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 media allocation decisions across brands, Claudia Sestini asks:

“Many marketers have evolved their media plans and strategies to meet the needs of their customers in 2020, which can be particularly difficult when managing media allocations across multiple brands, products, industries or customer sets.

How should marketers decide media allocations across these portfolios to avoid spreading advertising budgets too thin?”

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:

  • There are four key factors that can help marketers, whether you’re allocating media across a full portfolio of brands, products, or different segments.

1. Consider all marketing and media allocation as investment choices:

  • Look for opportunities to invest that will drive ROI financially for the brand and benefit the customers. Look at where and how much you are investing, what you’re driving from that investment, and analyze the gaps to see if you’re over or underinvesting anywhere.
  • Look at the market as a whole, where you think the market is going, and compare your activities to others.
  • Consider your investment and activities to see whether they align with your business objectives.

2. Create a level playing field for assessment.

  • Create this level playing field across all your brands, products, or segments and find a way to compare apples to oranges to see where the true value of investment is for each.
  • Work with an econometrics expert to build a model that can help you make these investment comparisons.
  • Utilize multiple sources when researching and assessing.

3. Prioritize and make the tough decisions.

  • Doing fewer things well is a key to success.
  • Make informed decisions that align with your objectives and strategy to help you say “no” when needed.

4. Set the guard rails and be prepared to adapt.

  • Once you’ve established how much you will invest, where you will invest, and why – be ready to shift continuously through the year.
  • Review your results, analyze how the market is changing, and encourage agile decision-making.

To stream the full video click here.  


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The pandemic-driven recession is leading marketers to plan against various economic scenarios into 2021. To succeed in these testing times when consumer behaviors are uniquely unpredictable, marketers will need to apply a new way of thinking that fosters agility in their marketing strategies to acquire and retain customers.

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. Our panel guests included Georgia Thodey, Head of Brand and Media Planning at NatWest Group, Matt Hill, Research and Planning Director at Thinkbox, and Matt Chappell, Senior Partner at Gain Theory.

Topics addressed:

  • Media Allocation Decisions Across Brands
  • How to Pivot Marketing Strategy, at the Right Pace and Place
  • How TV Advertising is Changing to Address Agile Decision-making Needs
  • How to Measure Marketing Efficacy, at Speed 
  • The Impact of E-commerce Pivots 

You can stream the full episode below.

In this livestreamed “Ask the Experts” session, Ajay Ahuja at Kellogg’s and Chris Sloane, Senior Partner at Gain Theory, discussed how marketers can drive present and future data-informed decisions.

Claudia Sestini, Global CMO, opened stating that in today’s world, understanding what happened, why it happened and what will happen are key to informing the actions that drive business growth.

The session kicked off by getting to know Ajay and Chris. Ajay’s CPG career spans over a decade covering analytics to reporting across multiple markets such as China, South Africa and Australia. His remit at Kellogg’s sees him answer key business questions and participate in business future proofing projects.  Chris spoke about his extensive career in marketing effectiveness traversing both the UK and Australia, whilst writing industry-leading thought leadership in WARC, covering topics such as optimal advertising frequency and ROI of integrated marketing campaigns.

In conversation, Ajay and Chris covered the following topics:

  • The Role of Marketing & Media within Overall Sales Drivers
  • Decisions that Drive Value for Consumers
  • Role of Online and Offline Channels and Media to Drive Business KPIs
  • The Switch to Private Label During Recessions
  • Justifying Investment in Brand
  • Selecting Media Platforms: Emotional Decision Making  

Stream the full video here and read the key take outs below.

The Role of Marketing & Media within Overall Sales Drivers

How should marketers think about media and marketing within overall sales drivers? 

Key Takeaways:

  • It’s important to drive awareness and salience while simultaneously creating a long-lasting effect on customers and shoppers.
  • To discover what is most important during the “new normal” period: test, test, test. Find out what is working; ask if the fundamentals still apply to your business and how you can optimize for the future.
  • Immediate steps to consider for optimization, both online and offline, include pausing to understand what is happening with consumers and then exploring e-commerce and new channels.
  • Take a step back to trace the insights from consumers and shoppers, noticing changes in trends.

Decisions that Drive Value for Consumers

Insights from data can assist with decision making to drive KPIs such as sales. How should marketers factor in the value they are delivering to consumers?

Key Takeaways:

  • Some products, such as Kellogg’s products, appeal more to shoppers and consumers post-Covid because they are safe, well-known, and associated with good hygiene.
  • When you have “safe” products with these attributes known to the market, you’re not limited to solely driving sales in the organization.
  • Rethink what value means to consumers and how that translates to both your product offer and how you convey value to consumers.
  • Marketing requires more than driving value for the organization, creating high ROI, long-lasting effects – it’s also about making a difference in your community, inclusive of your corporate social responsibility.

Role of Online and Offline Channels and Media to Drive Business KPIs

Regarding the “new normal” world and purchasing behaviors, what role do online and “offline” channels and media play in driving business KPIs?

