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INTERVIEW: Thinkvine Uses Big Data and Algorithms to Eliminate the People in Test Marketing

Thinkvine Uses Big Data and Algorithms to Eliminate the People in Test Marketing

Dis­rupt­ing mar­ket research and test mar­ket­ing, Thinkvine thinks it has a bet­ter idea that will cost mar­keters and brand man­agers a lot less.  They have devel­oped soft­ware that can sim­u­late how con­sumers will react to new and exist­ing prod­ucts uti­liz­ing a vari­ety of media.

Roy Weiss­man inter­views Mark Battaglia about Thinkvine’s mar­ket­ing mix opti­miza­tion soft­ware that is chang­ing mar­ket research for­ev­er.

Accord­ing to Mark: “The best way to think of our soft­ware is if you’ve ever played the game Sim City or Ore­gon Trail or one of those oth­er sim­u­la­tion games.  We have a pop­u­la­tion of peo­ple that in terms of their demo­graph­ics and in terms of how they respond to media works just like Amer­i­ca assum­ing this is an Amer­i­can project.  We can do it in any coun­try.  That pop­u­la­tion of Amer­i­ca is just wait­ing for the mar­keter to say I’m going to mar­ket to this group in a cer­tain way and then I’m going to see what they buy as a result of the mar­ket­ing and where they buy it”. 

You can lis­ten to the inter­view as well as read it below:

 

Roy:     My name is Roy Weiss­man from MediaJobs.com and today we’re tak­ing with Mark Battaglia, the CEO of Think Vine.  ThinkVine’s mar­ket­ing mix opti­miza­tion soft­ware pro­vides B to C mar­keters with the right answers right now to achieve the max­i­mum return on their mar­ket­ing spend.  Wel­come, Mark.  How are you today?

Mark:  I’m doing well, Roy.  Thank you.

Roy:     Can you give us a sense of why this busi­ness was start­ed, what the oppor­tu­ni­ty is, the foun­da­tion?  Why you guys are here.

Mark:  The busi­ness was start­ed real­ly as a soft­ware com­pa­ny about four years ago.  It sprang out of a con­sult­ing com­pa­ny that was found­ed by a guy named Damon Ragusa and Damon worked with large B to C mar­keters in a vari­ety of indus­tries doing all sorts of mar­ket research.  He did mar­ket­ing mix.  He did pric­ing stud­ies.  He did prod­uct opti­miza­tion, just a vari­ety of work.  While he was doing that work, he real­ized that the way peo­ple had been doing mar­ket­ing mix opti­miza­tion was get­ting out of sync with the mar­ket place.  The mar­ket was becom­ing so much more diverse.

Con­sumers were exposed to many dif­fer­ent types of ads.  They had many dif­fer­ent ways where they could buy that they could­n’t buy 10 years ago or 20 years ago.  He real­ly said I’m doing this work but I’m not using the best method any­more so he decid­ed to look into oth­er fields and espe­cial­ly into the hard sci­ences and he brought tech­niques that had been pop­u­lar in the hard sci­ences over to mar­ket­ing and he built them into soft­ware.  That was  real change in the way that it had been done, still solv­ing the same prob­lem but doing a much bet­ter job of solv­ing it.

Roy:     Exact­ly what does, can you give the audi­ence a sense, be a lit­tle more just basic for the aver­age audi­ence.  Exact­ly why am I hir­ing Thinkvine?  What is Thinkvine going to do for me?

Mark:  If you’re a CMO or a brand man­ag­er or pos­si­bly even on an inside team at a large B to C mar­keter, you have ques­tions like how much bud­get do I need to make my objec­tives this year; how should I spend that bud­get; how much should be in print; how much should be in dig­i­tal; how much should be in bill­boards; all those oth­er dif­fer­ent mar­ket­ing options that you have.  You have ques­tions about how can I best reach a cer­tain group that I’m tar­get­ing.  Let’s say it’s peo­ple of a cer­tain age and a cer­tain gen­der.

