Unilever, ITC vouch for embedding analytics in business

0 110

The first round of the ‘Mixed Panel Presentations’ at the inaugural edition of the Pitch Analytics in Action conference held in Bangalore looked at the topic ‘Challenges in Analytics: An India Perspective’. Panelists CR Sundarrajan, Director Analytics, Developing & Emerging Markets, Unilever and G K Suresh, GM – Brands, Foods Business, ITC, gave extensive instances of how analytics were applied in each of their organisations.

CR Sundarrajan, Director Analytics, Developing & Emerging Markets, Unilever

CR Sundarrajan, Director Analytics, Developing & Emerging Markets, Unilever

Sundar elaborated on ‘Analytics as a key input into business planning’ with particular reference to the challenges faced in Unilever. The biggest challenge they faced was not with regard to the availability of data but with getting the business to believe that analytics would help them.

There were several hurdles faced in this regard with respect to:

  1. Technical aspect: Do we have the right tools and techniques? Are we capable of handling different types of data?
  2. Data: Data was sourced from several external sources – the market, the media, and research agencies. However, the key issue was whether it was really representative.
  3. Interpretation: How do we interpret the data in the business context?

Over the last 10 years, the analytics division in Unilever has been growing. However, there were several barriers that the team came across. Sundar classified them as:
Barrier 1: Where the executives came with the ‘I know everything’ attitude and were unwilling to accept any insights.
Barrier 2: In this case, the executives complemented the analytics team but revealed that they had already made their decision.
Barrier 3: Certain results from the analysis which were favourable were picked out and others were rejected.

Up to 2007, the analytics division was in its nascent stage with analytical projects carried out and solutions found in a bid to confirm that it could work. From 2007-2010, Unilever established Analytics/MMM to deliver critical inputs for key cells across countries they were present in. However, what they noticed was that only 20% of suggestions were implemented with a mindset change in only 5% of the cases as 15% corresponded with the decisions that were to be taken.

Embedding analytics into the business is imperative. There are 5 steps to embedding:

  1. Get a buy-in early by identifying burning issues. There is a marked difference seen when solutions are provided.
  2. Customise solution to give actionable recommendations on burning issues. The solution should not be mathematical and technical but easy to understand and implement
  3. Intense and continuous business partner training and scenario planning. To highlight this point, Sundar gave the instance of when Unilever did some work in Vietnam in 2011. They tracked it every quarter and provided the impact of different decisions, reasons for growth/decline, and helped tweak strategy.
  4. Track results/implementation and communicate benefits constantly.
  5. Convey/communicate to top business leaders. It is important to move from offering brand category solutions to corporate solutions.

Doing good work is not enough unless you ensure that it gets adopted. Implementation, he pointed out, has gone up from 20% to 41% now. In 26 out of 31 cases, recommendations taken led to protection or growth of brand share. Conversely, in 34 of 44 cases where the recommendations were not taken, brand share went down. Over the last 2 years, Unilever’s Analytics division has been embedding analytics into business. Today, analytics has become the key input that people want unlike 2 years back when you had to sell the idea.

G K Suresh, GM - Brands, Foods Business, ITC

G K Suresh, GM – Brands, Foods Business, ITC

Suresh of ITC touched upon ‘Analytics and Marketing – Return on Investment’. His talk centred on how analytics enabled intelligent research allocation among different media to increase ROI. Marketers are faced with some key dilemmas everyday – where to spend, how to spend, which brand to put money behind, which geography to cater to, etc. Marketing cannot be looked at only in silos by only considering the revenues but also how much money was spent behind earning it.

He gave the example of the brand ‘Bingo’ where 27% of the brand’s sale volume came from TV, some percentage from Print, Radio, the Halo Effect (advertising for Mad Angles lead to an increase in sales of Potato Chips). About 30% of the sales were unexplained. Variables such as role of PR, product pricing, retailer recommendation etc. were not considered. It was classified as ‘brand equity’. Then ITC decided to look at three years’ data since BINGO was launched to find reasons behind the unexplained portion. Analysis showed that a cut in prices led to increase in sales. TV advertising led to significant sales but Radio/Print did not play a significant role initially. However, smaller mediums used in the right markets are effective in driving sales.

However, there comes the question ‘How much is enough?’ Analysis showed that beyond a certain point, for every 1% spent it started giving me less than 1% increase in sales. That was the point of inflection. Then came – ‘How to schedule?’ Do you spread  advertising through the year or come out in 1-2 short bursts? ITC realised that when they spread it out unlike 2 bursts a year earlier, there was a 3% increase in sales. Analytics helps to plot the importance of each effect individually as well as the inter-linkages. If you are able to understand the ramifications better, then you do not need to duplicate actions. So, marketers should engage more with consumers, generate the right insights, and work closely with agencies to break through clutter.

V Balasubramanium, Chief Knowledge Officer & Director, Rainman Consulting

V Balasubramanium, Chief Knowledge Officer & Director, Rainman Consulting

V Balasubramanium, Chief Knowledge Officer & Director, RainMan Consulting acted as moderator.

Pitch Analytics in Action was powered by The Hindu Business Line. Dekhooh is Outdoor Partner for the event, CIOL.com is the Online Partner, Institute for Competitiveness is the Think Tank Partner, Marketelligent is the Knowledge Partner, and 24 Frames Digital is the Webcast Partner.

About the author / 

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Brand News