Key Takeaways:

  • Marketers see everything as either online or offline, but consumers don’t. Their priorities revolve around convenience and availability, which is most important, making visibility key for retailers and brands.
  • Customers may be more loyal now, shopping in-person and/or online more frequently, often multiple times a week, from the same retailer on both online and offline channels.
  • Marketers need to maximize the opportunity for people to purchase. Simply because more sales have flipped online doesn’t mean that everyone’s media consumption has flipped online.
  • The fundamentals still stand. Ask yourself: What is the path to purchase? How and when can we influence consumers on that journey to buy that product? That matters more than where those sales are actually realized.
  • It’s vital to think about the cost to effectiveness ratio of your advertising investment across your channels.

The Switch to Private Label During Recessions

There’s an assumption, based on historical trends, suggesting that in times of recession people are more likely to switch to private labels. If we assume this is correct, or challenge it, how do you maintain relevance of the brand? 

Key Takeaways:

  • Comparing the 2008 recession to the 2020 recession reveals this is not a “regular” recession. It’s about value, getting the best deals and shopping to different places. Paired with this realization is the focus on hygiene.
  • Consumers want to ensure what they are buying is hygienic and has value. You want to know the products you buy for yourself and your family have product superiority. These factors challenge the hypothesis of an immediate switch to private label.
  • This is being termed the “first natural disease-driven recession of modern times”. Therefore, the consumer mindset will be different, and brands shouldn’t treat this recession like the last one. Comfort is found in brands that we trust and love, and people will return to them.
  • “The lipstick effect: Consumers don’t want to splurge excessive amounts of money on products, but they want to do something indulgent for themselves. Offering a variety of tastes, sizes, and indulgences is a key to defending your brand from switches to private label.

Justifying Investment in Brand

Currently, several organizations are tightly focused on driving short-term returns. How do marketers justify investment in brand, which arguably has a longer-term ROI, to the CFO?

Key Takeaways:

  • You can prove that brand advertising now will pay back greater dividends over the longer term. That won’t have changed in this pandemic recession.
  • Conduct research, gather as much industry and brand-specific information as you can and make that case to the CFO.
  • Gain Theory has several pieces of research including The Long Term Impacts of Advertising, The Business Case for Advertising Now and Marketing Investment in Uncertain Times: Tactics to Ally with Finance.
  • What we’re trying to do is minimize risk and maximize value, in both the short-term and long-term.
  • Cleverly approach difficult conversations with Finance by utilizing learnings from the past and performing certain advanced analytics around the data.

Selecting Media Platforms: Emotional Decision Making

We appear to be entering a world where media platforms are politicized, which may impact media investment decisions. How do you layer this type of “emotional” decision-making into fact-led decision making? 

Key Takeaways:

  • Consider first, “How should brands plan across media channels given those factors?” and second, “Who decides that the platform isn’t suitable for the brand?”
  • It’s not a planner’s decision to choose what media channels should and shouldn’t be part of a mix. They need to optimize reach point, sales, business outcomes, etc.
  • It’s for the C-suite to choose which media platforms and channels are acceptable for the brand or not.

In the old, pre COVID-19 world, marketers could answer most business questions with a degree of confidence, and that confidence came from years of investment in data and analytics.

As COVID-19 mortality and recovery data floods in from various countries informing government guidance, we still don’t know with absolute confidence how things will pan out.  The impacts of the pandemic will continue to be felt across consumer behavior and businesses in various ways.

The ‘old rules’ have gone out the window and many marketers have landed in the situation where their finance departments are taking the reins, making marketing decisions.

In this uncertain world, how can marketers find the confidence to make data-informed business decisions that maximize marketing efficiency?

Claudia Sestini, our Global CMO, hosted a fireside chat with two experts at Gain Theory, Karen Kauffman and Shawn O’Neal, to discuss how marketers can use data and analytics insights to navigate with greater certainty in these uncertain times.

To view the full length episode click here or watch the segments and key takeouts below.

Topics include:

  • The Role Marketers are Playing Today 
  • Ensuring Marketing Investments are Not Wasted
  • Modeling in A COVID-19 World
  • Data and Analytics Available Now
  • “Wargaming” with Agent Based Modelling
  • Marketing Analytics Modelling in an Uncertain Environment 
  • Making a Case to Finance for Marketing Investment
  • Accounting for Changes in Media Consumption
  • Survival Tips for Marketers

The Role Marketers are Playing Today

Key takeaways:

  • Marketers have been investing in data and insight for a long time and that information is more valuable now than ever.
  • More than any other department, marketing leaders have the opportunity to lead now, with insights around consumer behaviors and media consumption, for example.
  • Take stock of what information is available, using early data and existing insights, to ensure that we are making the right decisions for the business.
  • There’s a natural inclination today to cut investment, but there is a smart way to do that.
  • Bring that information back to the organization and explain the ‘why’ behind decisions you’re making today.

