Sam discusses the value of brand-led marketing, why a recent McDonald’s campaign caught his attention, and which books he recommends to better understand what the future might look like.

You work closely with our new clients, so what’s the most common question that these brands are asking currently?

There are two questions that seem to be coming up a lot at the moment. First, companies really want to understand the value of brand-led marketing, as many feel they have shifted too far towards performance marketing to meet short-term goals. We are working with them to understand the long-term health of their business and how brand-led marketing can support this.

Second, marketers want to know how they can measure more accurately and more quickly the incrementality that results from the tactics they employ, particularly given data deprecation issues. SensorTM, our privacy-compliant, multichannel attribution solution, enables brands to get to those insights quickly at a very granular level.

What’s the best ad or campaign that you’ve seen recently and why?

I like campaigns that have a good strategy at their heart, so the McDonald’s UK #RaiseYourArches ad caught my attention. I think it’s great because it nails a moment – deciding what to have for lunch – that is so simple but one that everyone can relate to. I also like how well branded it is even though no products are shown or mentioned in the ad – that makes it even more powerful.

You’ve been at Gain Theory since you were a graduate. What has been the most important thing that you’ve learned during this time?

I’ve learnt so many things in my time here! Perhaps one of the most important is that you’ve got to look forward and keep learning and challenging yourself. You need to be honest and never think that you know it all.It’s probably the main reason why I enjoy working at Gain Theory. There are so many bright people here from diverse backgrounds who work with lots of brands from different sectors that face a wide range of challenges. We are challenged daily to look at or approach things in new ways.

What book would you recommend to our readers?

I like to read thought-provoking books about future trends and technology. Understanding what that the future might look like and what that means is something I find interesting. So, I have three recommendations: 

  1. Good Data: An Optimist’s Guide To Our Digital Future by Sam Gilbert is great because it provides some brilliant arguments about the use of data for social benefit if we can create a more open and transparent data-sharing culture.
  2. Life After Google by George Gilder explains why Silicon Valley is suffering a nervous breakdown and what to expect as the post-Google age dawns.
  3. 21 Lessons For The 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari asks important questions, such as: What are today’s greatest challenges and choices? What should we pay attention to?

Contact Sam to discuss any of the issues in this Q&A.

Photo by alex on Unsplash.


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Zosia discusses what Gain Theory has been doing during Women’s History Month, why We Buy Any Car’s latest campaign caught her attention, and which podcast is a must-listen.

You’re a champion of Lumena, Gain Theory’s employee resource group for women and non-binary people. What is Lumena focusing on currently?

Reframing masculinity and femininity in the workplace was the focus of our Women’s History Month (WHM) activities this year. As women working in a male-dominated industry, it’s easy to believe that you need to channel masculine energy or hide more feminine parts of your personality to be successful. We want to challenge those beliefs and celebrate the value that vulnerability can bring in the workplace, as well as recognizing that there are times when we need to be strong. I hope that this will help to foster a greater sense of belonging where more people feel that they can bring their whole selves to work and celebrate the unique skills and experiences that each of us has.

What’s the best campaign you’ve seen recently and why?

The latest We Buy Any Car campaign, Just Sold My Car, is a great example of the power of audio. It takes the brand’s distinctive jingle one step further by working the brand proposition and name into the lyrics of a well-known song. It’s really catchy, so I find myself singing it around the house! As well as audio, the campaign builds on a viral video concept, which helped to make it instantly recognizable and negate the need to build familiarity with the creative concept.

What podcast would you recommend?

Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail podcast series and memoir has been a game-changer for me in normalizing things I had considered as failures. As a long-time listener of the podcast, I bought her follow-up memoir, which really helped me to reframe things, particularly in my personal life, which were holding me back in my professional life. The back catalogue of podcast episodes is exceptional with some inspiring guests, so I believe there is something for everyone.

Who inspires you and why?

I’m very privileged to have grown up with several strong female role models. My mum has held senior roles in the software and insurance industries, for example. Seeing her success in environments which have been particularly male dominated has always driven me in my own career, and importantly meant I never doubted my own ambition. I’m forever grateful that I can hear about her workplace experiences and get her advice on how to tackle my own challenges. 

