How Tyson Reinvented Itself Around Analytics, ROI

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How Tyson Reinvented Itself Around Analytics, ROI

By Ed Finkel - 05/25/2018
Tyson's Christopher Witte

Schaumburg, Ill. In the 1990s, Jerry Seinfeld famously had a hit TV program dubbed a “show about nothing.” In the 2010s, he’s had another hit show on the internet and now Netflix that’s also about nothing. “He reinvented himself for the digital era, and there’s a corollary to that” for shopper marketers, Tyson Foods’ Christopher Witte, vice president, total store leadership, said in March during a Path to Purchase presentation alongside Rick Abens, founder and CEO of Foresight ROI.

The corollary does not involve shopper marketing campaigns about nothing, Witte said, but brands do need to follow Seinfeld’s lead and “take a little bit of what you did and make it new again. It’s about how you can reinvent your shopper acumen.” This requires developing a continuously ROI-focused mindset, delving into “heavy analytics,” communicating strategy and tactics internally and externally, and homing in on the marketing “mini-mix.”

“The Millennials and Gen Z are coming along and impacting shopper marketing in a big way,” Witte said. “Marketing [overall] is going to transform and become more like shopper marketing – less big-mix decisions and more mini-mix. This is going to become more important. The idea of de-selection has happened over the last 10 years because shoppers are stressed, their time is limited, their budgets are limited, and they want to become more purposeful.”

These shifts mean that “we have to help the shopper more and more, and also engage with the brands,” he said. “The linear approach to shopping was there forever. But everybody in this room can say, ‘I’m thinking about [a purchase], and now I’m picking up my mobile device and buying it.’ The linear approach is gone. It’s turned into a spaghetti bowl. We need to hit shoppers at various points.”

A veteran of Hillshire dating to the brand’s days as part of Sara Lee Corp. – and now based at Tyson – Witte has surfed a few waves of change but believes the brand has become much more tightly focused on using analytics over the past several years. “We had to get really good at what we were doing in the brand space,” he said.

Tyson approached Foresight ROI for help in transforming itself into a more comprehensive shopper marketing organization, Abens recalled. “Shopper marketing is very strategic. It’s a big portion of the sales funnel,” he said. “The job is to convert marketing into purchases. It’s the most integrated type of marketing we have. You can overlay and create [an analysis of] synergistic spending vs. redundant spending.” That leads to more effective programs with stronger ROI, he said.

Foresight brought to bear industry research based on different integration levels – with brand marketing only, trade promotions only and the full path to purchase involving messages and offers to shoppers both at home and in-store. “When you hit them in-store with a brand choice, you can sway their decision with information beyond price,” Abens said. “But these programs are more expensive. When we started working together, we said, ‘Chris, you’re spending less on path-to-purchase events on average. What are you going to do about it?’”

The first year in such a journey can be challenging because of the investment required and because the most efficient path toward better ROI is only coming into focus, Witte said. “Year one, it’s rough. You’re trying to touch all these points in an efficient way. We unlocked different tactics. We tried to implement this ongoing development process. That has increased our ROI overall.”

Next, Foresight worked with Tyson on creating win-win programs with retailers. “We said, ‘Chris, a couple of customers you’re spending a lot of money on and not getting great return. What are you going to do about it?’” Abens recalled.

That led to questions like, “Where were we anticipating further growth? What are our must-win customers? Where are we not getting a good return?” Witte said. “That took a lot of discipline and some tough conversations. For the salesperson, that’s their currency.”

But the objective ROI numbers helped people to believe in the process, Abens said. “This is about understanding what works, so you can make better decisions – and when you make better decisions, what to expect.”

Tyson tracks results at least annually if not quarterly and makes continuous readjustments in the mini-mix spending based on what is and isn’t working, Witte said. “It is the way to unlock current dollars and also a proof point for future dollars. There are all kinds of data points that can build your ROI acumen. All these inputs are going to be critical to building your algorithm. That’s the objective for us in this journey.”