Ensuring Marketing Investment is Not Wasted

Key takeaways:

  • It’s critical that marketers learn and pivot quickly using the data and analytics available.
  • Don’t wait until next year when the dust clears to measure effectiveness. This is the defining moment, between competitive advantage and market share gains, that will be lasting for the future.
  • For those marketers who can afford to invest right now, there is a significant opportunity to win market share.
  • We’ve seen research that indicates brands and businesses that invest in marketing do well, and often better than their competitors, both during and after recessions.
  • Studies suggest that getting new customers to try your product today can have a substantial effect on the business in the long term.
  • Reframe how you define success. There is a standard approach for marketers to think about incremental volume, incremental sales, ROI, etc. – but they should also be asking, “How can I gain more share of wallet?” or “How can I gain more share of consideration?”. Those are equally important in today’s time where categories are constricting.
  • Think beyond the immediate. We don’t know what the new normal will look like, or when that will take place, but agile scenario planning is essential right now.
  • Imagine different worlds and create a variety of different plans that will take advantage of different types of realities.
  • Think about what data you can use to infer which direction to take and how you can use that data to pivot marketing strategy and take advantage of what might come.
  • In the midst of cost cutting, we can use insights to suggest strategies that produce a higher ROI.
  • We’ve already seen substantially reduced costs across digital investments. For example, in April, Facebook cost per million was at 40% and digital on average was down roughly 10%.” 
  • If you have the data, you can quickly understand and know what’s working and what’s not; you can know the financials behind those strategies and can dramatically change the investment and return you’re going to get.

Modeling in A COVID-19 World

Key takeaways:

  • Understanding the break between pre and post COVID-19 models and the drivers behind that point in time will enable you to better predict the future and you’ll hit a point, this year, where that modeling makes incredible sense.
  • In the near term, any techniques that enable you to see and model data as it comes through will help inform you on which tactics are working, as well as what the drivers are now vs. what they were historically.
  • Don’t abandon modeling done in the past. There are ways in which we can take existing models and calibrate them to be more reflective of today’s reality.
  • Take variables, like changing consumer media behaviors or marketing interactions, and look at the effects on media response or cost.
  • Questions like, “Should we model today?” and “Should we refresh an existing model?” require marketers to reframe the business question they need to solve for at that time.
  • Don’t generalize variables or outcomes. Consumer behaviors can vary by geography, audience, etc. and there are ways we can build compelling models that allow us to interrogate those.
  • Ask the right questions: “Are there ways we can tailor our media strategy to unique geographies as they come back to the new normal?” “Are there audiences that are less price sensitive?” “Are those the ones we should be targeting?” “How can we market to them?
  • Take a step back and ask, “What can I learn today that is applicable to how I manage the business today? And how can I use that to generate new insights that may be more valuable 3, 6, or 12 months from now?
  • It’s a missed opportunity to plan for 2021, post COVID-19, without having done some of the modeling work today to connect the dots between pre, during, and post COVID-19. This will allow for predictions, estimates, and forecasts about what things may look like, given the break in trends and new things that are happening.

Data and Analytics Available Now

Key takeaways:

  • MMM, and marketing analytics in general, have given us a language that works for finance by articulating the return on marketing investment.
  • Gain Theory’s Sensor near-term measurement solution looks at the relative investment values for tactics at a granular level. If you’re starting to look post COVID-19 to see what is working and what is not, this kind of analysis works brilliantly for that kind of scenario.
  • Scenario planning – i.e. if it goes this well, or that well – gives us different ranges to show the financial impact and business return on your investment. This is a great basis on which to discuss with the finance team low-risk to high-risk investments and potential ROIs.
  • MMM and Multi-Touch Attribution have become common approaches today to measure marketing’s impact but there are other solutions relevant to today’s uncertain world.
  • Agent Based Modeling, for example, enables “wargaming” in environments that are not certain or in categories that are experiencing a lot of disruption.
  • Agent Based Modeling (ABM) “wargaming” has two phases:
  1. Questioning how a marketplace operates: how consumers make decisions to buy one brand over another brand; differentiate one brand from another; and what influencers drive business decisions. Then, creating a model to help explain and understand that environment.
  2. Once we have created that environment, we start to see a variety of scenarios to help inform the answers to “What would happen if…?”.For example, in retail, ABM can answer, “What would happen if my main competitor goes out of business; where do those shoppers go and what can I do to pull market incremental share?” For pharmaceutical marketers, ABM can answer, “When we lose a patent, what can happen?” or “What is the role of the doctor and the pharmacist in the decision for a consumer to go out and buy a specific script?”.
  • There’s a lot of value in digging deeper on a variety of data resources to understand what is happening today and see how consumers are behaving. This may be through consumer survey data, panel data, receipt data, etc. These can highlight changes in behavior and help determine if you can take advantage of that data. Data exploration is going to be a critical tool for us now and in the future.

Should I Continue Marketing Analytics Modeling Given the Uncertainty?

Key takeaways:

  • You will need to do some form of modeling—maybe not the same “traditional” modeling, however. Modify multiple variables to see how the pre and post COVID-19 models look. It may not be focused as much on your sales, but perhaps on other factors that you’ve modeled against to understand both pre and post COVID-19 to see how those factors are then aligned for sales.
  • We’re putting COVID-19 variables into our models for clients, factoring in variables like when announcements are made by state, when people go into quarantine, the number of sicknesses and deaths reported, etc.  These variables form a curve of the consumer response to COVID-19. That timing of the consumer response matches up with how people view your business, your brand, your sales—and redefines 2021 when you look at it.
  • There is an opportunity for marketers today to take advantage of what is happening. If your competitors have gone dark, there may be an opportunity to take advantage of that by placing the right compelling message in the market to win market share that has opened up.
  • If you can generate new trial today, there often is a good chance this behavior will continue when we have returned to a “new normal” if a consumer has had a good experience with your brand.
  • The cost of media is at an extreme low. The consumption of media, digital, and TV is also going up significantly, about 10-15%, depending on which channel you’re talking about. You’re paying less to get more in terms of every investment you’re making right now. Even if all you’re doing is just testing, it’s a great time to do so.

Making a Case to Finance for Marketing Investment

Key takeaways:

  • A universal occurrence that we’re finding for companies who are losing revenues, is the need to have finance step in and make some difficult decisions about costs.
  • The key is not to fold and go home. The key is to get to the other side of the crisis point.
  • Currently, we are still under the crisis point with several economic factors rapidly changing all around us, where finance teams don’t feel comfortable with predicting what the future is going to bring.
  • You need to do your homework to find the best ways to (a) understand what is changing; (b) how it is changing; and (c) apply testing in small amounts. Test your ROIs and see if low-cost media buys are more effective than ever.
  • Prepare yourself for either the back half or the fourth quarter—or, if your business cycle is longer, for 2021. Focus on a mindset of using the data and the tools we’re describing, along with the ROI language for the finance department. Be ready, when the time is right, to make the next ask, for the next investment, for the next initiative.
  • A lot of information is available in the public domain. Many studies have all concluded that marketing during recession leads to better outcomes during and after the recession.
  • Put a business case together for the finance team on what is the short-term value and long-term value of advertising and marketing.
  • For example, we modeled for one brand—who went off air for several months during a recession—that took 13 months to get back to where they were before going off air.
  • If you can, put together the case to explain, not only is there a short-term impact and market share loss from going off air, but there is a longer-term challenge to the business by not advertising. Put that information into financial terms to help it resonate better and make a business case for testing to see what will work today.
  • Long-term effectiveness is a capability we are actively developing and measuring. We’re currently working with clients today to measure long-term effectiveness as well as the regular effectiveness for marketing mix models.

Changes in Media Consumption

Key takeaways:

  • Take advantage of the opportunities and silver linings right now. People are spending 10-20 percent more of their time on channels and in places where you can communicate with them. Combine that information with the fact that costs are lower, and it is clear should take advantage of this unique time.
  • Digital is truly leapfrogging. This entire COVID-19 consumption pattern is impacting digital at a rate of 3-5x of the rate TV watch is increasing. People are going online, they’re going on mobile and Netflix, but they’re not necessarily watching traditional TV.
  • Take this time to be more selective and precise as to who you target and on which channels you spend. Taking the time to be data-informed and invest in this moment may be the most valuable thing you do.

Survival Tips for Marketers

Key takeaways:

  • Don’t throw out the past: it’s still a bridge to where we are today. It is important to understand what is happening during COVID-19, and it starts with the way it was before.
  • Use the fast-moving data and information that is available to you today. Keep measuring the trends and consumer habits.
  • Test and learn fast. Fail fast. By far, this one of the best environments to test, learn, fail or succeed, and then move on to the next thing. Don’t make big bets. Make smaller bets that you learn from and actively change and evolve month over month on your media mix.
  • Think locally: tactically, the United States will vary significantly by geography, and as different markets open up (and maybe close back down) you could take a local approach. This is an important change for organizations with national scale who might usually think from a national marketing perspective.

Marketing Dilemmas and Consumer Phases

Marketers are inundated with questions right now: Should I advertise or not? How should I optimize marketing investment? Should I invest in brand or product? When should I advertise? Which media channels should I advertise on?

The longer the global pandemic goes on with varying degrees of restrictions, the more uncertainty it creates as marketers transition to a ‘new normal’—which varies on a weekly basis.

Consumers have also been phasing gradually into the ‘new normal’.  

According to online search data, consumers are going through ‘states of need’ which can be broken down into three phases:

  1. Survival State: panic-buy pantry items, disinfecting and protecting
  2. Embracing Quarantine: in-sourcing, pimping the office and cabin fever
  3. Making the Most of the Crisis: fitness freak-outs and power nesting

Impact on Different Sectors

The repercussions of these phases will mean different things to different sectors.

Some brands are thriving on demand. Others have been heavily affected by government restrictions which have resulted in entertainment venues and store closures. There are other businesses challenged to meet demand due to changes in supply chains.  

And then, there are brands that are already well prepared for e-commerce who are at an advantage.

But we believe that most marketers can help their business by understanding business needs and sector context, asking the right questions, and guiding their decisions in the most robust manner possible.

Claudia Sestini, Global CMO hosted a fireside chat with experts Jon Webb and Matthew Chappell to get their view on Grocery, Retail, Finance, CPG and Telecommunications providing marketers with:

  • Sector overviews
  • Questions marketers should be asking
  • What marketers should do


Key Takeaways:

