Remember the SIMS — a strategic life simulation video game? But have you tried the SIMS for marketing. That’s the idea behind marketing mix modelers like ThinkVine, whose cloud-based platform is now out with a new release. 

The ThinkVine service sets up simulated consumers or “agents,” based on actual US census, media consumption, purchasing behavior and other data, and then provides tools so B2C marketers can test different combinations of campaign budgets, channels, coupons, targeting strategies, timing and other efforts, at product, segment or tactical levels.

‘What If’ Simulations

The resulting graphs and tables show the response to those stimuli, based on thousands of “what if” simulations. CEO Mark Battaglia told CMSWire that results from the simulations are within a percent of the actual results on an annual basis.

He noted that his company sets up the environment for the client company, but the new version provides do-it-yourself tools for companies that want to tweak their own planning and forecasting, using their own data. If a client has its own data scientists, the environment can be entirely managed by the company.

Other updated features in the new release include a new generation of SmartMix, which optimizes marketing plans given specific budgets and goals, such as sales targets, ROI and amount of profit. There’s also a new user interface (UI) for building custom marketplaces, auto-calibration of historical data for faster modeling, an enhanced ability to share role-based permission access to the marketplace and a selection of new charts at various levels of details for sales, product usage and other parameters.

ThinkVine screen.png

New release of ThinkVine includes an updated SmartMix. (Image from ThinkVine.)

Offline and Online

Battaglia said that marketers might want to ask, "What if I spent more on this kind of digital promotion?” After tweaking its campaigns, the company can run its own simulations in a different kind of "marketing automation." User preferences can also be preset according to such factors as how much time a given target group spends on Facebook.

Both offline and online media are included in the campaigns, and the company can accommodate creative differences in campaigns by factoring in their effectiveness. Campaign effectiveness can be modeled on actual results from previous campaigns, or can, in effect, assume that the next one will be the best ever.

The software was first released in 2009. In one example, an unnamed consumer packaged goods company wanted a better grasp of the long-term effects of various TV ad plans, compared to other tactics. The custom simulated marketplace helped discover, for instance, that the effect of TV ads over four years was about 2.5 times the effect of the first year alone. ThinkVine said that its recommendations, including continuing TV investment and adding some spending to social media, led to a 15 percent greater ROI without increasing the budget.

Title image from ThinkVine's website.