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Posts Tagged ‘manufacturers’

Inaugural SilverLink Study Offers Insights into Aging Population

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

With the Baby Boomer generation reaching retirement age and life expectancy increasing, the average age of Americans is rising. The number of Americans over the age of 65 will more than double during the next 40 years. As a response to this trend, IRI has released SilverLink, a new report designed to provide insight into the aging population. The report outlines six segments of consumers aged 50 and over based on demographics, attitudes toward aging, health and wellness, shopping behavior, and lifestyle habits.

This knowledge is especially valuable because the aging demographic is growing increasingly powerful. Since 2007, real median income has decreased for all age groups except for those over the age of 65. In fact, the 65-plus age group saw a 5 percent increase in income between 2007 and 2010. The group is living longer and has more resources than ever before. It is therefore essential to understand their behaviors and shopping habits to establish a market targeted towards their preferences.

Of the six SilverLink segments, 52 percent of consumers over age 50 fall into the “Secure,” “Conscientious,” or “Preoccupied” categories, all of which present significant growth opportunities for CPG manufacturers and retailers. The segments and the unique opportunities they present are outlined as follows:

  • Secure – With a median income of $58,000, these shoppers believe they have enough money for a comfortable retirement. They consider themselves to be in good health, prioritize exercise, and try to eat a healthy diet about 80 percent of the time. These shoppers are ideal targets for nutritious items that support a healthy lifestyle.
  • Conscientious – These shoppers are diligent about their health, and also their finances, with a median income $37,000. They monitor their diets, both to maintain a healthy weight and to feel good. Deals and coupons are key to attracting Conscientious consumers. They will be particularly receptive to online promotions, as they love technology and social media, and often research new products online.
  • Preoccupied – Unlike Conscientious and Secure shoppers, consumers in the Preoccupied segment do not focus on exercising or improving their diets, although they know they should. With a median income of $51,000, these shoppers are often on the go and generally choose convenience over nutrition. Although this group stands out due to its lack of commitment to healthy eating, CPG manufactures and retailers can still win with this group via simple, convenient offerings, such as prepared single serve meals.

Unfortunately, the three additional segments that comprise the remaining 48 percent of the 50 and older population present fewer obvious opportunities for CPG manufacturers and retailers. As their names suggest, the “Unconcerned” “Resistant” and “Resigned” segments are generally not looking to try new products. They do not exercise frequently, often because of mobility issues, and many are struggling to make ends meet, with median incomes in the $32,000 – $42,000 range.

A solid understanding of seniors’ behaviors and motivations is essential for any CPG marketer seeking to target this powerful, growing group of shoppers. With these six categories in mind, manufacturers and retailers can develop products better targeted toward the aging population.

NutriLink Demystifies Attitudes Toward Health, Diet and Exercise

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Despite the startling prevalence of obesity in the United States, attitudes toward health, diet, nutrition and exercise vary drastically among consumers. Natural and organic product sales are at an all-time high, but fewer than 5 percent of adults participate in the recommended 30 minutes of exercise daily. IRI’s new NutriLink segmentation study classifies consumers into six groups based on their behavior and attitudes toward health, diet and exercise as well as their demographics. Each of the groups has distinct wants and needs that CPG companies can use to effectively target and entice them. Understanding these segments can help CPG manufacturers and retailers drive sales, increase loyalty and create successful new products. The categories include:

