It ain’t what you say, but the way that you say it

In this latest series we speak with tech leaders who offer solutions within the research, data, and insights space. To shine a spotlight on disruptive technologies and identify the value they bring. In our latest instalment, we speak with Ben Hookway, CEO of Relative Insight.

 Relative Insight is a text analytics platform that reveals what people say, how they say it, how this narrative evolves over time and how it varies between comparative groups.

 Day One are pioneers of using technology to reveal new insights faster. We recently worked with Relative Insight to understand how the conversation around COVID-19 has evolved from Alpha to Omicron.

But now to the interview…

Thanks for joining Ben, can you briefly tell me a little bit about Relative Insight?

Relative Insight is a text analytics platform that solves all kinds of consumer analytic problems, in industries from coffee to healthcare to insurance. But we didn’t start there. Our original mission was to uncover individuals masquerading online as someone they were not, particularly child predators. And from a data perspective, that’s a very tricky thing to do, because the bad guys are really good at pretending; to the point where if you took suspect language and put it through a standard text analytics algorithm, that algorithm would probably tell you it is a 13-year-old girl. So Relative Insight developed a unique comparison methodology whereby we used verified 13-year-old girl language, and then suspected language, and compared them. Our output was the 4% difference in the language. It’s those differences that would catch people. And that fundamental process continues all the way through Relative Insight now.

That’s a powerful backstory. How did you transition to being a consumer analytic platform?

Some of the early work we did was in the cosmetics industry. A client was having a problem with their campaign. They were trying to encourage younger people to buy the brand, but it wasn’t working. So, we took reviews of cosmetics and we compared people in their 20s talking about make-up with people in their 50s talking about make-up and we found, among other things, that people in their 20s tended to say they ‘wear make-up’, whereas people in their 50s tended to say they ‘apply make-up’. Using language such as ‘apply our products every day for great results’ meant the client wasn’t speaking the language of the 20 somethings they wanted to target.

What are the other applications of Relative Insight? 

Number one is consumer analytics. Companies have loads of data lying around that they are often just sitting on; text data, social data, survey open-end etc. We analyse that data by age, income, service level, location etc. and compare what different groups talk about, how different audiences talk and how that evolves over time.

The second application is customer experience; live chat, transcripts, phone calls and customer satisfaction surveys. Most clients know what their NPS score is, and they know it’s going up or down. But text analytics tells them why.

More recently, we’re seeing a lot of demand in employee engagement where we can look at how different sections of a company talk, how this varies by location, and differences in employee concerns.

That is the power of text analytics. Data can tell you what is happening. Text analytics can tell you why it is happening and what is starting to happen – the new trends.

Looking back across the last few years, what would you have done differently?

You would normally start by understanding an industry really well, identifying a problem and then building the tech to attack the problem. But that isn’t what we did at Relative Insight. We were built to solve a problem in law enforcement. We came into the consumer world by learning how companies and brands work, and the relationship between them, and that took a little while.

We’re big advocates of tech at Day One. But some clients need a little more convincing about the benefits. What kind of pushback have you experienced and how did you overcome it?

In technology businesses there’s a delusional phenomenon. You go to market and nothing happens because nobody cares that you exist. Then you make some sales, and convince yourself that you are on hockey stick growth. But then it plateaus because your customers love the core concept and are prepared to put up with any potential weaknesses. You need to continually remind yourself that your product is never complete and there’s always another group of users who would use it, if it wasn’t for these potential weaknesses. That’s how products evolve.

So, what’s next for Relative Insight?

We’re at the end of the beginning, so to speak. We are increasingly looking at how to tap into different data sources within different departments.

The collapse of cookies means that first-party data is becoming more and more critical for companies. 

Quite often it’s the customer experience department that holds the most data, so we’re helping insight departments analyse that data which is throwing up some interesting results.

And we’re looking at better visualisation and speed to insight; where things are automatically analysed to help people cut to the core insights.

So, making findings more accessible? More actionable? More tangible if you will… 

It’s about helping insight professionals convey the great results that we can provide via Relative Insight technology into meaningful stories for their stakeholders. This helps them quickly understand the value of the insights and be able to do something about them.

Relative Insight is a comparative text analytics software that helps organisations generate actionable insights from text data – using technology originally developed for law enforcement. Relative’s platform combines AI-powered natural language processing with advanced comparative linguistics to analyse any source of text data and drive enhanced contextual understandings of target audiences, competitors and trends. 

Day One Strategy is a specialised healthcare market research agency that combines technology and human intelligence to move quickly and deliver a richer understanding of customers, brands and communications. We start every day as if it’s our first, full of enthusiasm and a desire to try new things. If you feel the same and would love to leverage the combined power of tech and human intelligence for smarter, faster insight then get in touch: