Middlegame Hero: Robert Blattberg

In 1990, Robert Blattberg published Sales Promotion Concepts, Methods, and Strategies with Scott Neslin. A couple years later, I was eager to get a copy. The book is still on my shelf. The imprint on the first page says: “NU BOOK STORE AUG92 $59.65.” In the days before Amazon, sometimes it took a while to find a book. In this case, the search was worth it. Bob had only recently moved from the University of Chicago to Kellogg. So, during my next trip to Chicago, I took the train again to Evanston with the specific goal of buying the notes to his class that were available at Kinkos. Academic research for marketers had only recently become interested in sales promotion and most journals were behind the times. Trade spending quickly became the biggest item in the marketing budget and the book fully organized the existing research that was available.

This text—along with several of the journal articles that Bob wrote before the book (especially those with Ken Wisniewski, who I would later meet and enjoy working with at The Coca-Cola Company)—provided me with the right talking points to support my work as a young analyst at IRI supporting Procter & Gamble decisions for retailer, trade and consumer promotions. Regardless, I still use the book’s method for calculating coupon profitability even though digital circulation has slightly changed the overall model.

Bob also became a subject matter expert in the fields of customer equity and database marketing. He co-authored Customer Equity: Building and Managing Relationships as Valuable Assets in 2001. We talk a lot about the value of customers today, but this book really sets the stage for how to measure and manage customer value as a financial asset while harnessing the digital marketplace. In his book Database Marketing: Analyzing and Managing Customers, Bob collaborated again with Scott Neslin to combine customer relationship management with technology and business strategy. The methodology sections are intense but contain illustrative examples. It’s an excellent book. In 2006, I finally got a chance to work directly with Bob when he served as the Chief Analytics Officer at IRI during my second time working with the company. It was an incredible experience and I can also attest to Bob’s ability behind the wheel of a car. If it hadn’t been for his amazingly quick reflexes when an oncoming motorist pulled directly into our lane, I might not be here to write this blog. Thanks for that too, Bob! For young analysts interested in a primer about integrating market structure with competitive cross-effects, it is worthwhile to see how far ahead of the times Bob was in the journal article “Price-Induced Patterns of Competition” that he cowrote with Ken and published in Marketing Science. It won the John D.C. Little Award for best paper in 1989. Bob Blatterberg is a definite Middlegame Hero.

Middlegame is the only ROMI consultancy of its kind that offers a holistic view of the implications of resource allocation and investment in the marketplace. Our approach to scenario-planning differs from other marketing analytics providers by addressing the anticipated outcome for every SKU (your portfolio and your competitors’) in every channel. Similar to the pieces in chess, each stakeholder can now evaluate the trade-offs of potential choices and collectively apply them to create win-win results.

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