Holly Milne takes a look at how Relative Insight’s unique comparative approach to analysing language can be used to spot and track consumer trends.

How to track trends with Relative Insight

Trend tracking is a key element of marketing for fairly obvious reasons, and over the last year at Relative we have looked at everything from dairy products to student recruitment to help our clients get a handle on how to approach their target markets. Whether this is the first time that they’ve looked at a space or if it is well-trodden ground for them, they are simply looking for new and unknown insights using an evidence-based view of the market.

When should you do it?

There are many points along a projects’ life that Relative could be a useful tool for tracking trends.

In the first instance, it might be when you are pitching for a new project and want to go in with something fresh and innovative, with some hard science to back to up.

Secondly, it might be at the very beginning of new project in order to give you Strategy and Creative teams a jumping off point or to validate existing creative ideas.

Thirdly, mid-project if current ideas aren’t feeling as fresh as you’d like them too.

How does it work?

Relative can analyse a range of language data and compare it based on timeframe. To put this into a real-world example, you could look at how Trainers are being discussed this year on social, forums, blogs, media outlets this year compared to last year. This would remove everything that is the same in that conversation and just reveal what key trends have emerged in the last year.

What do the results look like?

This is incredibly dependant on the data you put in and the question you are looking to answer. Generally, the results fit into two categories; strategy – finding out the pain points / white space / big ideas, and content – the words/phrases are people using.

An interesting piece of work a client performed recently was focused on recruiting students onto a new Digital Marketing undergraduate programme. The question was how to position the course in order to attract the right candidates while making sure candidates would immediately understand what the course entailed and how it would be a good fit for them.


The client started by looking very broadly at the Digital Marketing space over social media (looking specifically at 17-25-year olds), forums (studentroom.co.uk, etc.), and feedback on similar courses run at the university.

They then compared all the conversation from 2018/19 to 2017 to get a wide view of what trends had emerged. It brought forward a number of key areas that had changed over the last year. Mainly that the idea of ‘digital’ had saturated the world of marketing so heavily and so many courses where being built around it that students were getting lost in a world of buzzwords and were struggling to know which course to take. Secondly, that the idea of ‘marketing’ was now becoming interchangeable with SEO, PPC, and paid media such that the term didn’t land well with all students. They were generally split into three groups; those who wanted to do strategy and creative, those who wanted to be more technical, and those who weren’t sure. This had led to a fear that they might end up on a course that didn’t allow them to actually follow what they wanted to do.

From there the client decided to run another comparison to see what the prospectuses for digital marketing courses looked like in 2018/19 compared to 2017. This led them to realise that there was a real gap in the market to tailor a course for ‘undecided’ students. This was then a perfect jumping off point for them to start designing that course leaving it open for lots of options as you progress through the degree.


Once this decision was made the client refocused discovery around these ‘undecided’ students. They looked again at social, forums, and feedback, but with a more specific spin on people who were struggling to know exactly what they wanted to do.

From there they could help the university create course descriptions based around the language and pain points of the ‘undecided’ group which was then used for UCAS content and the university website. It also gave them a jumping off point to start putting together a full recruitment campaign.


Main photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

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Technology born from criminal linguistics research

Relative Insight was born out of a 10-year research project with Lancaster University’s linguistic and cybersecurity departments. In the beginning, we used language analysis to help law enforcement identify criminals masquerading as young people in chat rooms.
Today, we use the same methods to help brands communicate more authentically with their audiences—focusing on statistically significant differences in the way people speak, and deriving insights from them that fuel sharper strategy and smarter communication.