I traveled to the annual CPG Summit in San Antonio to get the latest on advancements in the industry and on analytics provided by host Information Resources Inc. (IRI) to manufacturers of consumer packaged goods (CPG) and their retailers. This year the event began with an insightful keynote by IRI chairman Dr. Romesh Wadhwani, who asserted that the need this year is not just to have insights and impact but to drive innovation in the market by using analytics and research.

At the conclusion of the keynote IRI announced that it is being rebranded as SymphonyIRI Group to emphasize the distinct elements of its research and measurement business rather than the new analytics-driven decision-support product Advantage that IRI has been releasing.

Explaining the rebranding, SymphonyIRI Group CEO John Freeland said the dynamics of consumer purchasing are forcing manufacturers and retailers to adapt to changes in marketing and products. The IRI brand dates back over 30 years as a trusted supplier of market research, services and solutions, but the company has had its ups and downs in maintaining continuity in its commitment to marketing and innovation in its software solutions. Having invested $100 million in IRI Liquid Data, its information management and analytics platform that supports a new line of analytics solutions, it has to engage the market more fully with these sophisticated products. Freeland further explained, SymphonyIRI’s needs to deliver greater value for clients and be seen as a leader in providing day-to-day insights and efficiency in analytics. The company wants sales and marketing executives to see it as a trusted partner that delivers innovative solutions and strategic insights and acts as a catalyst for the client business’s transformation.

As part of the rebranding, SymphonyIRI has reformed the organization into specific areas of consulting and innovation -- leadership in providing predictive IRI analytics and a business insight competency group that helps CPG clients refine consumer and shopper insights. SymphonyIRI’s own research and market analysis shows the dynamic changes in the market, and the rebranding and reorganization resulting from it.

The CPG Summit covered all the major consumer and market trends, including loyalty, pricing, brands and promotion in presentations from some of the brightest leaders in the CPG industry, including Philippe Schailee, chief marketing officer of Sara Lee; Rick Anicetti, CEO of Delhaize America Shared Services; and Grant LaMontagne, chief customer officer of Clorox. The theme of innovation and transformation continued to ring throughout the conference and presentations; and the majority of attendees seem to recognize the importance of using analytics and  applications to help them change their operations and processes. Many need to start programs and do it more readily than in the past however. In addition, there was a healthy level of collaboration on the role of social media and the methods required to reach a growing diversification of consumer types from millenials to frugal boomers.

SymphonyIRI on its part unveiled a series of new analytics solutions, including Target Advantage, which focuses on optimizing shopper segmentation and targeting, and Brand Advantage, which helps with planning and optimization of brand-related spending. Both of these analytically focused decision-support products are built on the IRI Liquid Data platform, which can present market data in processed analytic forms and used generally by its Enterprise Advantage tool.

SymphonyIRI also demonstrated advancements in other Advantage class applications for retailers along with new capabilities in the SalesAdvantage and Price and Trade Advantage applications. These solutions are available in what is commonly known as a cloud computing form where SymphonyIRI manages the technological complexities and users access them through a Web browser. Though the company does not market its solutions as part of this industry transformation in the technology sector, the recognition of its approach in this category tames those that get worried about IT involvement.

The Advantage applications are very sophisticated and go well beyond the traditional analytics or business intelligence solutions you find from most of the major software providers. What sets them apart is not just the capabilities and alignment to analysts and power users but the use of market information and predefined analytics with the predictive and forward-looking projection capabilities part of the application.

SymphonyIRI also announced a shopper marketing initiative to help bring CPG makers and retailers more tightly together and integrate Target Advantage with its Consumer Network of some 85,000 households -- ShopperVoice for in-depth interactions and ShopperLink for collecting data about shoppers. It also includes advisory services to help its clients with analytics and guide them in making fact-based decisions.

This conference also is where SymphonyIRI announced the results of its full year of industry research to identify the most successful new consumer brands in the previous year and the top leaders in CPG and retail. The new-product pacesetters in food and beverage were Campbell’s Select Harvest and Bud Light Lime, and in non-food, were Quilted Northern Ultra Plush and Tide Total Care. The retail award was provided to 7-11 and Walmart for their advancements in programs and growth in their respective industries. These awards are no easy feat and require significant work to outpace the competitive market. Congratulations.

All in all, this year’s event provided the same world-class collaboration and information about the latest in analytics and research in CPG and retail as those in the past. SymphonyIRI is enthusiastic in hosting the event and in demonstrating how it can help solve the range of consumer, brand and shopper challenges that the industry faces. The rebranded company now needs to communicate to and engage the market with more bold steps and directness on why its analytics software and services are the right choice to help address those challenges.

SymphonyIRI is not the largest software provider in the market by any means but its new analytics solutions and platform are poised for significant opportunity to grow. They need to be more easily recognized by the broader business buyers who do not know or consider IRI for solutions as they do other software providers of analytics and business intelligence. This means that IRI will need to do a little of its own brand and category management to grow demand for the solutions and drive increase market share. If they can get this figured out, the timing for them is quite good as the power and growth in buying analytics and solutions has shifted to the business as it was in the 90s; and itshould provide a green field of opportunity for the company that has continued to innovate how market metrics and analytics can be a differentiator in analytics software for marketing and sales across CPG and retail industries.

Mark also blogs at VentanaResearch.com/blog.