  • The grocery sector is not experiencing growth, largely due to the constraints in place. Social distancing measures are having an impact on footfall into the store (e.g. lines around the block and capacity limits). There are also limits in place on purchase volumes.
  • Phases of consumers shopping in grocery:  
    • Most consumers used to do a big shop once a week.
    • In the period of pre-lock down, the frequency was as high as 9-10 trips a week.
    • Data from Google shows that footfall at grocery retailers (in the UK) is down 30% compared to this time last year.
    • Now, a lot of people are back to one shop a week, either in the grocery store or online, and they are choosing to go to the same store week after week.
  • Marketers should ask themselves:
    •  Are we trying to change people’s transaction behavior? This may not be the case during this pandemic. However, there are opportunities to change basket size and to increase loyalty.
    • When things get better, how do we ensure people stay loyal by shopping there week after week or online?
  • We also need to recognize the frontline workers staffing grocery stores, who are facing the coronavirus. What impact will this have over time?
  • What planning should marketers do for Q3, Q4 and the run-up to ‘holiday season’?
    • This may be the end of social distancing, a time when people want to host a big family Christmas.
    • One thing we are seeing now is consistent advertising from grocery and paid media. This is the right decision. This presence now and throughout the year shows you are empathizing with consumers, even when things get back to normal. Continue with media advertising, placing the right message in the right media at the right time.


Key Takeaways:

  • We are in a battle with phases in Retail. Initially, many companies were evaluating whether they would be in business at all by the time this is over.
  • Retail (non-grocery) sales as of today (April 24) are down 5%.
  • The business fundamentals haven’t changed. The demand is still there for most retail sectors if it can be reached. The services sector: sports, gyms, restaurants–that’s a different conversation altogether, because of social distancing measures at this moment.
  • What has changed is where those customers can be reached, and that’s where we should consider changing the media mix. Use the full suite of Owned, Earned and Paid. TV and video are still effective ways of reaching a great proportion of your target audience.
  • We don’t know whether this will be a ‘V’ shape recovery or whether it will be a bit more prolonged. In Germany and Spain, some restrictions will be eased. For retailers in other markets, watch how things are progressing in these countries closely.
  • Fashion is tricky. In the UK we’ve had a few known brands close down in the last few weeks.
    1. From a consumer perspective, there are segments who have always bought fashion online, but other segments prefer the brick and mortar experience. Think about the impact this will have on messaging.
  • Home improvement stores are already allowed to open as they are defined as a ‘key sector’ by the government.
    1. If you have a well-run and viable business with solid cash flow, now is not the time to stop marketing. Maintaining a presence with consumers is important.
    2. You may need to tweak your messaging, but the overall creative shouldn’t change entirely.

Finance: Retail Banking

Key Takeaways:

  • As more people move online for sales, you can’t use cash.
  • For retail banking, the spread between what a bank can charge (loans, mortgages) vs. what it can cover (savings accounts) is getting narrower and doesn’t show any sign on increasing over the next few months. That’s putting tremendous pressure on banks and making it difficult to make money at a time when costs are going to increase.
  • Governments are increasing costs for banks, allowing people to forego paying on their loans, making interest rates lower, lessening the qualifications to take out loans. Anything like this impacts costs and decreases earnings.
  • There’s a possibility that banks can change their ‘bad boys’ image from the recession and be able to alter their image to a ‘force for good’ player with things like small business loans.
  • Brand behavior now will have an impact on people’s consumer behavior in the long term.
  • On the bright side, it is less of a balance sheet issue and more of an earnings issue. There will be earnings pressure as the interest market is low and operating costs go up. But this is not an existential threat with toxic derivatives and bad debt.
  • In terms of marketing, it’s more of a holding pattern. No need to go guns blazing for high growth, which is unlikely to happen in this environment. People aren’t looking to introduce more risk in their lives by changing providers.
  • Marketers in Finance should keep a close eye on Germany, Spain, and Italy. Agility and a willingness to pivot quickly will be the keys to determining the winners.
  • There is the risk/reward of finance brands being seen as ‘heroes’ right now. A lot of banks are currently putting out commercials about protecting their customers during this time. If you can support them, this is a real opportunity to have a more heroic customer brand persona.
  • Questions to ask: Will people be wanting to consolidate their money in one bank, or will they want to find brands that are more digitally native if they cannot go to a branch? Why wouldn’t you want to go to a bank that is set up as an app run by FinTech if you’re doing all of your banking online?
  • The point of brand promise, expectations of brands, and consumer experience, etc. is really key right now.


Key Takeaways:

  • There could be a return to the products people used to always love when this is over.
  • We know that during crisis periods such as recessions, people change from branded goods to unbranded goods because for many consumers pricing will be a major consideration.
  • What we do know is that people are shopping online. DTC companies will be gaining market share online, forcing trial and repeat–not just though pricing and mechanics.
  • P&G is working out of their playbook, continuing their marketing efforts. Coca-Cola has decided to pause marketing. It will be interesting to see how these two approaches affect the major players once we have data.
  • Most of your competition is reducing investment; you could spend the same or a little more and increase share of voice.
  • If people are experiencing big life-changing moments and making key decisions, being there with the right messaging could help CPG brands gain more ground.
  • Around 70% of all CPG return purchases are made in the long run. Memory structures play in, making it easy to buy a brand when people are faced with a choice.
  • You’re not advertising for now. You’re advertising for the future and to solidify yourself as a strong brand.  


