Maths, Marketing and Thierry Henry: Behind successful campaigns is mathematics on an industrial scale

Professor Desmond Higham is 1966 Chair of Numerical Analysis in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Strathclyde.

A snapshot of a social network: the dots represent individual Twitter accounts, and the lines indicate recent interactions. Patterns of connectivity vary over time, and players may become influential by accumulating a large number of connections, or by acting as bridges between distinct communities.

For many of us, the term 'industrial maths' conjures up images of the complicated formulas used to build aircraft engines, or to crack secret codes to follow in the footsteps of Alan Turing.

But, perhaps surprisingly, mathematics also plays an increasingly important role in marketing and advertising. Sophisticated analytics underpins some of the most iconic campaigns of 2015, including the Sky Sports campaign to celebrate 23 Years of the Premier League, featuring Thierry Henry.

Successful marketers are turning to mathematical models in order to understand the behaviour of individuals and communities. And with the numbers behind them, they can help brands to interact with their target audiences in a way that's positive - and fruitful.

In fact the models are now so sophisticated that they can be used to help brands and agencies predict and measure Return On Investment (ROI) - which can really help a brand when it needs to decide what to do next, and how best to go about it.

Bloom Agency in Leeds is operating at this cutting edge, using pioneering mathematical methods to provide a range of services, including analytics consultancy, customer segmentation and profiling, and real-time social analysis.

Bloom collaborates extensively with universities in the UK and beyond, and funds scholarships that encourage students to learn more about the opportunities in customer-facing, digital analytics.

In particular, Bloom's flagship analytics tool Whisper builds on public domain research from my group, and Professor Peter Grindrod's group (University of Oxford), both funded through the RCUK Digital Economy theme. With follow-on investment from Innovate UK, Peter Laflin, Chief Data Scientist at Bloom, led the development of Whisper, a tool for analysing social media data. Whisper was launched in 2012 at the International Conference on Social Informatics, Switzerland as a best in class example of world-leading innovation in mathematics.

Whisper has benefited from the RCUK-funded academic outputs that have demonstrated the effectiveness of tools from network science, dynamical systems and applied statistics. And, by exposing mathematicians to realistic large-scale data sets and challenging client-focused tasks, new and highly applicable mathematical research has been developed.

Whisper has been used across Bloom's broad portfolio of clients, including Sky, Jewson, Emirates, KMPG, ITV, Hitachi and LA Fitness. Case studies describing work with Yorkshire Tea, Kit Kat, Very, Lakeland and Dolce Vita are also available online.

The future of industrial maths is exciting - particularly since it has become so integrated in the world of marketing. Now we have a generation that's learning about maths and marketing side by side, and it will be fascinating to see where this emerging knowledge will take adventurous brands.