  • Fast & Frugal – Taste and price are key concerns for these shoppers, who make up 26 percent of shoppers and have a median income of $36,000 and a median age of 46. As a result of their on-the-go lifestyles, they rarely exercise and prefer foods that are quick and easy to prepare or are ready-to-eat.
  • Sensible Super Moms – In order to ensure that they and their families look and feel good, these savvy moms prioritize eating right and exercising. Theyprefer fresh food and actively seek information on nutrition/healthy eating, but also believe indulgent snacks can be part of a healthy diet. With a median income of $46,000 and a median age of 42, Sensible Super Moms account for 20 percent of the population.
  • Wise and Healthy – With a median age of 68 and median income of $49,000, these shoppers are not as adversely affected by changes in the economy and can afford to buy healthy, nutritious groceries. They make an effort to exercise daily and believe in eating healthy food in order to stay healthy and disease-free. Sixteen percent of shoppers fall under the Wise and Healthy segment.
  • Healthy Chic –These shoppers are actively trying to improve eating habits and tend to follow strict diets or eat healthy to stay healthy and maintain or lose weight. This group enjoys a median income of $76,000, has a median age of 44, and accounts for 16 percent of the population.
  • Convenient and Content – This group does not put a premium ondiet or exercise. Their food choices tend to revolve around taste convenience rather than health. With an average age of 54 and a median income of $65,000, they are not particularly affected by changes in the economy. They make up 14 percent of the population.
  • Carefree Coasters – These shoppers generally eat on the run and are largely indifferent to taste, freshness, healthiness and price. With a median age of 50 and a median income of $38,000, they spend very little time thinking about what they eat and are not concerned about calories or other nutritional aspects of food. Carefree Coasters account for 9 percent of the population.

Knowledge of these segments can help CPG marketers and retailers target their products toward the correct consumer groups, creating more effective and efficient campaigns. For example, the “Healthy Chic” and “Wise and Healthy” consumers will be drawn toward new healthy and organic products, while “Fast and Frugal” and “Carefree Coasters” will gravitate toward inexpensive prepared meals.

Assortment: Category Growth and Simplifying Consumer Choice

Monday, January 6th, 2014

During this past Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I was in the market for a new television and quickly became overwhelmed with the sheer number of choices that flooded the marketplace during this high point of the retail season. From the array of bargain and premium brands to varying screen sizes and technical specs, it quickly reminded me of the challenges manufacturers and retailers face on optimizing their category assortments and building their innovation pipelines.

With each shopping trip, consumers are presented with new choices – new flavors, new packaging, new brands and sometimes a truly unique innovation. SKU proliferation is at an all-time high and the pressure to create the next blockbuster is felt by every manufacturer. To stay relevant, manufacturers must create an innovation pipeline of products that both meets current demand and grows with their consumers.

My shopping experience for a television led (at least temporarily) to a non-purchase. It frustrated me that every electronics manufacturer now had a foot in the market, each with its own set of promoted features that I deemed neither valuable nor unique. My indecision mirrors the issues consumers have in the CPG industry; we estimate roughly 80 percent of new product launches fall short of expectations and even worse, a majority never yield a positive ROI. Consumers are confused, innovations are misaligned to consumer preferences and retailers are unsure what assortment of product choices to offer on their shelves – all of which creates an adversarial retail environment for many likely buyers.

To best solve this issue, improve success rates and not leave new product launches up to chance, a multi-faceted insights program is necessary to guide understanding of the following:

  • Consumer Preferences:  How do consumers shop the category and what do they value?
  • Attribute Importance: Which attributes are important and what levels are preferred within each attribute? Which combination of attributes will be most attractive to the consumer? Are there white space opportunities for innovation?
  • Competitive Interactions: With whom do I compete? Which attribute values overlap and which brands compete for the same consumers? What is the demand structure within the category?
  • Product Uniqueness: Is my product unique? How much is to be gained by introducing a new product into the assortment? Which attributes drive uniqueness & which are saturated?
  • Transferable Demand: What proportion of sales will readily transfer to other products in the category? Will a new product launch grow the category or cannibalize existing items on the shelf? To which products will my demand transfer?

A broad, integrated insights program with these components delivers enhanced capability to understand changing consumer needs, as well as the ability to more proactively influence a dynamic marketplace. The end result is better category management decisions, happier consumers and profitable growth for retailers and manufacturers.

