July 6, 2022
By Matt Lampert, Socionomics Institute[Excerpted from the July 2022 issue of The Socionomist.]
I got a kick out of a paragraph in a recent Wall Street Journal (5/18/22) profile of new Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav. The WSJ reported,
Mr. Zaslav wants to use more statistics and research to determine what shows and movies the company should make, he said in a memo to employees on Monday. “As we build this new company,” he wrote, “we need to be guided by data and insights to understand what’s working and what’s not.”
If you’re thinking “socionomics to the rescue,” then we’re on the same page. Socionomists have written at length about how trends in social mood shape the public’s preferences in film and television entertainment. Check out Chapter 15 in The Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior for a primer and Part II of Socionomic Studies of Society and Culture for dessert.
Want to know when to release your cutting edge, shock-and-awe, blood and guts horror masterpiece? We got you covered. What about your squeaky-clean, sing-songy, family-friendly musical? Give us a shout. And that prestige picture by that director people used to love but who hasn’t had a hit since 1982? We just might be able to help you time that one as well. And so on.
But there’s more to this story. If there’s one business that has — for literally a century — kept immaculate data on the gross receipts generated by just about every product it has ever produced, it’s the movie industry. Even in the 1920s, Variety magazine published box office figures.
All movie studios use data to make decisions and have done so for some time. Warner Bros. is no stranger to the data game. In fact, in January 2020 it announced a deal with a tech firm to use artificial intelligence software to crunch numbers and help the studio to decide which movies to make. Yet even with an AI program that, according to the Hollywood Reporter, employs “comprehensive data and predictive analytics” to “assess the value of a star in any territory and how much a film is expected to make in theaters and on other ancillary streams,” the studio finds itself wanting more data to bolster its analytical arsenal.
That got me thinking: getting the data ain’t the problem. Warner Bros. has it, more than it could possibly make sense of. The problem is knowing how to use it.
In the Internet Age, companies in every industry are awash in data like never before. No doubt some of it is useful. But how do you distinguish between what’s useful and what isn’t? Think about any crucial decision you’ve ever made. How many pieces of information truly swung the decision for you? I’d be surprised if it was more than five. It may have been just one or two. Yet you probably had a veritable mound of information to consider.
Having a lot of information is good for two things:
- Increasing the chance that you’ll base your decision on something that doesn’t matter.
- Providing your brain with a basis to extrapolate a trend.
In the film industry, studios have learned much about which types of movies, which stars, which financing and distribution models, and so on have thrived in a large-degree positive social mood trend. In the thick of a large-degree negative social mood trend, however, most of that information will become useless aside from serving as an example of what not to do.
Absent a socionomic perspective, the only way for a studio to figure that out is to conduct business the positive-mood way, endure a series of expensive flops after mood turns negative, see another studio or filmmaker try something different that gains some traction with the public, and then emulate it. That’s a long and costly process, and it won’t be unique to the film business. Industries the world over will learn similar lessons.
One edge a socionomist has is an ability to estimate shifts in the public’s preferences before the public reveals those new preferences in the marketplace. If you identify a significant shift toward negative social mood in real time, for example, you don’t have to wait for another studio to produce a horror movie hit to know that horror movies are back en vogue. You have a chance to be the studio that releases the horror movie hit that your competitors then rush to copy.
The movie business is just one example of where this edge comes into play. Of course, a socionomic decision-maker won’t get every decision right — no one can. But the socionomic entrepreneur at least has a shot to deliver to the public what the public wants, before the public — or competitors — even knows it wants it.
Want to make data-driven socionomic business decisions? Know your industry, master the theory and keep a stock index chart handy.
Master the theory. Know your business. Keep a stock index chart handy.
That’s the formula for a socionomically superpowered entrepreneur. You already know your business, and you can pull up a stock index chart with a few taps or clicks of a mouse. All you need now is to master socionomic theory.
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At the Socionomics Institute, we look at how society is feeling today — so you can anticipate how society will behave tomorrow. We track social mood in real time across the globe. You’ll see how changes in social mood shift everything from the songs people want to hear to the leaders they elect; from people’s desire for peace to their hunger for scandals.
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