Maybe they have a cer­tain amount of wealth, a peer finan­cial com­pa­ny.  Thinkvine is real­ly about using data and objec­tive math to be able to say here’s the best answer to those ques­tions and that way you can spend your mon­ey or spend your mar­ket­ing bud­get in the way that’s most like­ly to give you the high­est return.

Roy:     In essence you’re doing mar­ket­ing research using your data­base with­out hav­ing to go out into the mar­ket to get imme­di­ate results?

Mark:  Both mar­ket­ing research and research on what has­n’t worked for the com­pa­ny.  We’re look­ing at a vari­ety of types of data.  It is a big data to use the buzz word play in the sense that we’re look­ing at data about con­sumers.  We’re look­ing data about the cat­e­gories that the com­pa­ny oper­ates in and we’re look­ing at the com­pa­ny’s own data about what they’ve in mar­ket­ing and what their sales have been as a result.  We’re bring­ing all those things togeth­er in an easy to use soft­ware pack­age so that any mar­keter can play what if games when­ev­er he or she wants to.

They can ask the ques­tions that I just raised and go based on, for exam­ple, maybe a new cam­paign that our com­peti­tors are doing, how should I react to that based on the CFO just came down the hall and said sor­ry, I’m going to have to take some mon­ey away from you.  What would you give up and still be effec­tive?  We’re real­ly try­ing to bring a vari­ety of data sources plus mar­ket­ing sci­ence togeth­er and put those at the fin­ger­tips of every mar­keter.

Roy:     What per­cent­age of the data that you’re pro­vid­ing is not the com­pa­nies own data?

Mark:  Inter­est­ing ques­tion.  I nev­er thought about that in a per­cent­age basis but in terms of fam­i­lies in data, we have a fam­i­ly of data that is about con­sumers so we typ­i­cal­ly get that from the cen­sus.  Then we have a fam­i­ly of data that is about con­sumer behav­ior; how con­sumers respond to mar­ket­ing, and we get that from a vari­ety of real­ly well respect­ed third par­ties, peo­ple like Niel­son and Arbi­tron and MBI and oth­ers that are able to tell us how much time do peo­ple spend on Face­book and how often do peo­ple see ads at dig­i­tal sites and so forth.

Then the third set of data is real­ly from the com­pa­ny which is about their cat­e­go­ry, their mar­ket­ing, their sales his­tor­i­cal­ly so we can on one hand build a mod­el of who con­sumers are and how they react to mar­ket­ing and then sec­ond­ly, build a mod­el about how con­sumers his­tor­i­cal­ly have pur­chased with­in the cat­e­go­ry based on the mar­ket­ing they see.

Roy:     The algo­rithms and the for­mu­las you’re using, these are based on … in oth­er words, I’m com­pa­ny X, I’m Coca Cola and I want to intro­duce a juice.  Instead of Coca Cola I want to do some pur­ple juice, being a lit­tle sil­ly for a sec­ond.  I want to see how is my mar­ket going to respond to that.  How is your soft­ware, how does it under­stand my mar­ket?  Is that pri­mar­i­ly from the infor­ma­tion that I pro­vide about the Niel­son’s that we have and behav­ior of my mar­ket and then you go look at the demo­graph­ics of my mar­ket and the behav­iors and then cou­ple it with the over­all.  Maybe Coca Cola is a bad exam­ple because every­body has Coca Cola.  Take a brand that has a lot less mar­ket pen­e­tra­tion.  The behav­ior infor­ma­tion, how was your soft­ware fig­ur­ing this out?

Mark:  The best way to think of our soft­ware is if you’ve ever played the game Sim City or Ore­gon Trail or one of those oth­er sim­u­la­tion games.  We have a pop­u­la­tion of peo­ple that in terms of their demo­graph­ics and in terms of how they respond to media works just like Amer­i­ca assum­ing this is an Amer­i­can project.  We can do it in any coun­try.  That pop­u­la­tion of Amer­i­ca is just wait­ing for the mar­keter to say I’m going to mar­ket to this group in a cer­tain way and then I’m going to see what they buy as a result of the mar­ket­ing and where they buy it.