In contrast, my dad has spent over 40 years teaching in the same school. He has supported thousands of children at school and after they leave by setting up networking and mentoring opportunities. This has taught me the value of building strong relationships and supporting other people’s development, which is something I care a lot about in my work with clients and colleagues.

Contact Zosia to discuss any of the issues in this Q&A.

Photo by Christina at #WOCinTechChat

Florida-based Maria explains why creative effectiveness is a hot topic currently, which Super Bowl ads resonated with her, and why she loves working in the data and analytics industry.

What burning question are brands you work with asking currently?

There are many questions being asked, but how to evaluate creative effectiveness, particularly on digital and social channels, is one that is coming up a lot. One of our clients spends a significant share of its budget on new creatives and changes them based on factors such as seasonality. Their marketing team is being asked if it’s worth the cost, so we’ve been working with them to find an answer. One hurdle we come against is getting the data at the creative level. To get over this, we are testing new approaches and datasets that provide the additional details we need to optimize their media.  

What’s the best advert you’ve seen recently and why?

Two ads – by The Farmer’s Dog and Amazon – that were shown at last month’s Super Bowl resonated with me. Both ads feature dogs and the companionship that pets provide us and each other. I have two cats, so this is something I can relate to. It’s also worth noting that neither ad featured anyone famous, proving that you don’t need celebrity endorsement to make an impact. If more advertisers used this approach, they could save the non-working costs and maximize how much media is aired.

How did you first get into the data and analytics industry and what do you like about it?

I have always loved math and was one of the kids who did puzzles for fun. At school, I enjoyed math homework and did not see it as a chore. So, working in analytics was a natural fit for me. I love the problem-solving aspect of it, such as understanding data trends or coming up with strategic recommendations for clients.  

What advice would you have for anyone considering a career in the data and analytics industry?

If you enjoy balancing details with big picture strategy, this industry may be a good fit for you. A lot of what we do is data storytelling – for example, using what we see at the lowest level of granularity to build a picture about general trends and then working out what to do with this information to optimize decision-making. If, like me, you enjoy following the latest media trends and doing puzzles in your spare time then it’s a good indication that you may have a successful career in this industry. 

What person do you follow on LinkedIn that you would recommend to our readers?

I can’t say there’s a specific person that I follow. I like to scroll the feed and see what others are posting and talking about. I love reading what my old co-workers are saying as there is always something interesting to find and it helps to maintain connections.

Contact Maria to discuss any of the issues in this Q&A.

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DEI champion Chris explains why amplifying diverse creators is a trend that marketers should pay attention to this year, how he plans to help colleagues fulfil their potential, and which app he uses to expand his knowledge.

What’s the best campaign you’ve seen recently and why?

I really enjoyed Virgin Atlantic’s See the World Differently campaign. Featuring the song I Am What I Am, the TV ad is a celebration and acceptance of the diverse world we live in. This theme continues in their recent gender identity policy launch. It’s a big contrast to the company’s early ads and a sign of progress towards a more inclusive world.

What do you think will be the most important marketing trend this year?

Wunderman Thompson has just released The Future 100: 2023 report, which is a fascinating read into the trends that are set to shape the year ahead. Amplifying diverse creators – Trend 37 – really grabbed my attention as a call to action. It connects the dots between the UK’s 2021 Census, which shows an increase in ethnic diversity, and The Black Pound Report 2022, which reveals the UK’s multi-ethnic community has an annual disposable income of £4.5b. There is a win-win human and commercial imperative for marketers to embrace these societal trends by accelerating their collaboration with diverse creators.

You’re part of Roots – an employee resource group at Gain Theory that champions DEI. What do you hope to achieve over the next 12 months?

Last year, we had a lot of success building awareness of issues, such as covering and health inequalities, that impact ethnically diverse colleagues. This year, our focus is on partnering with the leadership team at Gain Theory to identify actions – across the whole employee lifecycle ­– that we need to start or stop doing to enable ethnically diverse colleagues to show up as the best version of themselves and fulfil their potential.