Key Takeaways:

  • Consumers are starting to experience first-hand how poor internet connections are in the UK, Europe, and the U.S. vs. China.
  • We’re seeing people technically using their mobile networks of 3G, 4G data much less, and relying much more on their home broadbands and TV packages.
  • There’s a big risk and big opportunity for telecommunications companies right now as people may be looking to upgrade their networks to boost connectivity.
  • The big question for marketers is: Do we want to support and upgrade our existing customers e.g. offer free content, packages, etc.? Or are we going to aggressively pursue more of the market? There may not be the opportunity to do both.
  • There is a link between brand building and price in this acquisition phase. A case could be made for some price-led packages or extra data for a few months during this time.
  • There is still a case for maintaining a strong brand and customer relationship, otherwise this just creates a market where consumers go for the cheapest price.
  • Remain true to your brand purpose and values in your messaging. If you can grow your brand purpose and relate it to what you’re doing as a brand, that is a great opportunity.

Marketing Effectiveness in the ‘New Normal’ Q & A: Questions Marketers Should Ask, Short and Long Term Impacts & Media Channels

Pivoting to the ‘new normal’ created by the global response to Coronavirus requires marketers to make confident, robust and data-informed decisions. In a virtual fireside chat, our resident ‘bull’ and ‘bear’, Jon Webb and Matthew Chappell sat down in conversation with Global CMO Claudia Sestini to answer three questions we have been getting from marketers in these uncertain times:

  • What questions should marketers be asking right now?
  • What’s the impact of stopping advertising or curtailing a specific campaign?
  • Which media channels should marketers pull budget from first when trying to reduce spend?

Silver Linings

To kick off the conversation we started by asking our resident experts what general or personal ‘positives’ they had noticed.

Jon Webb,  who leads marketing effectiveness and general business consultancy programs with clients said “silver linings are hard to find at the moment, but I’m pretty reassured to see governments around the world to announce measures to protect incomes as best as they can for the majority of the population. A personal silver lining is I’m seeing more of my family.”

Leading Marketing Effectiveness programs for 11 years and with a specialism in short- and long-term effectiveness, Matthew Chappell said “silver linings for me are around the return to more nature and seeing nature come back to life.”

1. The Questions Marketers Should be Asking Right Now

These times have been a significant stress test for many marketers. Government restrictions have impacted on demand, distribution, supply, product and service availability. With that in mind, Jon answers the question: What questions should marketers be asking right now to help inform business decisions?

Key take-aways:

  • Marketers should wear a larger hat. They should think beyond marketing comms. Consider the impact for the entire company: sit down with finance, work out cash flow status; can advertising be afforded, ask does it even make sense to advertise now?
  • In the first 2-3 weeks, we had to focus on logistics, like supply chains and communications channels. Now, we must start asking about potential economic scenarios e.g. V shaped, U shaped recovery, and ask “how might these scenarios impact our business?”.
  • Context is key. Understand where your brand is, what it promises, what your brand values are, and where you want your brand to be in 3 months, 6 months, 1 year. Work backwards from there, tactically and strategically, and put those plans in place now.

2. Impact of Stopping Advertising or Curtailing Specific Campaign

The last recession is probably the closest analogous scenario to compare to these times. Harvard Business Review has noted that brands who increase or maintain spend during tough times are able to improve their market share and ROI at a lower cost after a crisis than if they stopped advertising altogether. 

Matthew, a well-respected industry voice on the topic of short- and long term marketing effectiveness impacts of advertising answers:  What is the impact of stopping advertising altogether or containing certain campaigns during this session?

Key take-aways:

  • Frame your thinking in terms of short, medium, and long-term measurement.
  • Many advertisers don’t have marketing budgets right now, and many are seeing lots of demand but don’t want more demand in case they can’t keep up with supply chains.
  • Three reasons why advertising beyond now for the long-term is important right now:

    1. Habits can change when there are big shifts in consumer lifestyle or life stages e.g., getting married, having children, life changes during sheltering in. Now is a great time to target people who are phasing into new shifts.
    2. As per the Thinkbox research, we found that advertising has twice as much effect in the long-term as it does in the short-term. That impact will either be there if you advertise, or it won’t if you don’t.
    3. Think about the potential loss of your share of market or share of voice if your competitors are advertising.

3. Media Channels Marketers Should Pull Budget from First When Trying to Reduce Spend

The reality is, many businesses at the moment have to scrap or reduce their marketing budget to save the business. Cost reductions are kicking in. For those who are lucky enough to still be able to invest in marketing, how can they optimize their media budget? What should they cut back on and what should they ramp up on? Jon Webb says that while there have been some obvious changes to the media landscape (such as OOH and cinema) the actual question remains largely the same, “how do I best meet my objectives with media and marketing?”

Key take-aways:

  • Start by defining your KPIs with laser focus. Instead of having multiple KPIs per campaign, focus on one KPI.
  • KPIs are less likely to immediately be Sales Revenue and more likely based around softer measures like top two consideration in brand recall or brand awareness. Concentrate on what success for a single KPI looks like for your business.
  • Understand what your audience looks like and how to reach them. Existing customers? New customers? Expanding your base? Existing customers can be reached through CRM. For new customers, broadcast is often the most efficient way to reach them. For retailers outside of Grocery, digital channels should drive to e-commerce.
  • Most customers can be reached through TV. Communicating a strong upper-funnel message and the overall saliency of the brand are considerations.
  • PPC is great for lower funnel. At the moment, as most retailers are pivoting to an online model, PPC is vital.