The soft­ware is real­ly about using the com­bi­na­tion of data and  a lay­er of mar­ket­ing sci­ence that we’ve brought in and real­ly mak­ing sure that the sim­u­lat­ed peo­ple in the soft­ware react just like real peo­ple would in the real world.  Going back to your exam­ple, the pur­ple juice exam­ple, our focus would real­ly be on how do you plan to pro­mote pur­ple juice and as a result of that pro­mo­tion, who’s going to get exposed to the mar­ket­ing you do and what are they like­ly to do as a result of that expo­sure.

Roy:     Obvi­ous­ly you guys have been doing this for four years.  Why do you believe this is such a great oppor­tu­ni­ty for a com­pa­ny ver­sus just doing a test mar­ket or just ana­lyz­ing their own data?  What are you bring­ing to the pie for these orga­ni­za­tions?

Mark:  I think the best thing I would say about that is as mar­keters, peo­ple real­ly want to have a plan and a strat­e­gy about what they’re going to and then they’re going to go out and exe­cute that plan in the mar­ket place and see how it does and then adjust rapid­ly based on the results they see and how their com­peti­tors react and so forth.  There’s an awful lot of mon­ey and an awful lot of time involved in a tra­di­tion­al roll out in the exper­i­ments that are implic­it with that.  What we’re hop­ing peo­ple do is to have real­ly accu­rate fore­casts about what’s like­ly to hap­pen and as a result, they can pick the best path right from the begin­ning and have high­er odds of suc­cess.

What makes us dif­fer­ent than the tra­di­tion­al approach is the method that we’re using is very much for­ward look­ing.  Tra­di­tion­al regres­sion analy­sis only looks back but we’re look­ing ahead and say­ing how will peo­ple respond to your, giv­en con­sumer behav­ior today, how will peo­ple respond to what you’re going to do and we’re able to give real­ly gran­u­lar results back to the mar­keters so they can look at it, for exam­ple, by tar­get groups or by tac­tic and that abil­i­ty to get detailed, action­able infor­ma­tion through the soft­ware as well as a lay­er of con­sult­ing ser­vices we have on top of it real­ly makes it pos­si­ble for peo­ple to be very respon­sive and to be very suc­cess­ful as they roll out new prod­ucts or they make oth­er changes in their mar­ket­ing plan.  It’s real­ly that what if capa­bil­i­ty so they can get good answers, they can con­fi­dent­ly go to the CEO or the CFO and say if you can give me this much mon­ey to mar­ket this prod­uct, I can give you this much in sales in return.

Roy:     Before your prod­uct, what did com­pa­nies have to do to get this infor­ma­tion?

Mark:  The most com­mon­ly used method was regres­sion analy­sis.  There are all sorts of dif­fer­ent types of regres­sion but phys­i­cal­ly you would have either a con­sul­tant come in or you might have, if you’re lucky enough in some of the large com­pa­nies, you might have had an insights team that did that.  They would go back and look at the his­tor­i­cal data and they would use regres­sion to fit a line to that data and they would essen­tial­ly extend that line for­ward and the thing when I talked about what Damon noticed when he was doing that type of work is there are real­ly two things that caught his atten­tion.  First of all, because the mar­ket place is chang­ing so rapid­ly, the future rarely looks like the past.

He was look­ing for a method that was more for­ward ori­ent­ed.  Then sec­ond­ly, that’s real­ly very math ori­ent­ed approach, the regres­sion.  There are actu­al­ly no con­sumers in there and since you as a mar­keter care about reach­ing tar­get audi­ences, the abil­i­ty to have con­sumers in your analy­sis and to get gran­u­lar views of what’s hap­pen­ing by a con­sumer was real­ly real­ly valu­able to mar­keters.  When you com­bine those two things with a gen­er­al trend in the mar­ket­ing tech­nol­o­gy mar­ket is more and more things being auto­mat­ed.

We real­ly think that Damon was able to a few years ago iden­ti­fy a sweet spot for mak­ing mar­ket­ing plan­ning and opti­miza­tion more auto­mat­ed and more action­able and real­ly we’ve been right in that spot from the begin­ning and we’re see­ing real­ly great pick­up by the mar­ket place.  We think that we are meet­ing a need that as more com­pa­nies make the switch to more mod­ern mar­ket­ing meth­ods.