You’re of Mauritian heritage – are there any inspirational Mauritians we should know about?

I’m proud to be mixed ethnicity with a White English Mum and a Mauritian Dad, whose ancestral roots are from Indian indentured labour. Mauritius is known as the melting pot of the Indian Ocean and the food is amazing! Selina Periampillai is an inspirational figure for me. She is British born with Mauritian heritage, who set up her own Mauritian supper club and food business before publishing a cookbook. To get a taste of island life, I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Island Kitchen: Recipes from Mauritius and the Indian Ocean.

Are there any other books you would you recommend?

Blinkist is a book summary app that my mentor recommended to me. The paid version gives you full access to their library of ‘Blinks’, enabling you to quickly digest the key takeaways from a wide range of constantly updated non-fiction titles. Each Blink has an accompanying audio track, so perfect to listen to whilst doing chores around the house! It’s been a powerful tool to aid my growth.

Contact Chris to discuss any of the issues raised in this Q&A.

Photo by Levi Guzman on Unsplash.

Qualified yoga teacher Lindsay explains why a recent campaign for a horror movie got her attention, the joys of being in the same room as colleagues, and which podcast she listens to be a better leader.

What’s the best campaign you’ve seen recently?

One that sticks in my mind was for horror movie Smile. I don’t even watch horror movies but I am aware of this one because of the buzz that was created by the campaign. It sent actors wearing bright green shirts and smiling in a creepy way to Major League Baseball games and TV show audiences. I love how such a simple idea that has minimal cost can have such a large impact.

What’s been your highlight of 2022?

My work-related highlight was when we had an in-person company day here in North America. Maybe it’s because I’m an extrovert but getting to meet everyone in person after being physically apart since before COVID-19 was such an energy boost! It was an invaluable few days of getting to connect with everyone in person, meet new joiners, and build a sense of community together.

You lead culture activities for Gain Theory in North America – what makes a great culture in your view?

A great culture happens when you have strong company values and a purpose or goal that you can build a sense of community around and work together to reach. This year, we have been focusing on building that sense of community across our remote workforce. For example, we’ve brought everyone together on a weekly basis to chat about a topic led by different people from our leadership team. Topics have included philosophy, values, presentation skills, and yoga. We’ve called these moments ‘coffee chats’ because they are meant to be informal conversations that enable us to learn together while building a sense of community.

Talking of yoga, you’re a qualified teacher – are there any lessons from this discipline that can be applied to your work?

One component of practicing yoga is building self-awareness through things like meditation. One of my favorite yoga quotes is: “The mind is like water. When it’s turbulent, it’s difficult to see. When it’s calm, everything becomes clear.” Having a clear mind helps to drive awareness of yourself and others, which allows me to be empathetic, drive creativity and ground myself with patience. These things help me on and off the mat to be a better leader.

Are there any books or podcasts you would recommend on the subject of leadership?

I have always been a huge fan of Brené Brown, particularly her research on vulnerability and how that relates to leadership. One of her mottos is “courage over comfort” which is something you need as a leader to really listen, truly learn, and be open to drive change. She shares many other great insights in Dare to Lead, which is the title of her book and podcast. I listen to the podcast regularly as she shares new research and has guests that give new perspectives on how to be a great leader.

Contact Lindsay to discuss any of the issues raised in this Q&A.

Photo by Chelsea Gates on Unsplash.

This article was originally published on the Marketing Week website. Click here to view.

Belgium might not seem the obvious place to look for evidence that marketing effectiveness is more important than ever, but if you can succeed in this country of 11.5 million people, you can succeed in a lot of other places too.

The reason? Not only do local marketers have to navigate three official languages and two distinct geographic regions, but Belgium is also one of only two countries in the EU to practise wage indexation. In other words, the wages of workers are linked to inflation by law.

