Some Interesting Data on Market Perception of Aikido

Before you read on, keep these articles in mind.

If you're interested in marketing for your Aikido (or other martial art) dojo, take a look at my previous post here: Social Media Marketing for the Contemporary Aikido Dojo

Then take a look at the post on Grinders, Minders, and Finders, and identify your Finders, since this particular post will be most of use to them as they shape the perception of your dojo.

Third, this guest post I wrote for The Way You Practice about what I feel is currently the driving force behind public perception of Aikido. While that post is sort of describing what I personally thought was an issue, I think the data we've started to uncover is showing that it has a larger impact than we originally thought. This won't obviously be confirmed until we can set up the framework to collect more specific data (if we ever get around to it), but I think it's a good starting point during a period where we don't yet have enough support to run the data collection. A few of the responses to it were very "not my problem" or "why does it matter?" or "I'm not this way so..." but if Aikido as an online community is the cause for either not retaining students or barring entry for student enrollment, then it is very much everyone's problem should we wish for the art to grow and spread. There was some confusion as to what the point of the article was--I'm not talking about the message that we have, but the delivery be it to each other or responding to perceived attacks on the art. A really good friend of mine called me today and he put it so much more succinctly than I ever could, he said "No matter who I'm talking to, I try to be the best ambassador of my art that I can be." and that really resonated with me. I hope it resonates with you.

Then after you've read this article, mosey on over to the next one about personality profiles based on a few surveys that have been done on Aikido practitioners here for some ideas on how to use this data to plan targeted marketing campaigns.

While I didn't touch into any of the data we've looked at on my guest post, here is where I plan to address some of the measurable and quantifiable perceptions of the general public and introduce some tools you can use to help your marketing campaigns. You can do this for any martial art, so please don't think these techniques are specific to Aikido. In this particular post, I'm just presenting a few cool programs you can use to monitor martial arts and your specific style in general, and some of my interesting findings. I have a couple of ideas to gain higher market shares, but unfortunately lack the resources to see it through, so I won't bore you with those details. I'll have recommendations sprinkled here and there, and some of my thoughts on certain things, but I'll try to keep those to a minimum.

Google Trends

Let's talk about the online trend of the search term "Martial Arts" in conjunction with Aikido and a few other common arts. Google Trends is a great tool to compare the interest rate of search terms.

You'll notice that in this simple (USA) 5 year comparison with other traditional martial arts and the searches for the keyphrase "martial arts," it doesn't follow the general trend while the other arts more or less follow the shape. This could pose a significant issue as you would both expect and want Aikido to be strongly correlated in shape with the online interest in martial arts. Online interest in Aikido is continuing to decrease steadily.

I did also input Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and (probably unsurprisingly) the trend is smack dab overlaid upon the key phrase "martial arts." Possibly indicating, similarly to Karate, that it is one of the most likely images one conjures up when it comes to "martial arts." Somewhat interestingly, Karate might be seeing a sudden surge in interest this year. EDITED TO ADD: And here is where keywords can change input of data--I used the word "BJJ" instead and it showed a rising trend. Likewise, there are geographical difference since inputting Aikido globally in comparison to other arts show a similar overall trend (so now it begs the question, why the difference in the US?)

It is important to note that Martial Arts (TMA and MMA as well) in general (see search trend below) is experiencing an overall decrease as far as interest rate goes, which follows a decline in the industry growth rate. This is not to be confused with the annual growth of martial arts in the USA (which is about 4.2% based on IBIS World)--it is measuring the change in the rate of growth. In other words, while the industry is still growing, the growth per year is getting less.

IBIS World Chart of Industry Revenue Growth for Martial Arts

While this speaks to the broader direction of the industry itself--it is important to note consumer spending is based on the public's finances and general economic condition. Possible causes could be an increase of working hours in order to sustain living costs (and thus less time and money for leisure), and an increased rate of debt. However, it's not stagnant and it isn't negative, which means while the future available market share is tighter, martial arts not yet on a death spiral to obsoletion.

Answer The Public - Search Engine Queries Based On Perceptions is an amazing (and free! Did I mention I love free?) resource for tracking online perception, because what it spits out is based on the popularity of search phrases. While it's most often used to decide which SEO keywords and phrases your website should be using, it can also be used for educated guess work on whether or not the general perception is positive or negative given a specific topic. It shows you the most common search phrases related to any particular topic.

