University of Sussex Media Release.
. New online tool set to revolutionise market research

14 March 2000
For immediate release

A University of Sussex researcher has developed a way of identifying and creating multi-million pound best sellers. Paul Marsden, a DPhil student at Sussex, believes his online research tool will help design and promote successful products.

The technique may be used to increase the 'infectiousness' of advertising and marketing campaigns through the development of 'mind viruses' that can trigger 'social epidemics' by making people believe that they want the product.

Paul has been working with American Express and is due to present his findings at the Market Research Society Conference in Brighton this week.

The research tool Paul has developed uses insights from 'memetics' to evolve ideas online. Memes are ideas that behave like genes; they get passed between people and they mutate, recombine and evolve. Successful or popular ideas spread like mind viruses, whilst weak ideas are forgotten and die.

An example Paul gives is the Christian church, "It is a wonderful set of memes that copies itself across minds and the more it copies, by definition, the fitter it gets. All the other five million half-baked ideas that everyone has, that never manage to get out of your head and replicate inside someone else's head, they die."

Paul believes that if you can identify strong memes or ideas that will spread and become infectious, then you can identify products that will be successful. In order to do this, Paul used a word association game and put it on the web. By getting hundreds of consumers to play this game at, he identifies the dominant memes that code for today's fit ideas and brands.

The potential of the web inspired Paul; "The real power of the web is that it allows a large number of people to be involved, creating a map rather than an individual's associations." When a consumer logs on at, they are asked to give the words that they most associate with the concept of 'healthy living'. Words that come up repeatedly become strong associations with healthy living such as 'low fat', 'exercise' and 'natural', while those words that are just particular to certain individuals are weak and die. Paul can then advise companies who are trying to launch a new healthy living-type product that these are the sort of features that it should include.

Paul, with his company Brand Genetics, is using this process to generate new ideas for Lloyds TSB, the manufacturers of Metz, Mars, Land Rover, and a number of other companies.

Notes for Editors

For further information please contact Paul Marsden on 07967 175 626, email or Harriet Sexton, Assistant Information Officer, Tel. 01273 678888, Fax 01273 877456, email

The Market Research Society Conference is being held from 15 to 17 March 2000 at the Brighton Metropole.

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