This is an added headache for companies in Belgium, which are facing the same rising energy and supply-side costs as everywhere else in the world. Alongside the cost-of-living crisis that is limiting consumer spending power currently, this has created a perfect storm for marketing departments.

“The biggest challenge we’re facing is budgetary pressure,” says Annelore Van Hove, Head of Media & Channel at Delhaize Belgium, the country’s second-largest food retailer. “Luckily, we have a very strong VP of Marketing who makes sure our voice is heard with senior management.”

Marketing effectiveness is a key gauge the team relies on to make its case. “For me, marketing effectiveness is about proving we can deliver a high ROI,” says Van Hove. “If we can show that we are increasing the revenue the business earns on every euro spent on marketing, the last thing they will do is cut the media budget.”

Changing price perception

Having opened its first supermarkets in 1867, today Delhaize operates hundreds of stores at the premium end of what Van Hove says is a “very competitive” €31 billion market. The current macroeconomic pressures have only increased competition between the players, as consumers change their behaviour.

After seeing customers spending less in-store earlier this year, for example, Delhaize decided to introduce more entry-priced products, expand its high-quality own-brand range, and focus on loyalty programs.

For the marketing team, this meant a significant change of tack. Previous campaigns had followed the 60/40 rule on long-term brand building and short-term performance, but the situation on the ground means that ratio is shifting towards parity. 

“It’s difficult because we’ve managed to successfully build our brand over the last five years,” says Van Hove. “Our core audience is people who want to eat premium quality food, but the reality is they were buying more basic products from our competitors than from us.”

As a result, one of this year’s key campaigns focused on changing price perception over the short term. The omnichannel “Little Lions” campaign showcased the value of 500 of Delhaize’s most purchased own-brand products. This was not without risk, says Van Hove, because “people know that we are not focused on low price traditionally”.

But the marketing team were able to frame the campaign around one of the company’s strategic growth drivers– providing inspiring, healthy, and affordable food options for all. It paid off, with a 15% increase in Little Lions product sales after just one month. The company has increased the number of products in the range to 600.

“We found the sweet spot between brand positioning and the economic situation,” says Van Hove. “Now, we are trying to build a more long-term story by adding content, such as recipes, and linking it all back to how we make healthy eating affordable.”

Linking media performance to sales

To improve the effectiveness of its campaigns, Delhaize leans on market mix modelling (MMM) and attribution tools. “I always say that marketing is not an exact science, but we’re trying to base it more on facts and figures and be more analytical,” says Van Hove.

One way Delhaize is making this a reality is by using Sensor, Gain Theory’s multichannel, privacy-compliant attribution solution, in three key areas. First, in concert with its media agency, Delhaize determines an optimal plan for how and when to spend campaign budgets at a granular level, such as which channels, partners, and audiences to target.

Second, Delhaize uses it to optimize campaigns. The marketing team were struggling to understand what was working on its busy social channels, notably Facebook and Instagram, for example. Sensor was able to show which messages were having an impact on which audiences on which channel, enabling the company to make tactical, in-flight decisions. 

Third, it measures how marketing is performing in a language that senior stakeholders understand. “Sensor is the only tool I know of in Belgium that links media to sales,” says Van Hove. “In combination with MMM we have improved effectiveness every year for the past four years – during this period, ROI has increased by 60%.”

As well as providing proof that marketing is working, it has led Van Hove to something of a Holy Grail – a higher media budget in 2022 compared to 2021. While she admits it is too early to say if this will happen again in 2023, it shows that success is possible, even in a surprisingly tough market like Belgium.

Contact Gain Theory Senior Partner Sam Fellows to learn more about Sensor and other marketing effectiveness solutions.

Akhila, who works with brands such as Diageo, DFS, and Kellogg’s, tells us why she loves Cadbury ads, what can be done to improve diversity in data and analytics, and which book all marketers should read.

What’s the burning issue that brands are talking to you about?