Roy:     Would you say a B to C com­pa­ny employ­ing you guys are look­ing … obvi­ous­ly it sounds like they’re def­i­nite­ly get­ting a more sophis­ti­cat­ed and hope­ful­ly more effec­tive opti­miza­tion plan­ning strat­e­gy but would you say com­pa­nies would be inter­est­ed in your ser­vice pri­mar­i­ly for that or pri­mar­i­ly for cost sav­ings or both?  What do you think the key impe­tus or the key val­ue propo­si­tion rather for Thinkvine is with an orga­ni­za­tion?

Mark:  Opti­miza­tion is real­ly ongo­ing.  The mar­ket does­n’t stand still.  New prod­ucts get intro­duced.  Com­peti­tors have new cam­paigns.  You have new cam­paigns.  The busi­ness mod­el that Thinkvine is work­ing with cus­tomers on is we have a soft­ware as a ser­vice mod­el with an ongo­ing sub­scrip­tion.  As you get new results as data about con­sumer habits come into play, etc, all that new data is built in and in the ongo­ing sub­scrip­tion.  We’re con­tin­u­al­ly updat­ing the mar­ket place and that way you’re able to make fore­casts and do what if; what is the most cur­rent infor­ma­tion.  That’s a real­ly big dif­fer­ence in ongo­ing opti­miza­tion ver­sus a project of a regres­sion analy­sis.  That’s one of the rea­sons com­pa­nies are work­ing with us is they know the mar­ket place is chang­ing rapid­ly.  They’re going to need to be respon­sive to those changes, try­ing to get ahead of those changes.   They come to Thinkvine and say I can get gran­u­lar action­able infor­ma­tion that’s always cur­rent and that’s much more excit­ing than a real­ly good project that’s put into a binder and sits on a shelf.

Roy:     Effec­tive­ly, you’re pro­vid­ing con­sis­tent, real time, updat­ed data from the mar­ket as well as an indi­vid­ual com­pa­ny’s expe­ri­ences with their prod­ucts in the mar­ket into one data­base on an annu­al sub­scrip­tion basis so they can reg­u­lar­ly go in and do what if sce­nar­ios to test where they’re going with things?

Mark:  Yeah, that’s a real­ly good sum­ma­ry.  I think you got it.

Roy:     I’m ready to buy, no.  No one else is doing this?

Mark:  We real­ly are lead­ers in terms of the way the soft­ware is the heart of what we’re doing and the abil­i­ty for peo­ple to real­ly have the work­flow of plan­ning be sup­port­ed in the soft­ware.  There are a num­ber of oth­er com­pa­nies that do tra­di­tion­al ser­vices approach­es and some of those com­pa­nies will sup­ply what they call sim­u­la­tors or what they call dash­boards that are relat­ed to the work that they do.  That’s their way of try­ing to make it more of an ongo­ing val­ue to the cus­tomer.  We’re very soft­ware cen­tric.

We still have ser­vices that help peo­ple use the soft­ware and inter­pret the results of the soft­ware, but we’re real­ly try­ing to say the way the world is going, peo­ple want to be able to get that infor­ma­tion real­ly, real­ly quick­ly.  They want the depth every time because that’s the way they work as mar­keters.  We’re real­ly push­ing the edge in terms of get­ting them the right answers, the depth that they need, and right now through the soft­ware.

Roy:     At this point you’re say­ing there are no direct com­peti­tors with you guys?

Mark:  There are def­i­nite­ly alter­na­tives to what we do.  Peo­ple use, for exam­ple, in the con­sumer pack­age good space, peo­ple can get regres­sion based ser­vices from com­pa­nies like Niel­son and IRI as part of their data sub­scrip­tions.  They’re side by side with their data sub­scrip­tion and then there are oth­er com­pa­nies out­side of the CPG space who offer dif­fer­ent sorts of soft­ware and ser­vices com­bi­na­tions.

