Seasonal Retail Social Insights: Timberland & The North Face

For clothing brands geared towards specific weather conditions and temperatures, seasonal sales are extremely important for reaching crucial revenue goals each year. Both The North Face and Timberland are two such brands built with these seasonal needs in mind. While each brand operates in fundamentally different types of clothing markets, The North Face in jackets and outerwear mostly, Timberland in footwear, they have similar seasonal “restrictions” on their product. Cold winds, wet snow, and generally inclement weather are these two brands’ forte, and as such are very popular during the winter.
How do brands like this perform from season to season? How do customers’ conversations evolve each year? Sales numbers and statistics can tell a part of the story, but those types of numbers lack a critical human part of the equation, which is exactly where social media analytical data excels. Social insights have the enormous value of informing strategy and growth opportunities for brands, whether it be by identifying new markets, understanding audience in greater detail, or even by finding new product opportunities. Using Crimson Hexagon’s platform, we analyzed the performance and evolution of both The North Face and Timberland’s conversation over the past few winter seasons.
Volume/Sentiment Analysis
Starting with the ‘13-’14 winter season, a basic volume and sentiment analysis helps to get a general idea of how the conversation around Timberland has shifted. When looking at the raw volume of posts, with websites and retweets filtered out to get a more organic representation of the conversation, we can see that there has actually been a decrease over the past few years. The ‘14-’15 winter season has significantly less posts than the previous season, by almost 100,000 posts.
tims volume by season
The current winter season is on track to have even fewer posts than the previous season, with only about 28,000 posts at the current time. While we see raw volume trending downwards from season to season, basic sentiment seems to be trending positively. Previous seasons fads or trends could possibly account for the large volume in earlier years, with current volume and positive sentiment being attributed to purchase satisfaction or life-casting.
Examining the same statistics for The North Face, we can see a very similar trend. During the ‘13-’14 winter season, there is a huge volume of posts, but as the seasons go on there is a significant fall-off.
NF volume by season
What could be causing this large dip in post volume for both brands? Further analysis of the conversation is needed to completely understand these trends.
Breaking Down the Conversation
General volume and sentiment analyses can help identify trends in sets of data, but to truly gain meaningful insights the conversation needs to be examined further. Filtering through and separating the details surrounding these two brands helps us take a deeper dive into the discussion.
For Timberland, we divided the conversation into three categories, “Getting Tims/Timberlands”, “Wearing Tims/Timberlands” and “Uggs and Tims”. Creating a separate category for comparisons between Ugg and Timberland validates that we aren’t seeing any of those posts within with the other lifecasting categories, and we get the true breakdown of the conversation.
timberland category changes by season
Over the past few seasons, we see Timberland’s conversation drastically shift from “Getting Tims/Timberlands” to “Wearing Tims/Timberlands”. This transition alludes to the idea of why Timberland’s raw post volume has decreased in recent months. Conversation focus is much more about lifecasting involving Timberland, wearing their footwear or seeing someone wear it, versus buying or being excited to get Timberland products as a gift. Many of the people lifecasting about the brand most likely already received or bought Timberland products in the past few years. Because Timberland footwear is a more durable and unchanging product, they have no need to continue to discuss “getting” the products (because buyers already own their favorites). 
The North Face, on the other hand, shows a different seasonal trend. Using very similar categories as those of Timberland, we separated the conversation into “getting”, “wearing”, and a third category that identified jokes surrounding The North Face. There was a pretty wide variety of jokes referring to The North Face, which didn’t contribute to the conversation we’re looking to examine, so filtering those posts out helps us get a clearer view of the conversation.
NF category changes by season
Compared to Timberland, The North Face shows very little season to season change. While there is slight fluctuation in the topic of “Wearing a North Face”, it is somewhat negligible. Why has raw post volume for the brand been dropping in recent seasons then? This social anomaly leads us to ask questions that we didn’t even know we wanted the answers to before. Volume drops could signal a general disinterest in the brand for current years, or the decline of a fad that flared up in past seasons. Focus on the aspect of buying or receiving a product from The North Face could allude to the fact that styles and fashions are ever-changing; compared to a durable and reliable product like those of Timberland, The North Face might have a much shorter product life cycle.
 
 

Audience Analysis

Identifying key audience trends and insights is another important component of seasonal analysis relating to brands. Knowing exactly where your brand’s audience interests lie can heavily inform not only product promotion, but also placement.

Timberland is an interesting example. When looking at the demographics of the conversation discussing Timberland, we can see that the audience is generally on the younger side, the majority under 24 years old.

Age breakdown from 2013-09-01 to 2015-11-09

Naturally, the affinities for an audience of this age are somewhat predictable, with things like High School, Snapchat, Playstation, Celebrities, and Universities being the most talked about compared to all of Twitter.

AffinitiesDay And Time from 2013-09-01 to 2015-11-09

Taking a closer look, we can find some interesting insights in this information. When comparing Timberland audience affinities to similar and competing brands, we see a more niche audience in the Timberland conversation. We used monitors on Uggs, L.L. Bean boots, and Polo boots to compare to Timberland, and were able to uncover some interesting results:

AffinitiesDay And Time from 2013-09-01 to 2015-11-09 (1)

Compared to similar competitors, the Timberland audience is very interested in a wealth of topics relating to the UK, such as Liverpool, England, BBC Radio, and The X Factor. Small analyzations like this can reveal important insights into an audience, obviously for Timberland there is a huge interest in things relating to the UK, whether it be because they have a large market share in that region or for other reasons.

Analyzing these two brands on a seasonal basis has helped us answer questions about both brands, but has also given rise to more questions about them and trends surrounding them. Social media analytics not only provide us with valuable information to enable marketing professionals to answer questions, but also help discover the poignant questions to be asking when looking to seriously analyze a brand.

For more information on top brand comparison, read our case study on J.Crew and Anthropologie. 

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