TV advertising inflation is a big issue that brands are facing at the moment. Alongside wider macroeconomic and geopolitical trends, such as the cost-of-living crisis, rising interest rates, and the war in Ukraine, it is putting pressure on brands’ profit margins and their ability to increase marketing spend. Thanks to valuable lessons learned in the past, brands realize the importance of maintaining overall advertising investment. Using market mix modeling to enable robust, granular measurement is one way they can better quantify, forecast, and align on the optimal channel mix to achieve both short- and long-term growth targets.

What’s the best advert you’ve seen recently and why?

I have been a fan of Cadbury ads for several years. My recent favourite was the ‘Mum’s Birthday’ ad for their ‘There is a glass and a half in everyone’ campaign, which won the IPA Effectiveness Awards Grand Prix award 2022. Cadbury campaigns focus on the brand’s intrinsic purpose – the generosity within all of us – and this one clearly demonstrates how purpose that is connected to brand and product can drive affinity, equity, and sales. 

When it comes to data and analytics, the industry has a long way to go in terms of diversity. What can be done to improve this? 

An open culture in which everyone feels they belong, and visible, inspiring role models are key to making our industry more diverse. Providing relevant training, coaching, and formal mentorship programmes can also help to drive change, although this will take time. 

I think it’s vitally important that the executive leadership, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) councils, and employee resource groups (ERGs) work in harmony. Executive leaders need to be the role models of the diverse and inclusive organisation they aspire to become – we must be aware, ready to learn or confront our own blind spots and our own habits. For their part, DEI councils need support from the leadership and have clear objectives, outcomes, and actions. Meanwhile, ERGs can provide a safe space and sense of community and belonging for members of underrepresented communities. Here at Gain Theory, we have two ERGs dedicated to diversity – Lumena inspires, empowers, and supports our women, while Roots champions greater ethnic and cultural inclusivity. 

Beyond this, change at the grass-roots level is needed too. More awareness around DEI at schools will encourage more applications in STEM subjects to universities from people with diverse backgrounds.

What book would you recommend to our readers and why?

How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp is a must-read for anyone interested in marketing or effectiveness. It would be fair to say this book had a disruptive effect among both marketers and academics. The author’s views about the importance of new customer acquisition driven by increased mental and physical availability, resulting in behaviourally loyal buyers, are seminal.

Contact Akhila to discuss any of the issues raised in this Q&A.

Photo by Nabil Saleh on Unsplash

Russell, who has a focus on new media measurement at Gain Theory, shares his thoughts on key issues in marketing effectiveness, his favorite current advert, and the commentator he leans on to get a fresh perspective.

What important marketing effectiveness question should readers be asking themselves today?   

How do I unify and centralize my approach to marketing measurement without compromising on timeliness and depth of insights? Centralizing measurement can enable coordination and accountability, but it can also slow things down and force data and insights to be aggregated. A thoughtful long-term data strategy and approach to measurement can help to solve these challenges. It can yield deeper insights that are timely, not just at the market and channel level, but at the individual ad placement and audience level too.  

What are you working on currently that excites you?  

The current release of Sensor Audience – a new audience insights capability within our Sensor attribution tool – has been super exciting and rewarding to work on. Increasingly, brands need to know how they can construct new audiences that are based on media responsiveness, as well as brand propensity, and then measure their in-market performance. Sensor Audience makes this possible, so being able to deliver this to our clients makes me feel like we’re arming them with a complete set of measurement solutions.      

What’s the best advert you’ve seen recently?  

I liked the Toyota “Keeping up with the Joneses” ad. It was a very clever and fun way to deliver a message that spanned generations. 

Which person is worth following to get a fresh industry perspective?   

I enjoy NYU Stern Professor of Marketing Scott Galloway. Much of his commentary covers the intersection between business and culture, and he doesn’t shy away from difficult topics. I agree with his view that the most important part of making a prediction is forcing yourself to think through the logic of why your prediction is what it is. This is critical in our business as we build our planning and forecasting tools to deliver insights for clients. 

Who inspires you and why? 