In June during the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, Gain Theory Global CEO, Manjiry Tamhane, and Howard Grosfield EVP & GM US Consumer Marketing at American Express took to the stage to talk brand purpose and Marketing Excellence at the CMO Club House.

Below are the key takeouts, originally published on the CMO Club website.

To join this innovative and engaged community of CMOs, committed to helping each other solve their biggest challenges in a behind closed doors, candid, and trust-worthy environment click here.

Key Takeaways

  • Marketing is the engine of business growth.
  • We find a lot of conversations are about being data-driven, but it should really be about how data is used to inform the decisions within an organization.
  • Organizations that ground their decisions in data outperform on revenue by 85% against their peers.
  • You need to have a deep understanding of the purpose of your brand and then permeate that meaning to the front lines of your organization. If you do both of these things together, that’s excellent marketing.
  • When marketers excel at what they’re doing, you get sustainable business growth.
  • We aren’t trying to be the largest Bank or credit card company. We wake up wanting to deliver the world’s best customer service every single day, even if that involves us moving into new markets or engaging with our customers in new ways.
  • We’re a data-rich company. Our problem is not getting data. We have 120 million cards used around the world, but we need to be surgically precise on how we use this data to drive engagement. When customers tell us what they need, we pivot.
  • There’s a divide between those who think it’s about creative and those who think it’s about data.
  • For those of us in heavily regulated industries where every marketing message needs to be approved, the gift of agile is being able to seat the copy person, the creative person and the compliance person round one table, and do what the customer wants us to do.
  • Questions marketers are asking, “How do I educate and upskill my people,” and “How do I change the process?”
  • The marketer’s challenge a few years ago was getting their hands on data, removing jargon from the industry and asking a simple question without getting different answers. Now marketers have the data, know the jargon, and have the answers. The challenge is how to make decisions quickly, and how to become data rich but not insights poor.
  • Manjiry Tamhane says; “My Mum gave me determination. She’s as stubborn as anyone you’ll ever meet. My Dad was an architect so from a creative industry, and it created a beautiful blend of my mom’s data brain combined with his creativity.”
  • Howard Grosfield says; “My parents were tremendous role models. They taught me that people rarely remember what you say, but they always remember how it made them feel. We’re now in the feelings business, that advice has translated well into my career.”

It’s a long journey from the classroom to the C suite, and managing a global organization isn’t a job many people can relate to. So, what is that journey like? What are the lessons learned? What are the leaders really like behind closed doors?

In this exclusive and candid WPP Stella podcast we hear from Manjiry Tamhane, Global CEO at Gain Theory in conversation with Jay Kandola, Commercial Director at Mediacom talk about her journey to the C suite, perspective on life and leadership.

Highlights include:

  • Manjiry’s journey from university graduate to Gain Theory CEO
  • Why being brave is vital to success
  • What makes Gain Theory special
  • The book that had the biggest impact on her
  • On building data informed cultures
  • How to deliver marketing excellence
  • …and why shy bears get no honey!

Listen to the episode below, if you enjoy it, share it!

Stella Conversations is a series of informative and inspiring conversations between members of the WPP Stella women’s leadership group and a cohort of future leaders.

We are proud to announce Manjiry Tamhane, our Global CEO named as one of the 20 Women in Data & Tech initiative, led by The Female Lead and Women in Data.  The initiative showcases inspirational female role models who are helping to transform our world using data and technology.

At the helm of the initiative Edwina Dunn and Payal Jain say ‘For the two of us that share a career in Data Science, we frequently find ourselves the only senior women in a room. We have enjoyed this privilege but are also aware of the lack of balance and diversity, and the impact this has on business decisions and outcomes’.

The purpose behind the Female Lead campaign is to make women’s stories more visible and to provide positive role models for future generations.

With over 20 years’ experience in the marketing effectiveness industry, Manjiry has been integral to Gain Theory’s success since inception. Throughout her career – client side (Penhaligons and Debenhams) and agency (Ohal and Gain Theory) – Manjiry’s guiding principle has been about delivering actionable recommendations that maximize the benefit of marketing investment.

Speaking to The Female Lead in an interview, Manjiry says what she finds satisfying about working in the data and marketing industry is ‘Being able to see data actually drive business decisions that result in a change in the creative output’.

You can watch Manjiry’s interview below.

For more inspirational female role model stories visit The Female Lead website 20 Women in Data & Tech here.

Gain Theory’s Claudia Sestini discusses the numbers behind marketing excellence.


This year’s Marketing Society Excellence Awards displayed the UK’s bravest and most impactful marketing achievements. Direct Line, Mars, John Lewis, The National Lottery, ITV and many more can now be added to the marketing hall of fame providing inspiration for years to come.

Reading the case studies, you get a real sense of vision and purpose. But what about measuring impact – the numbers behind marketing excellence? What role does measurement play in the ad campaigns that steal headlines, generate sales, and win awards?

In a world where a marketer’s currency isn’t solely focused on creative anymore, the data gold rush has taken its hold. A rush to measure, validate, optimise and manage based on the insights from the data mine.

Before we marshal marketers towards the fountain of eternal data and insights, let’s stop and think about the end goal. Why we’re doing it, how and when we should do it, the impact on marketers and crucially the business.

