Marketers debate value of data Vs instinct: ‘We make decisions based on incomplete data every day’

A top regional marketer for Pizza Hut has stressed the value of gut instinct at a time when the industry is becoming increasingly preoccupied by the need for data to drive decision making to deliver ROI.

Tristan Torres Velat, GM, Deliveroo

Nespresso Singapore’s James Hansford, Charmaine Wong from Pizza Hut and Tristan Torres Velat of Deliveroo at Millennial 2020 yesterday

Talking to Mumbrella after a panel debate on data involving brand owners from Nespresso, Mondelez International and Deliveroo, Charmaine Wong, marketing advisor at Pizza Hut, said that instinct and ideas are more important than data, and the industry has been swayed by “too much technology hype”.

Although Pizza Hut is a big user of data to gauge customer satisfaction through its huge on- and offline guest experience survey, which generates millions of view points from across the region, Wong said the fundamentals of marketing have not changed even though the discipline has become more complex.

Charmaine Wong

Wong: “Sometimes you need to use a marketer’s gut instinct”

And despite the large volume of data marketers have at their disposal to hone their decisions to generate better outcomes, the former P&G and J&J marketer said: “I truly believe a lot of what we do you can’t attribute ROI to. Sometimes you need a good old marketer’s gut instinct to make those calls, and it’s not about data.”

Also on the panel at the Millennial 2020 conference in Singapore was James Hansford, who is a year into a stint as head of e-commerce for coffee machine brand Nespresso in Singapore.

Hansford responded to a question from panel moderator Gwendolyn Regina, the strategy director at Mashable Asia, on how often the panelists make decisions based on incomplete data by saying: “Every day.”

“We should be using the numbers as much as possible, but there are times when we have to use our best guess,” he said.

Coming up with merchandising ideas for Nespresso’s online store, and telling the story around these new products comes from talking to customers and colleagues, not consulting numbers, he noted.

“I’m new to Singapore, so I look at the data very closely. But if you ignore your business acumen, you’ll make mistakes as well,” Hansford pointed out.

George Clooney

What’s your ROI, Mr Clooney?

Nespresso has George Clooney as the brand’s ambassador, but attributing ROI to that decision is almost impossible, Hansford added.

“I don’t know how much we [Nespresso] pay Mr Clooney. But everyone associates him with our brand. So the value on that is massive but the ROI is tough [to measure].”

“For every campaign we run we have brand objectives, and we have performance objectives. When it comes to the brand, we know it’s important and valuable but how do I work out ROI?” he questioned.

The panel all seemed to agree that the data at their disposal had reached a level where it had become almost overwhelming.

“We’re all sitting on piles of it, so we have to ask what are the priorities for the year, and how can the data support that. It has to make life more easy for marketers, not more difficult,” said Hansford.

The biggest challenge is linking the data together to form a single view of the customer, noted Ganesh Kashyap, director of e-commerce for snacks giant Mondelez International.

“If we are trying to understand what the next generation of gifting chocolate should look like, we might have data from social media telling us what people are thinking about gifts in general, and logistics data telling us what customers are saying when the product gets delivered. But pulling this together and forming a singular view is not easy,” he said.

And the ability to do this varies greatly by market, Kashyap pointed out.

In China, Mondelez works with e-commerce giant Alibaba, which has a payments solution, an online market place, and a logistics solution from which data sets can be combined to give a single customer view. But information like this is much harder to come by in markets such as India and Indonesia, Kashyap said.

“For us, we’re offline, online, mobile, call centres, in the trade – we’re in so many different touchpoints, and to map that through all the different channels and understand were we attribute the sale is difficult,” said Hansford.

“Where should we push harder and where should we back off, or focus on brand or focus on message. Mapping all these journeys well – we’re far from getting it right,” he said.

Tristan Torres Velat, GM, Deliveroo

Velat: “Any dollar we spend is about starting a conversation online”

The third marketer on the panel was the general manager for the Singapore operation of online food deliver business Deliveroo, Tristan Torres Velat, who said that his company spends all of its marketing budget online, and that is it possible to “measure everything”.

“We don’t do any offline [marketing]. We are an online business. And any dollar we spend on marketing is about starting a conversation online,” he said.

“If you put up a billboard in the middle of Orchard Road, you can’t measure ROI for that. But you can measure most things,” he said.

Velat shared how Deliveroo uses data to predict consumer demand, and change its advertising messaging accordingly.

He explained: “On Monday morning you look in the mirror and think urgh, I’m fat. My clothes don’t fit. I’m going to eat healthily. Which is why on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, everyone orders salads. The orders for salads from Monday to Wednesday are 10 times what they are on Thursday, when people start ordering pizzas and burgers.”

“On weekends, we see larger orders, with families ordering food together. We use this data to inform and personalise the marketing as we try to increase basket size.”

Mondelez International used both online and offline data to identify and address weak demand of Oreo among young women in China, Kashyap said.

“Our panel data showed us that we were not performing as well as we used to among 25-30 year old females. So we switched to focus groups to get at the real reason for this. It was partly because of the filling – it was too sweet and too heavy, and they couldn’t eat it in a guilt-free, indulgent way. So we launched Oreo Thins,” he said.

Oreo ThinsWhen an online campaign launched to reach this target group, the response was poor, so Mondelez tweaked the creative. New banner ads showed the difference between the original cookie and the thin cookie, and clickthrough rates and sales rates “shot through the roof,” Kashyap said.

Hansford conceded that Nespresso had been guilty of not listening to customer data in the past, but this has changed. Nespresso has introduced a relatively new KPI based on “assistance requests” from customers offering advice on how to innovate the product and service.

“Our staff spent several days sifting through all of these suggestions. We started to realise that the challenges we had were right at our finger prints. From customer feedback we managed to increase the number of prospects – which is the most important segment for us – by 70%.”

The start of the session began with a piece of product placement by Mondelez. Kashyap’s colleague placed a box of Oreo biscuits on the table to give the audience a flavour of what was to come in the following presentation – a talk by Kashyap about a campaign for personalised Oreos in China.

Gwendolyn Regina: "Wait, did you colleague just place that box of cookies on the table?"

Gwendolyn Regina to Ganesh Kashyap: “Wait, did your colleague just place that box of Oreos on the table?”


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