Thank you for reading – I’m off to buy that TV now…

Price Elasticities: Truths Holding Across Multiple Product Categories

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

When shopping for a yogurt or soft drink, I usually go for my favorite brand and flavors, and am willing to pay a little extra for these than for other brands.   Similarly, when buying health products over the counter, I stick with what works, even if the price rises a bit.  However, as a parent who stuffs my kids’ lunchboxes each week with drinks and snack bars, I usually approach this bulk purchase looking for the cheapest of the several brands they like, willing to switch from week to week.  The implication here is that for my family and me, price has different meanings for different items. For a special treat, we can tolerate higher prices for brand loyalty, but for ongoing staples with many options, lower prices dictate the choice.

In fact, having different price responses across different products and need states is not solely a characteristic of the Haimowitz household; it’s reflected more broadly in the marketplace.  At IRI, we see this frequently across our extensive multi-category price elasticity database, one of the largest collections of price and promotion response insights in the CPG industry.  This syndicated results database contains price response measures for over 100 product categories, spanning many manufacturers, brands, outlets, and retailers.

As we have compiled this knowledge base, we have discovered a number of general findings that, while not universal, do hold across multiple categories.  Here are a few examples:

  • Faster moving items are generally more price elastic than slower moving items.  This is true for both food and non-food departments.  Thus beer, bottled water and toilet tissue are highly elastic.  By contrast, spices, internal analgesics and skin care products are comparatively inelastic.
  • Significant differences in elasticities exist across outlets of stores.  Consider grocery stores vs. drug stores.  Mustard and ketchup are very elastic in grocery stores, while not very elastic at all in drug stores.  A similar gap exists for toilet tissue.  By contrast, cigarettes as a category are very inelastic in drug stores and not quite as elastic in grocery stores.
  • At a manufacturer level in aggregate, the largest manufacturers can have the most elastic brands. We’ve seen this hold for both carbonated beverages and breakfast cereals, among others.  In a similar vein, private label tends to be less elastic than other manufacturers within many categories.
  • Within a category, perceived luxury brands are often far less elastic than high volume common brands.   In mustard, Grey Poupon is quite inelastic, likely a result of decades cultivating a brand image of an affordable luxury item.
  • Even for a large, high volume manufacturer, distinguishing attributes or product combinations can create a brand that is much less price elastic.   Examples are product blends (chocolate and peanut butter combined) or seasonal holiday specific items packaged specially.
  • Package size is not quite a conclusive relationship with price elasticity; the category, the brand, and other factors are at play.

Our CPG manufacturer and retailer clients use IRI’s price elasticity knowledge base in several ways.  A manufacturer can use the knowledge base as valuable asset for determining which brands and products within their portfolio are worth considering for a dynamic price change, and within which type of retailer.  A retailer can also use IRI’s insights to optimize pricing, selecting among the categories in an aisle or department that are most elastic to price changes and promotions.  That can help guide a preferential strategy for price discounting within their stores.

Concern Over Government Dysfunction to Dampen Holiday Spending

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

With only 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas— six fewer than last year— the retail industry is already up in arms about turning a sufficient profit. But the shortened holiday shopping period isn’t the only factor manufacturers and retailers need to worry about. According to a special IRI survey, 43 percent of consumers plan to rein in their 2013 holiday spending, not because of lack of time, but because of concerns about the debt ceiling crisis and another possible government shutdown. Those who plan to cut back include 53 percent of lower-income households, 52 percent of Hispanics and 47 percent of all households.

Conducted between October 31 and November 5, 2013, IRI’s survey provided follow-up information as a supplement to the Q3 MarketPulse study, which was conducted in the days leading up to the 2013 government shutdown. The government may be back in working order,
but consumer confidence has not bounced back so quickly. In fact, many consumers are tightening their wallets this holiday season in order to build a safety net in case of another shutdown.

