Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

The day-to-day business world is now being run by data.

It's easy, at least, to get that impression as humans cede their decision-making power to numbers.

I'm moved to paroxysms of pleasure, therefore, on hearing of a data-driven quandary at McDonald's.

You see, the chain loves to do promotions with local sports teams.

Many fast food companies enjoy this practice. I vividly remember Taco Bell offering a free taco every time the Golden State Warriors reached 100 points.

That one stopped when the Warriors became really good at scoring and winning.

Now McDonald's has something similar going on with the Toronto Raptors.

The NBA Finals team that's slightly healthier and less talented than its opponent -- disclosure: Warriors fan -- is currently enjoying a McDonald's promotion.

If the team makes 12 three-pointers in a game, the whole of Ontario can get a free helping of medium-sized fries.

As the Financial Post reported, this was, at first, going just as the company's forecasting model said it would.

Until, that is, the Raptors trade for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green of the San Antonio Spurs started to pay sizzling dividends.

It seems that Chuck Coolen, head of marketing for McDonald's in Eastern Canada, had no idea who these people were.

He feared they might make the Raptors far worse. After all, the Raptors were losing guard Demar DeRozan in the trade.

This might scupper the PR a company could expect from such a promotion.

Oh, ye of little basketball -- and human -- faith.

The Raptors became more successful and the whole of Toronto was driven to rapture.

Rapture makes you hungry. And when you're hungry, you reach for the worst things you can. Especially if those things are free.

Now, I suspect, Coolen is having to make explanatory calls to his superiors. 

I'm sorry about that Kawhi Leonard, boss. He keeps making shots.

You see, instead of the 700,000 medium servings of fries that McDonald's projections thought the company would give away, it was already at least 2 million by the time the playoffs started.

That's around $5.8 million worth of fries.

There have been 22 games since. And, last night, the Raptors went and won again.

Here's one tantalizing aspect of these ruinous data-drenched projections. 

McDonald's had apparently used as a template data from a similar promotion it had executed with the Montreal Canadiens.

This is a hockey team.

And although hockey is very popular in Canada -- this baffles me, but many things do -- it would be a triumph of monstrous proportions if a Canadian team could win the NBA Championship for the first time.

These days, a whole nation is pulling for the Raptors. And 40 percent of that nation lives in Ontario.

The moral of this tale is that you should think about your forecasting models very carefully and make sure you have sufficient buffer, just in case.

Look at your variables and consider whether they really do encompass at least most of the vicissitudes of human behavior.

Oh, alright. At least some of them. 

Humans aren't robots. Yet.

Of course, one of the big issues now is how the franchisees can cope with the demand for free commemorative food.

Fries taste so much better after your team does well.

Then again, the Raptors only managed 10 3-pointers in Friday night's Game 4. 

In the McDonald's chapel, they pray the Raptors will clinch in Game 5. With 11 3-pointers.

How am I going to tell them it's going to Game 7?

Well, at least that's what my data model says.

Published on: Jun 8, 2019
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