An AI stocking stuffer for every retailer

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An AI stocking stuffer for every retailer

By Mike Troy - 12/17/2018
IRI President and CEO Andrew Appel is one of three authors of a new book on AI and its implications for marketing and product innovation.

AI for Marketing and Product Innovation is the name of a new book from IRI President and CEO Andrew Appel, MachineVantage CEO A.K. Pradeep and Unilever EVP of Consumer and Market Insights Stan Sthanunathan. In Choosing AI as the topic of their new book, the authors, with a combined 100 years of experience in strategy and product development, branding, and insights and analytics, are focused on the hottest topic in retail.

“AI has enormous potential to unlock growth and success for brands and retailers if it is executed well, or to destroy them if it isn’t,” said Appel. “AI offers unmatched opportunities to create a vastly more accurate and actionable understanding of customers overall on a very micro level that hasn’t been possible historically due to the lack of data and analytic horsepower. While other books either delve into AI theory or outline hypotheticals, our book offers practical solutions created by authors with decades of brand and retail experience.”

The trio of authors bring a unique collection of professional experience to AI for Marketing and Product Innovation. During his six year tenure at IRI, Appel has dramatically expanded IRI’s services and reshaped the company into an innovation leader for CPG brands and retailers and media companies. Prior to IRI, he served as chief revenue officer of Accretive Health, as chief operating officer of Aon and as a senior partner at McKinsey & Company.

Pradeep founded MachineVantage in 2016 to use the algorithmic power of AI and machine learning to help marketers understand consumer purchase behavior and shape strategies around products, pricing, promotion and related activities. Prior to starting MachineVantage, Pradeep served as chief provocateur at Nielsen and earlier was founder and CEO of Nielsen NeuroFocus. Before that, he held positions at Meridian Consulting, BoardVantage and General Electric.

Sthanunathan has spent the past years at Unilever and prior to that nearly two decades at Coca-Cola. During his career, Sthanunathan has been an aggressive advocate for improved utilization of data and analytics to enhance product and marketing strategy. In his 2016 Harvard Business Review article, “Building an Insights Engine,” Sthanunathan outlined the 10 critical characteristics of an optimal insights engine, divided into operational characteristics, such as functional independence and experimental orientation, and people characteristics, such as business acumen and well-balanced analytic and creative thinking styles.

AI for Marketing and Product Innovation begins by highlighting the potential for AI, such as drastically improving the success rate for new product introductions — which currently hovers in the 10% range — and eliminating millions in wasted advertising spends due to ineffective planning and targeting. It continues by digging deep into the math behind AI and the types of data incorporated to achieve dramatic improvements in critical areas of brand management and retail, ensuring readers and authors are on the same page when addressing specific ways AI improves decision making.

Where things get really interesting is when the book delves into new territory, such as outlining how AI uncovers consumers’ conscious as well as subconscious thoughts and identifies the contexts and associations for these thoughts (e.g., a musical lyric might evoke memory of certain foods). With this type of information, marketers can build algorithms that result in identification of new product ideas and answer questions such as, “what can we add to this product idea to premiumize it and fetch a higher price point?”