December 11, 2016

"Festivus" Wins The Data-Driven Christmas Messaging Derby

Angela Plompkin couldn't believe her eyes. And yet, the seasoned data scientist knew she had no choice but to honor the results of her data-driven approach.

"I've been preaching how brands must adhere to a data-driven approach to marketing. It isn't fun when the tables are turned and you cannot overturn a data-driven thesis with gut instinct simply because you've been selling the opposite message for the better part of a decade."

Plompkin (the Chief Data Scientist at Woodside Research) was tasked with identification of the "best" Christmas messaging strategy that "brands" could employ to maximize customer engagement. She explained what happened next.

"We employed deep learning algorithms, because let's face it, machine learning is so 2015. Coupled with factorial test designs, we should have been able to identify the best Christmas marketing message after controlling for external factors. What we identified, of course, was sheer data-driven nonsense that we had no choice but to share publicly, because we demand that all brands adhere to a data-driven approach to marketing. We practice what we preach."

It turns out that consumers do not want to engage with traditional Chirstmas messaging.

"Within hours of launching the project, our deep learning algorithms latched on to the fact that customers enthusiastically engaged with the unadorned aluminum pole that serves as the anchor of the Festivus narrative as described in the twenty-year old episode of Seinfeld. Conservative, Liberal, Athiest, it didn't matter. The neural network spiraled out of control as the machine learned that consumers unabashedly embraced the Festivus narrative."

Needless to say, project sponsors were not pleased with the results. Plompkin elaborated.

"We attempted many different strategies, including advertising a Baby Jesus in popular swaddling clothes sold at Baby Gap. None of the messages resonated with users on social media. Heck, some consumers joined the Festivus conversation and actively shared their own Feats of Strength. People really enjoyed the Airing of Grievances. It's almost like social media was designed to amplify the Airing of Grievances. Our algorithms detected the Festivus signal, and would not let go of it. Eventually, we were boxed into testing a limited number of engaging messages regarding potential Festivus Miracles. I'm stunned that a machine could learn to so easily disrupt and re-direct a popular narrative."

Plompkin angrily defended her data-driven marketing narrative, in spite of the results.

"Look, if the best way to honor the birth of our Lord and Savior is to offer a customer 50% off plus free shipping after engaging with the customer about a Festivus Miracle involving Mr. Kruger, then so be it. That's what a data-driven approach to engagement fused with deep learning algorithms teaches us, and I for one will not compromise my data-driven values no matter the result. We've told our client base that brands who refuse to adhere to a data-driven strategy will die. I may not like how medicine tastes. But medicine is designed to restore my health, so likewise data-driven tactics will restore brands to health. It's time to abandon a Christmas narrative or a Holiday narrative, period. The data tells us we must immediately capitalize on the Festivus narrative if we want brands to win the engagement battle."

Plompkin was unavailable for further content after having to explain to her co-workers that the department Secret Santa celebration was being replaced by mandatory donations to The Human Fund.

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