Our junior team members at Gain Theory. Their ability to adapt and grow during COVID-19 – a time when regrettably we couldn’t provide enough face-to-face mentorship to them – has been incredible to witness. Their enthusiasm for our product roadmap and our vision for what Gain Theory can become is also inspiring. A major challenge in analytics is analysts feeling like they do the same thing day in, day out. But the enthusiasm of our new recruits tells me that they see Gain Theory as a place where they will continue to learn for years to come. 

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve received?  

“It’s a marathon not a sprint” is quote from every good boss I’ve ever had, but it doesn’t mean “slow and steady wins the race”. Marathons are highly strategic and feature moments that are extremely intense as well as moments that allow you to gather yourself and think. To win a marathon you must be highly conditioned, in both mind and body, and you must be a tactician. 

If you’d like to speak to Russell about new media measurement, please click here

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash.

In our fifth episode of our Ask the Experts series titled “Agile Decision Making”, Claudia Sestini, Global CMO of Gain Theory, discusses best practices and advice for being agile in the face of changing priorities with a full panel of industry experts.

With regards to measuring marketing efficacy at speed, Claudia Sestini asks:

“With a greater focus on e-commerce sales channels now, should marketers pivot media strategy to drive digital footfall?”

Panel Guests:

Georgia Thodey, Head of Brand and Media Planning at NatWest Group

Matt Hill, Research and Planning Director at Thinkbox

Matt Chappell, Senior Partner at Gain Theory

Key Takeaways:

  • Digital is the key destination, so it’s important to ensure brands are there, easy to find, and easy to navigate as customers are searching.
  • Digital is the end destination for sales; however, a customer’s journey doesn’t necessarily start there.
  • Consumers begin to consider purchase decisions before the sale, so when planning media strategy, marketers need to focus on the principles: build awareness, build consideration, and keep your brand top of mind.
  • Give people a reason to talk about your brand by putting the right message in front of the right customers in the right place at the right time and in the right context.
  • Customers are fulfilling purchases digitally, but a brand’s advertising needs to create mental availability and put your message everywhere your customers are consuming the media—whether online or offline—particularly during lockdown.
  • Using 2020 as an example, the same principles for media strategy still apply. Overall, the advice is to find where your customers are consuming their media and place the right messages to them in those places at the right time. This year in particular, we have all spent a lot of time at home, so investment in OOH advertisements has fallen.

Other topics addressed in the “Agile Decision Making” Ask the Experts Session: 

To stream the full video click here.  

In our fifth episode of our Ask the Experts series titled “Agile Decision Making”, Claudia Sestini, Global CMO of Gain Theory, discusses best practices and advice for being agile in the face of changing priorities with a full panel of industry experts.

With regards to measuring marketing efficacy at speed, Claudia Sestini asks:

“Econometrics will always be the main stable of any marketing effectiveness toolkit for measurement. What other approaches can marketers leverage for increased agile decision-making as they look to course correct?“

Panel Guests:

Georgia Thodey, Head of Brand and Media Planning at NatWest Group

Matt Hill, Research and Planning Director at Thinkbox

Matt Chappell, Senior Partner at Gain Theory

Key Takeaways:

  • Prior to the pandemic, the variables of marketing measurement and effectiveness were relatively known, allowing optimization and forecasting with confidence. Now, we’re experiencing a world where marketers need to use the existing models and data we have and to embrace scenario planning.
  • 2020 scenario planning has involved new marketing investment parameters to analyze at what point effectiveness begins to decrease with increased spend. This lets marketers know when to reduce advertising to a level of optimal effectiveness per spend, which both requires and enables marketers to increase agility in their planning.
  • The scenario planning tactic is less about methodology and more about how agile marketers can use the data to look forward and make quicker decisions. There is an increased push for utilizing dashboards and platforms that bring results to marketers’ fingertips quickly, without the need for a lengthy econometrics reports.
  • Free tools like the Demand Generator from Thinkbox are useful to gain insight and help marketers make faster, informed decisions.
  • Consultancy backed decision making platforms such as Gain Theory interactive can also bring to life tactical decision making across creative, geography, market and much more.

Other topics addressed in the “Agile Decision Making” Ask the Experts Session: 

To stream the full video click here.  

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