Research carried out earlier this year, conducted impartially by an ex-CMO with senior marketers in the US representing brands with a total of $1.9bn advertising spend, confirms a number of marketing measurement pain points: Metrics overload, or analysis paralysis; short termism, organisational structure and the need for one source of truth.

With this mind, the Society and Gain Theory have been collaborating to explore these challenges and how we solve them with senior marketers across global hubs – New York, London, New Delhi & Singapore.

Over dinner, high atop the London skyline at the lofty heights of the Gherkin, the Society convened Excellence Awards judges, winners and a wider group of senior marketers to take a 30,000 foot look at the choppy marketing measurement waters. We were in good company with marketers including Jaguar Land Rover, Direct Line, Samsung, HSBC, Wiggle, Hiscox and more.

Metrics that Matter

There was broad agreement on the following fact: we have so much data we can now measure the arse out of marketing.

The increase in channels available to marketers is leading to an increase in the number of metrics used for reporting. This firehose of analytics has crippled many marketers with “analysis paralysis” whereby there’s not enough time, resource, and skillset in a day – or a month – to go through all the numbers, identify the key statistics and discern lessons from them. One marketer sagely remarked, “Just because you can measure, doesn’t mean you can manage.”

In addition, some of the metrics are not sufficiently linked to business outcomes. As one marketer said ‘We have too many metrics that are not financial’.

The consensus is to focus on the metrics that really matter. One marketer said that her view on measurement was simply, “Do they see our comms and will they buy more as a result?” Everything else, it would seem, is salad dressing.

Then, there are metrics that we need on daily basis to understand and manage business impact of marketing to the ones that help us manage stakeholder expectation. Using the right ones for the right ‘internal audience’ was another solution provided around the table.

Other marketers highlighted that in the sea of available metrics “ROI is the easiest metric – it’s a winner.”

Another view was around digital – Google, Facebook et al all were name dropped, of course. The thinking here is that yes do it, but learn from it. To quote one marketing effectiveness leader at the table ‘Go play, but please measure’.

More advice around the table included:

  • Think about the “So What?”  factor – only measure things you can do something about
  • Talk soft metrics and the board are not interested!  Focus on metrics that give you credibility
  • Define the 6 things that drive value creation
  • Where measurement is concerned, it’s incumbent on marketers to set the agenda

Is Brand Marketing Dead?

A challenge that was cited repeatedly, is the sharp pendulum swing towards short-term activation. It feels like marketers are bemoaning a lack of focus on long-term impact, and thus the demise of brand marketing and subsequent impact on long term growth. One view was that this is being caused by C-Suite and shareholders expecting instant results.

Another perspective is that digital has been a pariah to long term effectiveness with one marketer saying “Digital allows us to activate sales quickly.”…“Brand marketing is dead.” Said another “We are so short-term focused – it’s all about instant results. If our campaign isn’t generating sales after 5 hours, its pulled.”

So, marketers are left wondering: how do we highlight how brand marketing can impact growth?

One solution offered was using the right language and metrics when communicating to the business and especially the C-Suite. Marketers must be able to communicate growth via metrics that impact both top and bottom line. So, it follows that even long term brand impact must be able to show an ROI.

Ultimately, we all agreed that short term is not a bad thing but rather that it’s not a battle between short vs long but more a case of re-evaluating short term within long term.

Magic vs Logic


There is a place for hard metrics and a place for being brave and trying things that are not measured or measurable.

There was a sense that if you’re able to walk into the board room with a great creative idea then your short term ROI worries go out the window. Big, bold executions still win hearts and minds of consumers, and after all after isn’t the goal for marketing to change human behaviour?

As one marketer said, “We all know that the number one driver of ROI is creative.” Gemma Greaves, Global CEO at the Society, cited the Cadbury’s gorilla campaign which apparently didn’t initially receive a great reaction internally – there were reservations:

Lee Rolston, Cadbury’s director of marketing at that time, is quoted to have said, “We had a pragmatic concern that it was just too far for Cadbury to go from where they were at that point; that there had to be some sort of stepping stone. But then we thought, ‘You know what? This is an opportunity; we should do what we feel is right rather than what we think they will think is right.’”

Apparently, the board were tasked to take the creative home for the weekend and show it to friends and family. Come Monday, the emotive, game changing power of the creative execution and its potential was clear: everyone loved it and the creative was given the go ahead.

The Upshot

What was truly great about the dinner in London was how open everyone was about their challenges, views and crucially how happy they were to offer a solution to each other. This is what makes the peer network of the Marketing Society so great.

There are a few key takeaways. Firstly, it’s imperative to focus only on the metrics that matter and that you can do something about. Secondly, it’s about managing a portfolio of risk both short and long term. Finally, even in a time of Big Data, there are occasions when tossing out the spreadsheet and going with your creative gut can move hearts and minds and ultimately ROI.

My final thought is that marketers are well placed to set the agenda for measurement. Not only do we have the data and resources to hand to measure top and bottom line growth but we also possess, in my mind, the biggest power of all: the ability to tell compelling stories that touch the hearts and minds of people. We must be braver and bolder in using the story telling ‘super power’ more with internal stakeholders, remembering to utilize the right language for the right audience whether C suite or across the organisations.

Read the original article here.

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