So of course I played with this (the image I provide is the first in a series of images for different search terms) and found that Aikido has a lot of controversial and negative phrases connected to it, which of course drives the search engine algorithms to link them together and more commonly recommend these negative searches to the average online user. The majority of the search phrases are questioning the efficacy of the art. Here is where I inject a recommendation and why I had linked the post the other blog: In order to change the online search perception, we as a community might need to come up with an official stance on certain questions, one that is created with generating calm and rational discussion in mind. This doesn't necessarily have to be a united front about what Aikido is or isn't, but a cohesive stance on how to respond to outside criticism, and to decrease internal strife. I have a personal inkling that the reason of why the negative questions are most "viral" for this particular topic is due to the large amount of responses leading to linking out-of-hand arguments as the most popular search phrase. Once it leads a user to one such argument, in general the more irrational, angry, and combative responses will dictate who "loses" the argument (the more out of control, the less likely the average user will want to associate with that particular response). Even if there are measured, compassionate, calm, and rational responses sprinkled within, all it takes is one or two responses that are over-the-top intense, rude, passive aggressive, disrespectful, or resorting to personal attacks to drive user perception in the opposite direction.

In comparison, the search perceptions of BJJ (it is the other community I am relatively familiar with) is less controversial. I was worried that the search "BJJ" didn't give a proper picture since it utilizes the acronym so I also inputed "Brazilian Jiu Jitsu" but it came up similar so I just chose one. What this tells me is that the BJJ community is undivided (or less divided) in their understanding of what their art does for them, and while some conversations can get heated, that the overall result of user perception of the resolution of the arguments is positive. I maxed out the number of daily times I can use Answer The Public, but I will be doing more research such as in comparison to other traditional martial arts.

I decided to check on some of the other Traditional Martial Arts--Karate, Judo, Taekwondo, and Wing Chun just to gauge where their internet perception stood (I have included their images below for those who are interested.) Karate and Judo are relatively neutral and positive, while Taekwondo and Wing Chun are neutral, slightly falling into one or two negatives. So why the disparity? Again, on the face of the internet, there seems to be less internal fighting among practitioners.

Current Instagram Hashtag Situation

I. Am. So. Dumb. So today I had a great talk with Josh Gold-Sensei of Aikido Journal and he told me the method by which they figured out how many hastags Aikido had--just input it into the search and it'll show the number of posts (is this the part where I rage quit my position as the LIA's social media manager? The simplest solution escaped me--here I was looking for 5 year historical trends, balking at analytic companies wanting to charge $8000 a year for it when, with a little bit of work, I could do it myself.) Starting today, I'm going to attempt to track the growth trajectory of Aikido hashtagged posts for 1 year (thank goodness we're still in January.)

Aikido vs. BJJ vs. Judo vs. Martial Arts vs. Taekwondo
Jan 23rd, 2018: 561k - 11.9m - 3m - 5.9m -3.6m (See you next month!)

Brand 24 Hashtag Sentiment Analytics

I stumbled upon Aikido Journal's Data Driven analysis of the current state of Aikido, which you can read here, and it actually mirrors what I had to say on this topic. I then went trying different social media analytic programs, and found a comprehensive one in Brand 24, which is a free hashtag analytic tool (although I don't know if it has a limit.) While it isn't perfect, since it uses specific algorithms to assign positive and negative sentiments, it surprised me with what data it spat out because while I've been feeling pessimistic about the overall sentiment that the previous SEO analytics gave, this one shows that our efforts at social media is having an overall positive effect on marketing.

The negative sentiments, while there, are still far less than the overall positive sentiment, and this information directly correlates to our efforts of using hashtags. Here is another personal recommendation: If you are a content creator, get into the Instagram scene as it is capable of sharing across multiple other social media platforms and begin contributing while using hashtags (you can go to my social media marketing page to get ideas). On top of that, engage in support for other content creators, even if they're not necessarily your flavor of Aikido, on IG and FB. Cross support for other styles, organizations, and within our own will improve visibility.

Each report for Brand 24 is I believe based on your personal account and reach (since it required me to log in with my Instgram account), otherwise the data doesn't make sense because I am sure it's been used more than 2k times. I am still searching for an overall analysis of the specific #aikido hashtag but am still coming up blank thus far--if you have a recommendation, please shoot me a message!

The report.

I hope you found this particular post as interesting as I did!