Monday, May 18, 2009

Beers, Diapers and Dads – DataMining truth or legend?

If you have ever been associated with field of data-mining or artificial intelligence then you have most probably come across the story of the diapers, dads and beers.

The story goes so:

In a certain state, in a certain store, that kept all records of transactions it was found that there was a high correlation between the purchasing of beers and diapers. It was also found that the people purchasing the diapers and beers together, tended to be men. It was postulated that:

  • diaper purchases were left to the men, because of the enormity of the package sizes
  • Men, being men, automatically gravitate to the beer aisle

As a result of the above correlation, which was extracted using data-mining, the store moved the aisles of diapers closer to the beer aisle. Sales of diapers and beers sky-rocketed.

But is the above story an urban software legend or is there truth behind it?

It looks like it is partly both. According to this story in the Forbes magazine, the story had its origins in truth:

Where did this tale start? It appears to have come from one Thomas Blischok, now chief executive of Decisioneering Group in Scottsdale, Ariz. As vice president of industry consulting for NCR, he was doing a study for American Stores' Osco Drugs in 1992 when he discovered dozens of correlations, including one connecting beer and diapers in
transactions between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Blischok recounted the tale in a speech, and it became the stuff of consultants' pitches, trade magazine articles and the ad shown above. But did Osco rearrange its beer or diaper shelves as a result? Nope.
Birth of a Leged –

The Diaper-Beer Syndrome:

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