Why you need evidence-based marketing for FMCG innovation
08 november 2022 

Why you need evidence-based marketing for FMCG innovation

In a world where data is increasingly accessible, you would think that it becomes easier to work on the basis of evidence. However, the exact opposite is often the case. How can you take the first step toward evidence-based marketing for your FMCG innovations? As a teacher of the FMCG Academy, I would like to give you some food for thought.

What is evidence-based marketing?

Let me start by clarifying the definition of evidence-based marketing. I often see that ‘fact-based’ and ‘evidence based’ are used interchangeably, even though a big difference exists between the two terms. Everything seems to be accurately measurable nowadays. This easily leads to the idea the more you measure, the more you know and the better your decisions are going to be. But that’s far too optimistic because measuring more often leads to more confusion. So, we need to filter, understand the strengths and weaknesses of the indicators we look at and have a clear interpretation anchor to make sense of them.

Better analysis of consumer behaviour

My interest in evidence-based marketing started when I worked as a methodologist. Over a decade ago, I read the book ‘How Brands Grow’ by Professor Byron Sharp. Many things that I had seen throughout my career suddenly fell in place. Sharp describes what commonalities we find in buying based on scientific studies. Since then, I look at brand KPI’s through a different lens.

Instead of looking at differences between FMCG brands, products, consumer groups and time periods – like most marketers do – I started looking for patterns and similarities in the data. This helped me to get more fundamental insights with bigger implications. It’s also a useful method for separating the wheat from the chaff in a world where we have so many indicators to make sense of.

Evidence-based marketing in FMCG innovation

If we look at the innovation process within FMCG companies, we can conclude that a lot of gains could still be made in terms of evidence-based marketing. For many marketers this approach is relatively new and some of the observations go against what you find in most textbooks. Initially, some marketers tend to be a little hesitant or show some resistance to the implications. They will ask questions like “Yes, but what about Tesla or Apple?” Or “How will 20-year-old data help me now?”

Well, first there are fewer exceptions than one would think. Secondly, why would you focus on the exceptions? Wouldn’t it be much safer to bet on the 99% of the cases that show consistencies instead of chasing the 1% of cases that are exceptions, of which you are not sure why they are exceptional in the first place? And yes, sometimes data is old, sometimes data is new, but they all show the same underlying patterns.

Learn more about evidence-based marketing

Do you want to improve the decision-making process in your company and learn more about evidence-based marketing in FMCG? Join the course Retail Knowledge & Insights at the FMCG Academy in January 2023! I’m one of the teachers and my part will cover what we call ‘the first principles of buying’ and their implications.

Understanding these principles will help you on two levels. First, it helps you to sense check your marketing strategy. Ask yourself, is your goal still in line with your consistent observations? Second, it helps you to make sense of your metrics to monitor your performance. You will know how to get solid, evidence-based arguments for why you do what you do. Eventually, this will help you improve the decision-making process for your FMCG innovations. Check the full program here.

Win “How Brands Grow”

Among our readers, we raffled off the book “How Brands Grow” by Byron Sharp. Update 2022-11-28: the raffle is closed so you can't subscribe anymore to make a chance. We've informed the winner by email. 

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About the author
Robert van Ossenbruggen is a teacher at the FMCG Academy.