Along with a lack on confidence in their personal finances, consumers now display an overall lack of confidence in the U.S. government’s ability to pass a 2014 budget that will avoid the debt ceiling crisis. Only 15 percent of consumers are confident that the government will reach an agreement, while the majority (53 percent) is skeptical as to whether the government can avert another shutdown. Thirty-two percent remain uncertain. If the country does hit the new debt ceiling, and the government is forced to shut down in early 2014:

  • 57 percent of consumers expect their financial strain to increase, versus 46 percent who anticipated increased strain before the October 2013 shutdown
  • 45 percent of consumers say they will have less money to spend on groceries, versus 35 percent before the October 2013 shutdown
  • 44 percent of all consumers say they will have to reduce/eliminate trips to some of their favorite stores, compared to only 31 percent before the October 2013 shutdown

Consumers are prepared to strap down their wallets at any sign of trouble, and the impending debt ceiling crisis and plausible government shutdown is no exception. CPG retailers and manufacturers must keep a close eye on the situation and be prepared to react rapidly to whatever happens next. As challenging as this time is, it is also a critical opportunity to protect and grow loyalty by ensuring that key consumers know that their preferred CPG companies have their backs and are making efforts to support them by providing strong value every day, particularly in the event of another yet another financial obstacle .

Not Winning with Assortment?…You Won’t Unless You Can Architect Your Category!

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Does your assortment approach only allow you to add, remove or replace SKUs? If so, you are most likely missing the benefits of considering how price and facings can impact consumer choice and sales. Be happy if your current approach considers price and facings, but know that you are most likely still unable to evaluate innovation opportunities and how to place these innovations on the shelf.  More importantly, you probably can’t be confident that your assortment plans really address the way consumers shop.

In fact, if you care to note each of the elements we just described—price, facings, innovation launches and shopper behavior—you will find that what we are considering is not so much how to optimize assortment, but, rather, how to architect a category for maximum sales and incrementality. It is the latent, pervasive but often unmet need to architect categories that makes current assortment solutions fall short of delivering true value.

All this brings us to the question, “what does a solution have to look like to enable category architectures?” Well, for one it has to reflect the way consumers shop: whether the solution leverages an existing Consumer Decision Tree (CDT) or Market Structure or has to generate one internally, the solution has to map out the consumers’ decision process. It must also account for the corresponding consumer utility:  how does preference change in the face of changing alternatives? And then, the solution needs to have the wide breadth of coverage that is only possible to attain with point-of-sale (POS) data. Although other data sources are acceptable, the reality of the matter is that POS data has a level of coverage and accuracy that is unmatched by other types.

But, let us take a close look at the other elements that are necessary in solutions that enable category architectures:

  • Comprehensive item coverage – It goes without saying that a robust solution must account for slow moving items or items with low category share. These may be your items, or they may be the items that have the most incrementality. Failing to account for all items is bound to result in an incomplete view of how consumers shop the category and may leave money on the table.
  • Flexible category definition – A solution should represent your categories the way you see them: if you see your cookies interacting with crackers, or if coffee interacts with energy drinks, the approach should be able to gauge and account for these interactions. This aspect is particularly important if you plan on launching innovations that will be in the outskirts of your category definition (we’ll cover this in detail in an upcoming post).
  • Address innovation launches – A robust solution should assist in deciding which innovations to launch, forecast their incrementality and transferrable demand and also make a strong and clear case for why a retailer should allocate them shelf space.
  • Price and Facings – These two elements can change the decision process: preference for private label can be circumvented by pricing brands low enough to make them attractive by comparison. Brands with great share of shelf tend to attract the most sales (all else being equal) and these subtle changes to the consumer decision process need to be considered to fully address consumer needs and maximize sales.

All in all, what we see is that manufacturers and retailers have much deeper needs than simple assortment recommendations. They need to be able to architect categories, which is only accomplished with solutions that account for far more factors than just adding, removing or replacing items on a shelf.

