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Sentiment Analysis Gives Companies Insight Into Consumer Opinion

Kia, Best Buy, and Viacom are using new tools to mine comments on the Web to see what consumers really think of their brands

Kia Motors (000270:KS) is eager to know what consumers think of its 2012 Rio, a five-door compact car to be unveiled at an auto show in April. The company, whose cars have traditionally been associated with fuel efficiency and good value, wants also to be known for "great design and cool technology," says Michael Sprague, Kia's vice-president of marketing and communications. "Our biggest challenge for the Kia brand is changing consumer perception," he says. Yet, the company has struggled to connect with consumers "on the emotional side," he says.

To change that, the Seoul-based automaker will use a tool that can swiftly analyze large numbers of opinions on the Web, including blogs, the microblogging site Twitter, and social networking service Facebook. It's called Mass Opinion Business Intelligence and it was developed by an Irvine (Calif.)-based company called WiseWindow. It coughs up a continuous, real-time feed of relevant consumer sentiment, gathered from millions of sites.