Our AI Research may have predicted Calombaris’s demise.

6 months ago, AI picked up the intense anger felt towards George Calombaris.

Now, it seems, these emotions have driven action, forcing his restaurants to close.

Last year we were doing some research surrounding the soon-to-be former MasterChef Australia judges. We used AI to measure what Australia thought of Matt, George and Gary, and also who they most wanted to see as their replacements (see our article from August 11, 2019).

It was a bit of fun and little did we know at the time how our research would uncover the incredible depth of upset with Calombaris that seems to have sustained itself long enough to keep patrons away from his restaurants. We know that emotions drive behaviour. The deeper the emotion, the more likely it is that it will determine behaviour.

When we took an emotional read of the three original judges, our expectations were largely confirmed—Australia had lost its interest in them, and they (particularly Gary and Matt) did not evoke a deep emotional response (you can see this measure depicted in the below chart).

An emotional eyeball chart from our research.

These emotion wheels reveal the type of emotion (positive and negative), strength (intensity of colour), depth (layers) and breadth (width). It’s a very quick measure of a great deal of content, and how people feel about it. 

As you can see, Gary and Matt evoked a very mild emotional response. People don’t really care enough to change their perception or behaviour about them or the show. 

However, for George Calombaris—in the wake of the well-reported wage scandal—a strong and deep range of negative emotions were revealed. This depth of emotion was strong, which told us it was significant.

We didn’t know at the time that this would see his sizeable empire close, but we did know that deep emotions predict behaviour. 

Our research, which was conducted just daysafter the underpayment story broke, uncovered a depth of anger surrounding Calombaris that proved lasting and powerful. These deep red emotions were clearly strong enough and profound enough to change the behaviour of diners.

They stopped going to his restaurants, and now the doors have been forcefully closed.

Any day where hundreds of hospitality staff have lost their jobs is not one to celebrate—but it does offer an opportunity to reflect. And, when reflecting on the snapshot we took in August, it’s clear to us now that the deep emotions directed at Calombaris were predictive of a lasting damage to his brand.

The power of AI research is that—positive or negative—it explores human engagement with online content, without bias. By doing so, it can read the pulse effectively and reveal key signals to those who choose to accept them.

We often get asked if AI can predict the future, and while it’s no crystal ball, what it does offer is an understanding of human emotion that can predict behaviour. What you do with that knowledge—which we believe is powerful—is up to you.

As we enter the era of machine learnings, perhaps it’s fitting to quote Sarah Connor from Terminator 2, who said, ‘The future is not set. There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.’

Connor, albeit a fictional character, was right. 

The future is not set, but, through AI we can now uncover the understanding of the present needed to change it. 

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