IRI and SPINS Offer New Insights on Fast-Growing Natural/Organic Industry

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

With the U.S. obesity epidemic grabbing constant media attention, it can be easy to forget that many Americans are actually becoming more health conscious. Maybe it’s that all the obesity coverage is helping educate consumers on the importance of a healthy diet. Maybe it’s the increasing availability of healthier products (22 percent of IRI’s 2012 New Product Pacesetters offer healthier-for-you benefits). Whatever the reason, 64 percent of consumers are eating healthier today and the natural products industry is experiencing enormous growth.

Nearly every U.S. household purchased natural products in the past year. More than two-thirds of households are buying organic products. The natural products market topped $80 billion in 2012, and is experiencing double-digit, year-over-year growth. But, in order to sustain this impressive growth, natural products retailers and manufacturers need to know as much as possible about the natural consumer.

To help accelerate the natural and organic products industry’s growth, we recently announced a partnership with SPINS LLC, the leading provider of information and insights surrounding the natural and specialty products industry. The partnership bolsters IRI’s Consumer Network™ household panel by integrating SPINS’ unique natural/organic food segmentation data to create a new natural/organic segmentation capability.

In partnering with SPINS, we’ve significantly expanded our knowledge of the natural/organic sector and can give our clients a more holistic view of both the natural/organic products industry and the overall health and wellness sector. With IRI and SPINS’ combined data, CPG manufacturers and retailers can gain a fully integrated view of how consumers think about, shop for and actually buy natural products.

Together with SPINS, we’ve created a comprehensive view of consumers in the rapidly growing natural/organic sector. We now offer specific segmentation data and insight into this unique population, allowing manufacturers and retailers to more effectively identify, understand and market to the consumers who purchases natural and organic products. This powerful segmentation also enables marketers to better craft and execute plans for natural product distribution, marketing, trade spending and product development.

Please see our recent press release for full details on the partnership, and leave us a comment to let us know how your company is taking advantage of the natural/organic industry’s enormous growth!

Ranking the Top-Performing CPG Companies

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Most studies measure brands’ success using a single metric, or perhaps a combination of two, such as dollar and volume sales. But that’s only a fraction of the whole picture. To gain a more complete view, we collaborated with The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to rank the top-performing companies in the U.S. CPG industry based on a combination of three metrics—dollar sales growth, volume sales growth and market share gains.

Using comprehensive retail- and consumer-market tracking data, we analyzed the 2012 performance of more than 400 public and private CPG manufacturers with annual U.S. revenues of at least $100 million. We generated three distinct top-ten lists of winning companies: large (more than $5 billion in retail sales), midsize ($1 billion to $5 billion in retail sales) and small ($100 million to $1 billion in retail sales).

One primary takeaway from the report is there are various paths for growth. Some companies effectively manage innovation, others effectively manage pricing.

So which companies took home the top honors? Among large companies, the top three performers were Lorillard, the Hershey Company, and Anheuser-Busch InBev. The top-performing midsize companies were Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc., Chobani, and Starbucks, while the top-three small company spots went to TalkingRain, Idahoan, and Handi-foil.

The road to success is different for each company, but several trends are stimulating growth for CPG manufacturers. Here are few of the insights we gleaned:

  • Small and midsize companies are increasingly taking market share from large competitors. All top-ten small and midsize companies gained market share in 2012. In contrast, large companies have given up 1.4 share points as a group since 2009, amounting to more than $10 billion in lost sales.
  • Focused portfolios are delivering results. Small and midsize winners are generally focusing on a few product categories, while the large winners that saw higher share growth tend to compete in fewer categories.
  • Large CPG leaders are largely relying on pricing for growth. All 10 winners in the large company category show higher sales trends for dollar sales than volume.
  • Larger companies have an opportunity to drive growth through more effective portfolio-mix management. Large manufacturers should consider expanding into categories with high growth potential through acquisitions or new product development, and should frequently re-evaluate their existing categories to determine and focus on the greatest opportunities.

