Snuggie Trends: Tracking a Viral Outbreak

By Mike Kowieski, Paid Search Specialist, Advertising Solutions

Last fall, (the philanthropic arm of the search giant) announced Google Flu Trends, a tool that uses aggregated search data across the country in order to estimate flu activity up to two weeks ahead of time. The tool is a clever use of the staggering amount of search data Google collects daily, and serves as an impressive early warning system against a potentially deadly virus. Google’s use of search data to track viral outbreaks left me wondering: Can we use similar methods to track another viral outbreak?

For those of you living under a rock for the past few months, the Snuggie has taken the nation by storm. Finally – a blanket with sleeves that allows you stay warm while maintaining full arm and hand mobility. Over 4 million Snuggies have been sold since last October – no doubt helped by some interesting broadcast spots. It has achieved a cult-like status among its many rabid followers, and has led fellow team members at Resolution Media – Dave Barnes and Dan Kuthy – to start, which has exploded beyond its Chicago roots and now has 14 other cities on the docket. Clearly, we’re dealing with a powerful viral outbreak here. But when did this all start, and is the end in sight? Is Snuggie-mania stronger in some areas of our country than others? We can find the answers to these questions using Google Insights for Search.

We can see search volume around the term “Snuggie” was dormant until T.V. advertising began airing in October 2008 – and then it took off like wildfire, with an accelerated outbreak somewhere around mid-November, a peak leading up to the holidays, and since then a plateau. Are we through the worst of the Snuggie outbreak? Search trends would seem to suggest so. Note to all marketers out there: be sure you’re allocating enough budget to paid search during broadcast flighting in order to capitalize on the boost in search volume.

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Snuggie Traffic Trends

Regional searches for “snuggie” show high volume in major metropolitan areas with harsh winters: Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia and Boston all top the list. But some surprising cities also appear, as Austin, Atlanta, and Dallas all show up in the top 10, even though winters there are relatively mild. Two factors may be at play here that explain such strong demand in southern cities. One, the need for full upper-limb mobility while staying warm may transcend geographic regions. Two, these cities may have a high concentration of mavens that are searching out and forwarding along Snuggie’s YouTube spots to their friends. Note to search marketers: make sure you’re taking advantage of engine geo-targeting settings in order to capture high-demand markets more effectively.

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Snuggie Geographic Interest

The Snuggie outbreak is national – but with the right search data you can prepare yourself.


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