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What can we learn from PepsiCo’s ‘Chief Forecaster’?

Are you still waiting until products show up on the shelf to understand the market and take action? ‘Chief Forecaster’, Stephan Gans, from PepsiCo explains how that was the industry norm until recently. Now he’s using Social Prediction and AI to identify consumer trends and inform his Insights and Innovation teams.


In a recent article from Business Insider, Stephan Gans discusses how he is working with Social Prediction company, Black Swan Data (that’s us), to gain new insights in order to develop new products, design marketing campaigns, and inform many decisions.


Social Prediction enables large CPG brands to forecast trends more effectively opposed to traditional market research techniques. As many of us know, social conversations are spontaneously generated, rather than in response to prompted questioning. They are available at scale, because they sample from the vastness of the internet, and at speed, because they involve no fieldwork time.


This is crucial for CPG companies. If you are going to differentiate your consumer intelligence so you can innovate more effectively, you need to look at the world in a different way; the old methods just won’t cut it.


Stephan Gans explains: “People will always answer the question within the context of what they’re familiar with and what they know … It’s actually much better to focus on seeing [what people are talking about online] because you can get much better insight into what’s on people’s minds and what people would actually prefer”


The pandemic has made understanding consumer behaviour even more challenging. this is where using in the moment, observational data is key. For example PepsiCo recently introduced new flavourings for SodaStream after seeing increased online conversation, as consumers spend more time at home.


Stephan explains: “To me, the pandemic has made these tools more useful … when I started my career, we would call something a trend if it showed up on-shelf … over the last couple of decades, our ability as a company to spot a trend well before it reaches the shelf has improved significantly.”


We are extremely proud and honoured to have PepsiCo as a long-standing client partner and thrilled that Stephan Gans, a true innovator within the industry, has called out our work to Business Insider. Our programme with PepsiCo expands every year, building on our combined successes and continuously optimising and evolving together. It now spans nine markets with 200+ active users logging onto our Trendscope platform each month and approximately 100+ bespoke projects commissioned over the last three years.


Stephan shares our ethos that passive observation (versus asking consumers direct questions) is paramount if we want to understand actual consumer behaviour and uncover breakthrough insight. The Ada platform that Stephan and team have created is industry leading, with the vision of enabling consumer centricity through a digitised insights ecosystem.


At Black Swan Data, we combine our always-on trend prediction software with world-class strategic consultancy to map, quantify and prioritise the drivers and trends that will fuel future category growth. It helps companies to pre-empt shifts in consumer behaviour and determine where, how and when to innovate effectively.


We find it yields different results to traditional research methodologies:


  1. You understand organic, in the moment behaviour (less say:do gap)
  2. You find the ‘unknowns’: emerging, edge-case and overlapping topics  of conversation from adjacent categories because you are not defined by prior category knowledge. This is often where the white-space opportunities lie
  3. This data source allows you to go back and forwards in time and thus build accurate and predictive trend models that keep clients looking forward and ahead of the market.


If you’d like to read the full Business Insider interview with Stephan Gans, you can find it here.


Or if you’re interested to see more about our trend prediction technology and how we use it to deliver future of category analysis and create innovation springboards in a faster, smarter more consumer-centric way please get in touch.