We real­ly feel like in terms of the meth­ods that we’re using, the agent face mod­el­ing which is what the tech­nique is called and the extent to which we’ve built up the soft­ware, we’re a leader among those groups and that’s been reflect­ed by For­rester and oth­er ana­lysts who have said Thinkvine real­ly has a dis­rup­tive method of approach­ing this.  We’re not the only ones at this game but we’d like to think we’ve skat­ed to where the puck is going to be in terms of the soft­ware and the gran­u­lar­i­ty of infor­ma­tion we give peo­ple.

Roy:     Do you have a good case study or an exam­ple you can give us to give us a sense of how your soft­ware has been effec­tive for orga­ni­za­tions?

Mark:  One exam­ple that I would men­tion just quick­ly is we worked with  a large finan­cial ser­vices com­pa­ny who was tar­get­ing a cer­tain demo­graph­ic not sur­pris­ing those are right near retire­ment who had larg­er amounts of mon­ey because they want­ed to work with those peo­ple and sup­ply retire­ment ser­vices to them and they had done the mar­ket­ing you might expect over the years; tele­vi­sion ads, print ads, etc.  What they saw is that the mar­ket place was, the cus­tomers they were inter­est­ed were increas­ing­ly doing more and more online.  The busi­ness ques­tion was should we be tak­ing mon­ey out of tele­vi­sion and print and mov­ing it over to dig­i­tal.

We worked the com­pa­ny for about six months and they went through a very vig­or­ous analy­sis of what will it mean to us if we make a big shift from print and TV from tra­di­tion­al media to dig­i­tal.  The num­bers looked great through our sys­tem and so the mar­ket­ing team took that to the com­pa­ny’s man­age­ment and the com­pa­ny’s man­age­ment was ner­vous.  They said we’ve been a very suc­cess­ful busi­ness; this is a scary change.  They gave the mar­keters a six month go ahead and do what Thinkvine rec­om­mends for you to do and then we’ll see how it works.  What we were able to do for them is we were able to achieve 10% high­er acqui­si­tion in terms of the cus­tomers they want­ed for a 12% low­er cost.

They were very hap­py both in terms of the effec­tive­ness and the effi­cien­cy of the change and so then they were grant­ed the rest of the mon­ey and are mov­ing ahead doing more dig­i­tal in the future.  That’s real­ly an exam­ple.  I think almost a per­fect exam­ple of a com­pa­ny being able to look ahead to have con­fi­dence in mak­ing your change and then to see real­ly good results.

Roy:     Can you share with us any names of some major com­pa­nies you’re work­ing with cur­rent­ly?

Mark:  I would pre­fer not to.  We work with com­pa­nies in con­sumer pack­age goods in the bev­er­age indus­try, in finance, con­sumer elec­tron­ics, but most of the com­pa­nies that we’re work­ing with real­ly con­sid­er what they’re doing with us as a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage and they pre­fer to be more secre­tive about what they’re doing so they can have that advan­tage for a lit­tle longer.

Roy:     How many employ­ees do you guys have now?

Mark:  We have about 50 full time employ­ees across offices in Chica­go and Phoenix and Cincin­nati is where the major­i­ty of our cus­tomer suc­cess staff is.

Roy:     What kind of growth have you guys seen since you start­ed this four years ago?

Mark:  We’re grow­ing real­ly quick­ly par­tic­u­lar­ly in the last year.  We saw real­ly good mar­ket accep­tance and our new sales rough­ly dou­bled last year com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year and we’re hop­ing we can see that dou­bling again this year.

Roy:     Can you give us a sense of any of the sales num­bers?

Mark:  We’re a pri­vate com­pa­ny so I think I’ll let you extrap­o­late from 50 peo­ple but can’t real­ly give the num­bers out yet.

Roy:     Have you seen your­self out of the for­tune 100 com­pa­nies?  Are you guys in high per­cent­age of those or per­cent­age, where do you see your­selves in that mar­ket?

Mark:  If you look at the for­tune 100 obvi­ous­ly some of those are busi­ness to busi­ness and some of those are busi­ness to con­sumer.  Among the large busi­ness to con­sumer com­pa­nies, we have today about 50 active mar­ket places.  That gives you some sense of the num­ber of com­pa­nies we’re work­ing with.  Some com­pa­nies have more than one mar­ket place with us.  They’re using more than one brand but that might help you get in the ball­park.

