Marketing Mix Modeling, News • 7 min reading time

"It's behind you!"

Roz Bowman - published on December 13, 2023

Just like a good joke, an MMM project should make you laugh (with insights) and leave you with a blend of clear direction and a future-proof process.

What did the pantomime dame shout to the econometrician searching for a statistically significant result? “It’s behind you!” 

Cue residual laughter… ok, I’ll stop with the awfully crowbarred jokes.  

This is a skill my kids have been practising recently and I’m sure all parents have been through it – when your 5-year-old starts to learn the joy of joke telling. The current favourites in our house revolve around potatoes (don’t ask me, I have a feeling a certain Australian blue dog is to blame).  

What’s struck me is the fact that there is a learning curve to this joke telling that revolves around two aspects: firstly, the joke, a pun in most cases, needs to make sense; the words involved in any word play must have a tangible connection and create a realistic or maybe surreal vision in the mind. Secondly, and most importantly, it needs to  make you laugh! 

My 3-year-old son’s current favourites include: “Why did the potato go to the barbers? Because he needed a haircut!” And “Why did the broccoli go to the shops? Because he needed to buy a potato!” So, lacking on the sense front there and, although they make me laugh, I fear only due to the cute delivery from his optimistically beaming cheeks.  

My daughter however, has grasped the nuance of a pun; enjoy her recent success of “What is a sheep’s favourite thing to cook on? A Baarbeque!” 

The skills they’re showing, or at least attempting to grow, are an understanding of the construction of a pun – the key ingredients to a play on words – but also, making it fulfil the brief of making us laugh!  

Switching tack to work life. When delivering MMM work-streams, common project aims can include: 

  1. Running regular model updates, revisiting brand sales each new quarter  
  2. Scaling up projects, from pilots covering one brand to wider builds encapsulating a whole portfolio or brands  
  3. In-housing MMM work into an internal analytics team, away from external agency providers  

Like all good jokes, these three procedures need to have the correct construction.  (Not even tiptoeing near the topic of the literal construction of a model; we’ll leave a discussion on the ‘best’ independent variables for another time and hope that good content is a given for what constitutes a “good” model. And we’ll assume that all parts of a model come together to make tangible sense of business questions that have been set.) 

Specifically, I’m calling out the correct construction for an MMM process, having things like: 

  • standardised data delivery  
  • clear data tracking  
  • data restatement and version control  
  • strict documentation, and 
  • regular information sharing.  

All these features would ensure an element of safeguarding; enabling alternate analysts to pick up tasks, leaving a trail to explain decisions made, as well as enabling clear communication and timeline planning.  

These criteria will ensure an MMM delivery overall, making the tenure of a project a happy one.   

But on top of the above, crucially…no, MMM projects don’t need to make us laugh. They need to give insight!  

Unless an MMM project delivers some insight in the shorter term and helps a team make some decisions, it will stagnate. It won’t become embedded in a company’s everyday if it can’t provide guidance.  A project needs to provide this guidance in a timely manner when planners are, for example, searching for budget setting help.   

If an MMM project is stalling, with the team deciding how best to structure a data feed from an agency rather than testing and reporting on a media channel in a model, the basic fulfilment of delivering guidance is not achieved.  

In real life settings we know it’s a tricky path to tread; a judgement between making headway with a delivery, but also putting in place some plans for the future.  This is fair I think – a reality we all need to accept and a path we can hopefully tread without feeling like the back end of a pantomime horse.  

I’ll finish with one that will leave you ROFL: “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” Well as we know, it’s actually a subtle blend of harnessing a marketing team with clear direction alongside building up the beginning of a future proof process.  

Oh, and also: “it doesn’t matter as long as it’s served with a potato!” 

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Picture of Roz Bowman

Roz Bowman

Senior Consultant UK