IRI is continuing to work with BCG to track company performance and ongoing trends shaping the CPG industry. We will update the report annually, and we’re excited to deliver further insight and foresight for our clients and the CPG industry overall. To request a copy of the full study, “The BCG-IRI Momentum Report,” please contact John McIndoe at John.McIndoe@IRIworldwide.com.

Finding Diamonds in the Rough; Thoughts on Identifying Analytics Leaders

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

One of my favorite comedic sets is a classic by the comic-social pundit Louis C.K., where he muses on the discontent he observes in people interacting with modern technology that just a few generations ago would have been considered nothing short of a biblical miracle.  The concept of people’s annoyance with flight delays, slow internet connections in airplanes and the occasional dropped call are juxtaposed versus the true travel and communication limitations that existed not too long ago in a very humorous fashion, but one that hammers home a point about perspective with respect to modernity.  Such is the life of the modern analytics professional.

We are functioning in an era where analytics professionals are the new “rock stars” of business, perhaps tracking towards their own Showtime series like “House of Lies” is for management consultants.  What was once considered to be a backroom profession has become front and center in the evolving business landscape.  More and more, modern analytics professionals are expected to routinely deliver projects in a matter of days, where just a decade or so ago such projects would have been considered a multi-year research program conducted by leading academics.

The result is the same modern impatience that Louis C.K. observes in society is perhaps even more prevalent in an “I want it yesterday” business environment.  What this means is today’s analytics leaders cannot simply be modernized versions of the academic researchers who pioneered many of the methods we still use. Instead, they must be flexible, multi-faceted individuals who bring a mix of talents to balance the art and science of bringing data “big” and “small” to life.  As such, the profile for analytic leadership has evolved beyond just being quantitatively savvy.

Being analytic in today’s environment requires the following:

Deep Quantitative Expertise:  This is a table stake. To really be functional, useful and quite honestly meaningful, one must understand the tenets of the scientific method, have a broad comprehension of research methodologies and the ability to develop discipline out of perceived chaos.  Whether one has studied in a mathematical, business, social or hard sciences environment is of less concern than having developed a discipline of thought and the ability to avoid dogma.

Intellectual Adaptability:  The leaders in the analytics and data sciences professions are not necessarily the most quantitatively gifted. In fact, the gifted have a tendency to be most dogmatic because they see their skills as their distinct advantage and miss the value of nuance.

True analytics leaders recognize that that while their quantitative skills are important, their distinct advantage is the ability to adapt, evolve and leverage insights from other people and disciplines.  The analytics person that fits in with the sales, marketing and strategy teams is much more valuable than the one that sets themselves apart.

Creativity: A good analytics professional can take data, apply a method and deliver results in a timely fashion that meets the business request of the day.  An analytics leader though, is able to do all of the same things except they are also able to show others the implications of their insights and extract significant additional value associated with the discovery journey that they took to drive forth the results.

As an example, one of the most notable mathematicians of modern times is one Charles Dodgson; whose nom du plume, Lewis Carroll, authored Alice in Wonderland, the creativity of which is unchallenged.  The point is that analytics leadership is as much about making insights accessible as it is about making them rigorous.  The mix of analytic rigor that stimulates the mind with the ability to tell a story that reaches the heart is critical to drive acceptance and action.

Comfort with Ambiguity:  One of the toughest outcomes that analytics professionals and their colleagues struggle with the most is the non-result.  The market research industry has accelerated the adoption of quantitative analyses in business via the notion that these techniques reveal insights that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.  As such, the perceived value of analytics is diminished if there is not a result, and typically diminished even further if the result is not in the direction expected by the key business stakeholders.

An analytics leader is sensitive to the needs of the business for directive insights, but not steered by them.  They have the courage and foresight to acknowledge that sometimes there is no cause and effect relationship or that there are data/analytical limitations.  But they don’t stop there.  This is where the three previous characteristics come together.  A true analytic leader takes the non result within the context of the business, their knowledge of other projects and provides their best effort at directive guidance based on their overall expertise and other insights.