Roy:     Is it most­ly where you’re doing domes­tic or do you have a lot of inter­na­tion­al busi­ness?

Mark:  Most of our busi­ness today is domes­tic.  We real­ly did­n’t start try­ing to get inter­na­tion­al busi­ness until late last year and we have some inter­na­tion­al busi­ness today and that’s real­ly actu­al­ly a very grow­ing part of our busi­ness par­tic­u­lar­ly as we … we have some work now in the far east and we’re start­ing to do work in Europe as well.  That is def­i­nite­ly a growth area for us.

Roy:     Your ser­vice is sold pri­mar­i­ly on a sub­scrip­tion basis or do you just pri­mar­i­ly sell it on a project basis?

Mark:  It’s always a sub­scrip­tion basis and the soft­ware deliv­ery is soft­ware as a ser­vice.  There is a set­up phase where cus­tomers send us their data and then we take that data and load it into the soft­ware and set up the mar­ket place.  Once that’s set up, if you’re a cus­tomer, you can do those what ifs any web brows­er.  You can access the soft­ware, get the results from any­where on any device.

Roy:     What would an aver­age, some­one com­ing to you, what is a cus­tomer spend­ing to get into a sub­scrip­tion?

Mark:  That varies by the com­plex­i­ty of the mod­el but most of our cus­tomer work is in a six fig­ure and up type assign­ments.

Roy:     Do think that big data is the future of every­thing because ever cor­ner you turn, I know in the dig­i­tal world espe­cial­ly you have all these media indus­try com­pa­nies, you guys are in the heat of the mar­ket­ing envi­ron­ment.  Data, data, data.  Do you think that every­thing in the future is going to always be based on big data first?

Mark:  I think there are two parts to big data.  One is how do you turn that data into infor­ma­tion and then how do you put that infor­ma­tion to work to get results.  I think that data is going to under­lie more and more and more of mar­ket­ing deci­sions.  I do think peo­ple’s judg­ment, the abil­i­ty to look out­side of big data itself and look at the mar­ket place and espe­cial­ly the idea of bring­ing more vari­ety of types of data into the mix.  It’s not just about the vol­ume and veloc­i­ty of data.  It’s about the types of data that you need to answer your spe­cif­ic ques­tion.  That’s I think where things are going to be more excit­ing over the next few years.

It’s about the vari­ety and it’s about the ser­vices that help you put the data to work.  The first phase has real­ly been about col­lect­ing and stor­ing the big data.  I think the action is going to shift now because com­pa­nies have spent a lot of mon­ey on big data.  Gard­ner says they’re going to spend $32 bil­lion this year but they haven’t seen the bang for the buck yet.  I think it’s the vari­ety and the ser­vices that make the data hap­pen, make the data valu­able.

Roy:     Giv­en that you’re in a B to C envi­ron­ment, how impor­tant is the social media world to you guys for data?  Twit­ter, Face­book.  I know there are many com­pa­nies that real­ly spend a lot of time min­ing Twit­ter for real time feed­back on infor­ma­tion.  Obvi­ous­ly Face­book with a bil­lion users world­wide has enor­mous amount of behav­ioral data in every pos­si­ble cat­e­go­ry you can imag­ine.  Are you guys work­ing with that data now?  Do you envi­sion work­ing with it in the future?  How much does that affect your busi­ness?

Mark:  Social data is a great source of a vol­ume of data and a veloc­i­ty of data.  It tends to be some­what reac­tive mean­ing very few com­pa­nies aren’t doing any­thing in terms of fore­cast­ing with that data that are real­ly say­ing what’s hap­pened, how do I respond to it.  It’s a piece of the puz­zle of what we do but when you look at the over­all total of the strate­gic ques­tions that mar­keters are ask­ing, still the major­i­ty of the mon­ey is spent on oth­er areas.  It’s spent on tele­vi­sion and print and online video and so forth.  For us that’s an impor­tant part but equal­ly as impor­tant peo­ple are, I guess the way I’d say it is almost every­body we work with is ask­ing the ques­tion of how much should I shift.

