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How Six Flags Achieved Record Success by Improving its Marketing Mix Models


By David Brudenell

In partnership with Arbitron, Six Flags reinvigorated its marketing mix models (MMM) by using more granular PPM radio rating data. These new models led to the record success of its Fright Fest Campaign in 2012.

With Bill Rose opening the presentation, he introduced the fundamentals of marketing mix modeling and specifically its importance to Six Flags. “MMM has become so integral it is time to begin to optimize them and quantify what they do, and what they don’t”, Rose remarked when making the link of MMM to direct sales results.

Bringing examples from 3 Modeling Scenarios, Rose described them in detail:

1.                  A perfect match – between sales and advertising

2.                  More Likely- where advertising gets major credit for sales

3.                  Radio’s Story – where there is little credit with sales because of a poor match of sales data to smoothed GMO data.

 Based on the third model and the non-linkage to radio data the team at Arbitron, partnering with DG Dial Global, Premiere Networks and Sequent Partners looked to quantify radio’s affect on sales through a new, data enhanced model of radio data.

By storing digital radio signals and creating a code-base for each ad within each 15 second time slot, the partnership was able to offer Six Flag (assisted by Universal McCann) to link their radio spend to in-field sales results.

The presentation was then tuned over to Art Thomas from Universal McCann who described the 3-year MMM optimization journey with Six Flags. When discussing MMM, Thomas focused on how Paid, Earned and Owned media were the key components to a comprehensive set of metrics contained in their MMM. “Its not all about budgeting, it’s about changing your spend on-flight”, Thomas remarked when discussing the realities of MMM application with clients.

With this introduction, Thomas went on to say that “Radio is a major contributor to Earned and Owned media”, and “[that] Radio is the second major media contributor to sales revenue. It really outperformed its expense”.

Specifically, Thomas discussed that Radio was most powerful with Special events because “you just need a reminder” when it comes to time-based events.

With strong Radio performance during the MM testing period, Six Flags has applied these learning’s to its 2013 plans and today views Radio as a core budgetary line item.

Following Thomas’ overview, Tamara Rabi discussed how Six Flags looks to find it’s customers “Key moments” and using MMM to find the most effective and affective medium to bring home their message. Importantly, Rabi noted is that they have to make these Key Moment budgetary decisions “at scale” to maximize ROI for their spend. Rabi also remarked on the importance of Terrestrial radio (in addition to Streaming Radio) to their Radio budget because “these local stations know our business” and ‘Do well at driving awareness and leveraging one’s ‘Theater of the Mind’”.

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