The rapid adoption of analytics across the business spectrum has opened up significant opportunities for quantitative professionals, but the growth brings about some challenges as that market attempts to adapt.  Lately, I’ve seen more clients and young analysts looking to solve the business issue prior to engaging in the project, which pretty much defeats the purpose of the endeavor. True analytic leaders recognize that the discovery journey is as important as the ultimate insights, and are able to bring others along to really elevate from the experience.

To be clear though, this is not to imply that analytics is only done well when done slowly, quite the contrary.  The fifth critical characteristic of an analytics leader is the ability to move at a sometimes frenzied pace (Speed).  While this seems to be a paradox with the notion of discipline, it is not.  It’s actually the discipline, adaptability and creativity that enables an analytic leader to leverage their unique expertise to move swiftly, adroitly and successfully.

In my next post on analytics within CPG organizations, I plan to discuss how an organization might go about developing a talent pool of analytic excellence.

On Being Analytic: One Guy’s Perspective on Analytics & Industry

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

My personal obsession with books of Michael Lewis is finally starting to payoff in my professional career.  First, The Blindside and its aftermath has reinforced the notion that persistence and conviction pay-off in the long run if guided by earnestness.  Second, Moneyball and the resulting legions of sabermetricians did what I never thought could be done; it made analytics cool and somewhat mainstream. Finally, my most recent read, The Big Short provided very clear examples of how it’s not enough to simply “run models” to be analytically proficient; the true winners are those who understand how to leverage the insights to identify what isn’t obvious to rest of the world, which in some cases leads to truth revealed.  This trilogy of Michael Lewis’ best sellers is more than just a set of great reads to me; in combination, the stories epitomize my professional evolution as an analytics professional in a business world that, in many cases, is still not quite clear what it truly means to be analytic.

Both Moneyball and The Big Short provide clear cases where the thoughtful use of analytics yields success against the grain of conventional wisdom.  In both instances, the real villains are the purveyors of performance management and planning routines that seemingly had always been successful, until it was shown that there is a better way.  This is a highly relevant narrative to the current tide of businesses striving towards "Competing on Analytics" and navigating the sea of "Big Data." While many businesses are going “all in” on buying analytics software and creating the new positions that the consultants say they should, few are really adapting their organizations to be truly analytic in their culture.  Instead, most companies are putting analytics to work within the existing conventional wisdom of their organizations and not truly evolving.  Conventional strategies may yield short-term gains that suggest success, ultimately, though, these organizations are participating in their own demise and actually falling behind.

Despite what the ads on TV or white papers  claim, being analytic is as much a cultural mindset as it is a suite of capabilities and software.  To be analytic means embracing discovery, rigor, debate and, most importantly, disruption.  Simply running an advanced analysis like a marketing mix analysis year after year does not make an organization analytic, actually quite the opposite is the case.  The organizations that are truly differentiated are those that regularly change up their programs; they subject their partners to peer review and enforce openness across their organizations as well their network of agencies.  Where most companies embed analytics within their annual performance management routines, true growth companies are using analytics to splinter off opportunities, gain share and invent new markets, while the old firms struggle to understand where their business is going.

This is where the lessons of The Blindside become most relevant to the narrative for analytic professionals; ultimately conviction, persistence and earnestness will enable analytics to truly blossom across businesses and protect them from the lurking threats.  Truly evolving businesses will embrace the scientific principles of validation, discipline, debate, ongoing discovery and disruption as the true benefits of analytics.  These same businesses are putting a greater emphasis on people with problem-solving skills based on insights rather than results reporters and process managers.  To be truly analytic is not expecting data, models or surveys to deliver truth supporting incremental growth, but rather to leverage those solutions to discover new opportunities driving stepwise evolution.

Next entry will focus on the people skills needed to be “analytic.”