Monday, 19 January 2009

Marketing Crisps and Operational Research

Having mentioned crisps, my mind wandered to a recent news story about marketing with an O.R. twist. The UK crisp brand Walkers called on consumers to come up with new ideas for flavours of crisps, with the slogan "Do us a flavour". Six were identified as potentially usable: chilli and chocolate, onion bhaji, Cajun squirrel, fish and chips, crispy duck and hoi sin, and builder's breakfast. There is a public vote to determine the winning flavour which will then remain on sale.

The competition has generated a considerable amount of public interest. Walkers had originally expected about 250,000 entries into the competition, however, it actually received about 1.2m flavour suggestions.

And there is the O.R. twist. Who made the forecast? Has anyone stood up, put their hand on their heart, and admitted "Our forecast model was wrong. We were 80% below."? In the circumstances, I suspect that the forecast was more of a guess than a mathematical model, and the success, both in consumer response and free publicity, will mean that the forecasters will live to forecast for another campaign.

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