They know that they want to spend more of their time and more of their atten­tion on social media but they’re real­ly try­ing to under­stand if I do that, what’s the return for me.  Giv­en the weight of bud­gets today, almost every­body sees incre­men­tal val­ue in doing more on social and oth­er sorts of dig­i­tal media espe­cial­ly mobile.  Thus far, it’s cer­tain­ly not the pre­pon­der­ance.  It’s most dol­lars are beings spend some­where else.

Roy:     What about social media as the source of infor­ma­tion for your data­base?  Not as much from should I adver­tise there but more so from obvi­ous­ly you’re build­ing your data­base, cen­sus data, behav­ioral data.  Social media would appear to be a real­ly rich source of behav­ioral data.  Have you been work­ing with that?  Do you envi­sion your­self work­ing with it more, less, not?

Mark:  Yeah absolute­ly.  Social is one of the con­sumer behav­ior types that we take into account and we do see because of the avail­abil­i­ty of data and because of the way that that data can be par­tic­u­lar­ly pre­dic­tive of behav­ior, we see social data and real­ly dig­i­tal data of all types as being some­thing that we will be doing more and more with in the future.  In fact we have some RND ini­tia­tives in progress now that relate to dig­i­tal data that I think are going to be excit­ing next steps for us as a busi­ness head­ing into the end of this year and the begin­ning of next.

Roy:     It sounds like you guys have built a very dynam­ic orga­ni­za­tion with a lot of val­ue to com­pa­nies today who need to try to fig­ure out how should they spend their mon­ey espe­cial­ly giv­en the com­plex­i­ties of the mar­ket.  You made a great state­ment before when you talked about the past is almost, you did­n’t say this but, it is a lot less rel­e­vant because the future is chang­ing so quick­ly.  A friend of mine said some­thing about, he’s a sci­ence fic­tion freak.  I said what hap­pened to all the sci­ence fic­tion peo­ple?  He said nobody pays atten­tion to sci­ence fic­tion any­more because things are chang­ing so fast, the real­i­ty is cra­zier than sci­ence fic­tion.

Your state­ment that the impor­tance of what you’re doing is focused on the future more so than on the past I think is very sig­nif­i­cant.  A lot of the work you’re doing, the opti­miza­tion, it’s real­ly almost we’re in a busi­ness today; I’m try­ing to pre­dict the future with the future infor­ma­tion.  It’s a chal­lenge but it sounds like you guys are doing a fan­tas­tic job.  Is there any­thing I did­n’t ask you that you want­ed to men­tion that’s sig­nif­i­cant about what you guys are doing?

Mark:  No I think you cov­ered it all real­ly well.  I’m going to steal your line, that line of your friend about sci­ence fic­tion because that real­ly is that mar­keters can’t change the past.  They can only change the future.  Real­ly what we’re doing is we’re help­ing them more effec­tive­ly use the data that’s come from the past to make bet­ter deci­sions about the future and to be able to jus­ti­fy to oth­ers or explain to oth­ers here’s what bang you got for your mar­ket­ing buck.  We think that’s going to be … that is an issue today.  It’s going to con­tin­ue to be an issue and we’re going to try and use the data and soft­ware and ser­vices in com­bi­na­tion to help peo­ple get those answers real­ly quick­ly and hope­ful­ly stay ahead of their com­pe­ti­tion.  That’s what it’s all about for us.

Roy:     Thank you so much for spend­ing the time today, Mark, and shar­ing what you guys are doing at Thinkvine.  How would some­body get in touch with you if they want­ed to talk to you guys?

Mark:  The eas­i­est way is www.thinkvine.com or you can send an email direct­ly to me.  It’s mark.battaglia@thinkvine.com.

Roy:     Fan­tas­tic.  Thank you so much for spend­ing the time today.  I guess you’re going to be pre­dict­ing more of the future.  I’ll have to call you to find out what next inter­view I should do.

Mark:  That sounds great, Roy.  Thank you.

Roy:     Thanks, Mark.  You have a great day.

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