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Knitting Narratives: How the Planet Values Wool

How a wool industry is applying machine intelligence for real-time analysis to answer questions about their consumer market.

Damien Madden of the Wool Company, and Dave McCaughan of AI.Agency, talk to us about making what they do matter more to the world. This is a modified version of a keynote presentation at IIeX North America.

“Australia lives on the sheep’s back”. It’s a saying that all Australians recognize. Since the very early 1800s sheep, and especially their wool, have been key to the economy of the country. They remain so today.

The Woolmark Company is the industry body that represents the marketing of Australian wool — in particular its fine merino wool — through the ownership and marketing of the Woolmark logo globally. Their success has been such that Australian fine merino wool dominates the top end of the global wool market and is recognized by designers and tailors everywhere for its quality. However, like all industries, Wool operates in changing times. Traditional markets for fine wool — like business suits and formal attire — are not growing as they used to. The world is becoming more informal.

Like all of us, the Woolmark Company and its industry live in a world framed by experience and exposure. A bubble of knowledge and opinion that is great when things are growing well, but may need breaking when new opportunities are to be found. Recognising that need, Woolmark began using the Significance Systems machine intelligence platform for narrative exploration, discovery and investigation in 2015 in a series of studies to help understand new opportunities.

Damian Madden, Digital Marketing Director for Woolmark explains what they were looking for and why the use of an automated machine intelligence platform delivers something special and helps them in getting to the good stuff…

Over the last three years, Woolmark has undertaken eleven projects to understand potential new areas of growth, establish potential key partners and sponsorship opportunities, and build an ongoing understanding of key trends affecting wool and its competitors:

  • Who are the best partners and best ways to encourage wool to be used in Activewear in 5 key global markets? (USA, UK, Japan, Germany, Italy)
  • Who are the best partners in the US market for wool and what are the most relevant trends, media channels, and visuals?
  • What and who should we consider to effectively enter the Hunting/Fishing market in the US market?
  • What are the trends in shoes and sneakers for a Merino based shoe?
  • What are the trends and opportunities for wool in Travel Retail?
  • What narratives and developments are driving the future of fashion relevant to wool?
  • What are the key trends, brands, and opportunities in the UK Activewear market?
  • What are the most relevant innovations in fashion from a global perspective?
  • What and where is the engagement in woven wool denim?
  • Content Trackers – Fashion, Activewear
  • Driver analysis – wool vs other textiles measured against key attributes including fashion tech

In one early study, the research platforms helped identify the key new designers and brands that were transforming the use of wool in the USA market — designers like Gabriella Hearst and Eileen Fisher. That early study also identified the wool and winter coat trends in USA market making a real difference. Real-time deep analysis of the market enabled a fresh look at traditional markets and at the new opportunities to be found.

Damian again explains how understanding many new potential opportunities is part of Woolmark’s strategy to grow the wool market globally.



We also helped in more refined markets. For example, one study asked “who and what brands should we look to align with in order to effectively enter the hunting and fishing market in the USA?”. This is a huge market opportunity that required both a new way of understanding the category and of analyzing which brands were successful and that could become greater partners for Australian wool. Through the use of the Landscape discovery tool, a number of brands were identified as being those that were both transforming the market and also open to using more high-end wool fibres opportunities.

Woolmark appreciates the ability of the platform to provide specific recommendations for partnerships and real depth as to what matters in this booming market.



The ability to access market opportunities and analysis quickly (3 weeks from brief to full report) is a key advantage of the platform.

Other projects have focused on building in-depth ongoing knowledge and breaking down the drivers of real success in global markets.


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