November 18, 2019

AI-Powered insights takeaways at Coca-Cola’s McDonald’s division

Market Logic Team

Market Logic client partner Stephanie Eaddy, Global Growth Director at Coca-Cola’s The McDonald’s Division (TMD), gave an illuminating presentation on “Trailblazing AI Powered Insights at the Coca-Cola Company” at last week’s Corporate Researchers Conference (CRC), put on by the Insights Association’s in Orlando, Florida. The CRC is a private event for corporate researchers, offering presentations, networking events, and brainstorming discussions. It provides candid insights from peers with minimal commercial distraction.

“Leapfrogging” into the future with Market Logic

Stephanie pointed out that Coca-Cola is partnering with Market Logic to “leapfrog into the future.” Her division, TMD, is a dedicated team of over 200 people spanning 160 markets around the world. The team is unique within Coke because it looks after global insights for the beverage growth strategy at McDonald’s across all Coca-Cola regions: from joint marketing, innovations and promotions to consumer trends, the consumer psyche, supply chain and operations, and financial and strategic planning. The division has both dedicated McDonald’s team members and shares resources with local business units – so they have to be excellent team players.

Doing more with less, with AI

Like most insights teams, TMD has to be lean – and do more with fewer resources. They are under pressure to be all-knowing consultants and the expert in every room, and with new capabilities like VR and chatbots cropping up all the time, they have a lot to wrap their heads around. Not only that, but they have to make sure they keep consumers top of mind, and service smaller markets at the same level as larger markets. Stephanie described that in summer 2018, during a planning meeting for the global marketing team, TMD held some stakeholder interviews with their 200 employees. They found that they weren’t delivering the most strategic or actionable insights… and that most people didn’t want to have to wait for insights. Stephanie and her team were taken aback – for whatever reason, the information the team was creating was just not penetrating the organization at the level they needed it to. So Stephanie pulled together a cross-functional team and brought them to New York for a two-day design thinking session. They discovered that they needed to get the research information out faster, using new technology. To that end, Stephanie was pointed in the direction of Market Logic, who runs the technology behind S&I Connect. Together, we launched the pilot version of a next-generation version of the tool.

Insights Connect: from days to minutes

The McDonald’s Division is the perfect guinea pig for the new Market Logic powered platform – Insights Connect – because of their unique position as B2B marketers within Coca-Cola, as well as their wide global reach and highly specialized client use cases. Where TMD insights professionals used to spend days finding and reading content, they now spend seconds finding it and minutes reading it – thanks to AI. The platform serves as a single source of truth from all structured and unstructured documents – especially syndicated sources that are specific to the division. Drawing upon all of the data on the platform, an auto-summarizer pulls together fast summaries of documents and pushes forward the information stakeholders need to know. Users can quickly scan nuggets of information and either use it to pitch to clients or understand what they need to read later. “They can spend 80% of their time on the 20% of things that are really going to move the business, not 80% of their time on busywork.” -Stephanie Eaddy

No more phone tag

The best part for Stephanie? Stopping the email and phone tag. The system democratizes information so anyone on the team can find the best answers, faster, no matter the time zone. Stephanie also has confidence in the quality – together with Market Logic, TMD has created a custom version of the tool just for their division that contains 1800 documents created over the past three years, specific to their business. That means that the tool mines a pre-curated list of content, rather than a random Google search. The machine also understands their language – it has been pre-taught the language of Coca-Cola to deliver information that is meaningful to them.

Coca-Cola’s new “influencers”

Insights Connect helps insights professionals on Stephanie’s team become true influencers. Instead of sending newsletters, white papers, trend reports or top lines to stakeholders who may or may not have time to read them, experts can turn to the Knowledge Zones to create engaging mini websites. Knowledge Zones contain up to date information on how the division is thinking about a particular problem, like delivery or packaging. Stakeholders are notified about new information at a time convenient to them and are pulled into that experience to read, like, favourite, or share that information. It’s an acknowledgement of how people actually consume information today – and it’s a way of pulling it into the ways of working at TMD.

Transforming the insights function

Insights Connect helps the insights function to become a consultative business partner – and a truly important expert voice in the room. If Stephanie’s team can concentrate on big research to understand the next big opportunities, not Coca-Co spending their time on post-program analysis and trend hunting (which a tool can do), they can free up their time to truly advise the business. Stephanie recalled the words of Chet Henderson, VP CMI Personal Care at Unilever, who said, “insights managers have to shift gears from market research to ‘marketing the research.’” She also noted that change has to come from both directions – insights teams need to be part of the change by sending people to the technology, rather than just sending them answers to their business questions.

The next phase

Stephanie is excited to work with Insights Connect’s virtual assistant, which is coming soon. Similar to having a conversation with a very helpful chatbot, virtual assistants will continue to make the tool easier for non-researchers as well as the ability to help the machine learn with user feedback (thumbs up or thumbs down). Exciting new developments as we look toward the Insights Connect launch across Coca-Cola’s entire business landscape and what 2020 will bring.