think the point though really is that personal brands undoubtedly create a different and more complex association network in the minds of other people than brands or logos do.

This can’t be a bad thing, I believe they are complimentary. If people think Tom H. C. Anderson = Text Analytics, they also are likely to think Text Analytics = Tom H. C. Anderson, and so when they have a need for text analytics, some will think of me, and then OdinText (even if the brand OdinText doesn’t first come to mind).

I’m not sure what the association network is for uber personal brands like Bill Gates or the late Steve Jobs, but would venture to guess it’s similar. Surprisingly perhaps, Microsoft and Apple may well not be the first thing that comes to mind when someone first thinks about these two individual brands. Both really are far more complex than either of the company brands Microsoft and Apple. The individuals stand for so much more (philanthropy, design, success, strength, perseverance, intelligence, innovation…).

Definitely an interesting area, one that could use more research, aided by text analytics of course, OdinText Ideally 😉

My takeaway and advice to other market researcher is that personal branding is a good thing. It’s a complex thing, and that’s a good thing. Unlike a simple company product or logo we as people are deeper and have ability to encompass far more dimensions. I believe these personal brands, as I know from experience is the case for both myself and Kristin Luck, have been very beneficial to the companies we’re associated with. It’s a truism, that this is a people business, and people buy from people.

I encourage everyone to give some thought to their personal brands. Unlike corporate brands they don’t have to be perfect. If they were, they would be very boring and one dimensional. Just be you – and let others know it!



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7 responses to “When Text Analytics is Your Brand: What I Learned About Personal Branding at #IIEX

  1. It’s an interesting question and challenge, balancing a personal brand with a company brand. It’s a no brainer that having an readily identifiable brand is an asset no matter what or who it is attached to. It lets the world know what you stand for, and that helps attracts customers aligned with what you offer. In your case Tom, you have 3 brands – you, OdinText (product) and Andersen Analytics (company) that compete for attention, with clearly your personal brand having the most traction. But I think it comes down to goals. Do you want the product out front, the company or the you? While having a personal brand out front is a valuable and good thing, ultimately the goal is to drive business. Which drives more business? Is it a focus on personal or the company or the product? It can depend on the organization, whether it’s service or product oriented. And it’s not either other, more of what is the primary and what is the secondary brand. In my opinion,I think Insites does a great job in balancing this. Tom, NIels, Annelies and others at Insites have strong personal brands,but it all seems to collectively add to the Insiites brand. The same can be said for the Brainjuicer folks (John, Orlando, Tom).

  2. Totally agree with Steve here (as usual!). I did a presentation on this topic in London last year for the WiRe group. First off I think many in our industry do not think about branding and don’t get its value, so its good news that you guys were playing around with it at IIex (wish I’d been there too to join in). But it is so vital that the brand you have for yourself fits with and supports your company brand (rather than being your company brand). Most smaller businesses struggle to grow when they have a strong leader with a loud personal brand that is so strongly associated with the company no one else can get a look in. Extending that to build a mature business with mulitple personal brands that add to it and work together can be a real challenge but one that those organisations Steve cites have dealt with well. I’ll be bashing on about branding in MR again at the BIG Conference here in London again next week, co presenting with GSK insights director Paul Buckley. If you are passing the Mayfair hotel on Thursday….do drop in!

  3. A lof of ‘branding’ experts here. Strong personal brands have always been a corner stone of good business. Just ask Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg to name a few.

  4. Would have been fun too have Lenny and Kristin Luck on the panel as they have both done for Greenbook and Decipher, respectively, what neither brand was able to do for themselves.

    When it comes to branding there are really 2 things, in order of importance: 1 Awareness and then 2 Positioning. If you are not in the top 3 in terms of unaided awareness in a category your chances are pretty bad. Best is to be #1 of course, but as long as positioning is tweaked properly you can compete effectively in niches

    If you guys are interested in branding I really urge you to read one of the many books the Fathers of Branding (i.e. Al Ries and Jack Trout) have written on the subject. There really is no one else who comes close in terms of branding wisdom. I’ve also interviewed them both separately on the Next Gen Market Research blog (you can search the archives if you are interested).

    1. Thanks Tom. To everyone’s point, it is a fine line between being the brand ambassador and the brand itself, a balance that I have struggled with (and still do). However, when the personal brand and the business brand are in alignment and reinforce one another (John Kearon is likely the best example of this in our space) it can be a powerful force to drive not just business growth, but also personal growth.

  5. Great to meet you Odin! The topic of how personal and company brands inter-relate has been turning itself over in my mind. I think at it’s best, the personal brand emerges because of the way the values and actions of that person are expressed through the organizations they drive. Using a couple of examples. From my vantage point as a Greenbook brand consumer (admittedly not knowing all the inside story) Greenbook as a brand didn’t magically transform just because Lenny simply showed up. It has been actions like reinvigorating the Greebook blog with tons of content, Lenny’s commentary and starting a new conference series (among other initiatives) with a specific angle on innovation. The success and traction in turn reflects back on Lenny’s personal brand. With Steve Jobs, his particularly vision was expressed through Apple, then Next & Pixar, then Apple again to mostly great success, which then in turn reflected back on his brand. Apple and Pixar continue to thrive even after Job’s has passed. Ultimately, if the goal is to grow a business, a strong, recognizable personal brand is indeed a tremendous asset, but how that personal brand is expressed through the company itself may be where the biggest impact is.

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