Alessia Clusini

Data Strategist

Co-Founder of Trybes Agency

Winner 2022

Alessia Clusini

What was your journey/career path to your current position?

To get "here", as in, close to the concept of Ikigai, I've built three careers, lived in several countries and learnt a bunch of skill sets from incredible people that are not related to one unique path or vision. The opposite of a straight path, I guess. :)    

My background is in design, but I ended up working in data strategy. And, I love it.    

I used to work in fashion (design and trends), and because of the disruption brought by mass-market fashion and GFC, I had to re pivot.    

After cutting my teeth on a guerrilla marketing project, I studied marketing and started working in social media marketing. It was a great success. It was 2011, traffic and growth were pretty much organic, and you could experiment with platforms and communities much more than now. Results spoke from themselves: a massive increase in reach and engagement and doubled the sales.    

But another disruption was coming. Social channel algorithms were changing and forcing brands to throw big budgets to reach their audiences, while the amount of content was getting out of hand and competition for people's attention was getting harder and harder. So I stopped and started studying again: this time SNA, content analysis and netnography. Our performance numbers convinced me that the more you understand your audience, the better, and I wanted to focus on analysis to serve content and strategy.    

Along the way, I was lucky enough to meet the amazing people that became my new agency partners - Martina Faralli, a psychologist specialised in content analysis, and Tomiwa Adey, a Hybrid Intelligence engineer - and to be addressed by some of the most brilliant minds in netnography and digital humanities.  

So we created a couple of really cool tech tools (like Krowd, the first-ever analytic tool for Facebook communities), experimented with early days social intelligence and debunked a few consolidated market research myths: like topicgraphics instead of demographics, or the fact that quant and qual are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they can be mixed in a new research model that is possible if you couple AI with the social sciences - I call this hybrid intelligence tech. And this is what led to Trybes Agency.    

What's your proudest achievement of your career to date?

A project where we were asked to save lives.    

Industry: VOD. Our client's story was focused on teenagers and young adults' suicide. As it happens in all series and especially those skewed to young audiences, the audience would identify with the story characters.    

The problem was that it was coming to life after a huge Netflix blow up on the same topic and skewed to the same audience: 13 Reasons Why.    According to the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 13 Reasons Why was a huge success but was also followed by an almost 30% increase in suicide among Americans in the target. Many institutions and experts released official warnings on how romanticised and spectacularized suicide and mental health themes resulted in copycat behaviour by the target audience.    

So this was our client's problem. How could they make a relatable but not dangerous series for the target audience?    

Our solution was to apply the Topicgraphic Data and Trybes Analysis to solve the 2-factors problem.    

On one side, help the client develop a storyline and a show that reflect the audience's real stories and perceptions. How? By observing the target audience interacting with the series themes in their own ecosystems and with their own narratives and culture.    

On the other side, there was the problem of simplification and spectacularization of complex themes. Part of the shortcoming of '13 Reasons Why' was its focus on quant research and commercial metrics whilst failing to properly engage with the nuances of young people's suicide and mental health. This lack of deeper understanding resulted in a glamourised version of suicide and ultimately encouraged it.  

Our approach was instead to look at the social and psychological metrics to feedback into and help shape the storylining and character development of the series.    

We used a mix of psychological analysis and content analysis to examine the behaviours and narratives of teens and young adults concerning the series topics.    

It was a great project to work on, we loved the story, and we took it extremely seriously as the theme and the kind of work we were approaching deserved. As of today, it's one of the projects that makes me the proudest of. It was extremely challenging to analyse hundreds of conversations of teenagers and young adults that struggle with mental health and suicidal thoughts. I'm very proud of the dedication we reserved to the project, as it was aimed at saving lives and not just views. But also, you need the views to have a cultural impact like Netflix did.    

So we took the challenge.    

What does social intelligence mean to you?

Observing people in the most natural and unobtrusive way: in their cultural and social context. Giving companies the chance to co-create meaning and capital (cultural and economic) with their people: fans, consumers, observers and the public at large.    

What's been the biggest challenge you've faced while trying to get brands to integrate social intelligence within their growth strategy?

The biggest objection from insights buyers was about how representative the sample is. Are all people online? Are they speaking up about their needs and problems? Were the most common doubts.    

Also, a cultural misconception from the marketing world at large. Generally speaking, there's been a general perception of social media as ephemeral and superficial, if you will, or even as a negatively impactful tool. That didn't help.    

What do you think is the biggest missed opportunity for social intelligence?

To leverage social sciences and to deeply understand the intrinsic cultural values of people. Too often, I see social intelligence stopping at data scraping and NLP, while IMO what made our research projects great was working with anthropologists, psychologists, sociologists and netnographers. The human side of data.    

What's on the cards for you and your team/organisation in 2022?

Actionability and democratisation of insights in the form of a platform and an academy.    

Platform. We're working on Topik: a platform that makes accessible the most comprehensive insights on sustainable brands and consumers. The benefit for companies is to uncover met and unmet needs to be the next Tesla, Impossible and Patagonia. The benefits for research buyers are to save time and money with fresh and actionable insights, on-demand, for a price cut.    

Academy. After the success of our guides and workshop, double down on consumer insights education for people in marketing, advertising and running their business. We are making it scalable and available on-demand so that everybody from everywhere can learn more about online research opportunities.    

How do you see social intelligence and its use evolving?

I envision an increasingly more phygital world and a great time to be working in this field. The pandemic brought everybody online and made our industry more relevant than ever.    

ATM I'm researching the future of identity, ownership (and the new status signaling that come with them), social interactions, production, consumption and prosumption. Macro-themes like the new normal we're living, the ecological emergency and tech acceleration of NFTs, metaverse and Web3 are having an impact on people and their behaviours and I'm super excited to be envisioning and analysing them.

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