I’ve been using a significant amount of my spare pandemic-time to eat chocolates and watch movies. One of my favourite movies, Forrest Gump, combines both interests and features one of the greatest analogies of all times: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get next.” 

When I do succumb to the temptation of diving into the chocolate box, I always want the toffee but somehow land the dreadful Orange Creme. Every time my hands get sweaty and my heartbeat’s racing. Where is the description?

It’s no different in marketing. In 2020, more than ever, it feels like all the chocolates in the world are put in one bowl and the descriptions are torn into pieces and sprinkled on top.

While we were busy working with brands preparing for TV cost inflation and shifting budgets into emerging media such as influencer marketing, the world was hit with bushfires, pandemics, and social injustice. And while some of these were clearly showing on the horizon, no one could predict their outbreak at these exact moments.

This is why it is so important for marketers to stay agile and pivot to emerge stronger from this situation.

They have to start writing their own description after trying/analysing the first few chocolates. And while analysing, they will come across huge differences to their pre-pandemic strategy.

Media will perform differently; consumers are going to behave differently. Solutions might be as obvious as driving people to your online shop instead of bricks-and-mortar stores.

But, again, in order to find these solutions, they need to stay agile and capture the things that are in their control: 

  • What type of messages work best in these different environments? 
  • What is our sensitivity to media across channels? 
  • Who is the most efficient way to reach our target? 
  • How does brand opinion drive sales? 

At Analytic Partners, we have been running simulations, shifting to more frequent live modelling, setting up test and learns to help brands answer these questions, avoid the pitfalls of the Orange Creme.

We are looking at the entire business, holistically, within our Commercial Mix Models. In line with recent measurement trends, we’re integrating more data such as previously unused CRM, connecting it to equity metrics and operation elements.

We also believe that strong machine learning is the foundation, but it must be topped off with data scientists’ human brainpower, especially in unprecedented times. There was an interesting article in The Economist a couple weeks ago about artificial intelligence not living up to expectations in areas such as self-driving cars and medical diagnosis.

It shows yet again that machine learning can do a lot, but it works best when humans are there to hold its hand.

So, remember, next time the world opens a new box of chocolates, don’t run, Forrest, run! Use your tools and knowledge to analyse and navigate it, adapt, evolve, and thrive.

Kevin O’Farrell is Associate VP at Analytic Partners.