Measuring Experiential Marketing (1)

This is possibly the single most frequently asked question we get at iD from new adopters of experiential marketing: ‘Can you measure the success of experiential marketing?’ or more often than not, ‘Have you got an experiential ROI model?’

The short answer to both is yes, but as you’d expect it is so much more complex than a one size fits all approach.

There are too many variables with the types of campaigns we design and activate and an even broader range of clients to be able to give a single answer to these relatively innocuous questions. However there are some tips brands can use to get the most of their experiential agencies to ensure the success of their campaigns is measured accurately.

Don’t accept a one size fits all approach:
While in some instances it would be great to be able to fire off an email to everyone who wanted to know how we’d measure their experiential campaign's success, it just isn’t possible if you want to be accurate. Your brand is unique, which is why you should expect an experiential agency to get to know and understand your brand, objectives and budget before fobbing you off with an off the shelf model.

There is no way we could use the same yard stick of success with a FMCG brand looking to sample half a million products and drive sales with a money off coupon, to bringing to life an intangible service on a national roadshow to raise brand awareness and loyalty.

Make sure your agency asks the right questions at the briefing stage to get the information they need to advise you how to effectively measure the success of your campaign.

Have clear objectives:
How we design a campaign for a client is entirely dependent on the brief – while the budget and brand messages are of course important, in terms of measurement the most important factor at this stage is the objectives. As a brand you need to know what it is you’re trying to achieve with your experiential campaign. Brand awareness, sales, reaching a new audience, re-positioning a brand, encouraging trial, building long term relationships, market research… All can be achieved through experiential marketing (and not necessarily exclusively), but the success of each objective will ultimately be measured in a different way.

Measurement of ROI:
Every brand manager needs to justify the investment they make in any form of marketing communications. However it’s your task to understand and report to the top the difference between hard and soft ROI. Both are relevant and useful to your brand, but your initial objectives will indicate where you will see results.

Independent Research:
Always use an independent research agency (we use 2CV) to work with your experiential agency. This way you know that the stats your agency are giving you are a true reflection of the success of your campaign – and not an over inflation of their egos or your ROI!

You should particularly push for consumer feedback at point of experience, and at follow up. For most brands we find 4 weeks post experience is about right for follow up interviews – but this can change depending on the product or service. For example some higher value and considered purchases have a longer decision to purchase time so this should be reflected in the length of time left for post experience follow up research.

At post research stage we also interview a control cell – a group of target audience consumers who did not take part in the experience. This gives us a definitive benchmark to measure the success of an experiential campaign. Without this control cell as a benchmark, your agency’s results will have no context. How do you know that 90% brand positivity post experience is good when it could be that anyway regardless of the experience – and more importantly the investment and resource you committed to it?     

Share Sales Data:
Often sampling and experiential campaign’s primary objective is to drive sales. This is where you can get the hard ROI figure to take back to your boss showing them exactly how much money your initiative has made them!

In order for any agency to be able to produce a clear ROI (£x achieved for every £1 spent) you will need to share sales data with them. It sounds obvious – but it’s always best to think of these things at the front end of a campaign – rather than as an after-thought, while trying to justify expenditure post campaign.

While experiential can drive sales on event days (often retailed as part of the experience) the bigger win is the long term impact of the experience. A consumer can trial a product and experience it but that doesn’t mean they will run out the next day and stockpile. Your agency should want to see data from both the live activity days and post experience. When you combine this with the softer ROI research, then you will be able to fully feel the impact of your campaign.

Integrated campaigns:
Experiential campaigns usually work best when they are part of something bigger. Tie your campaign into a wider strategy, include other traditional channels to support and amplify your live work. This will not only draw attention to it and increase its reach, but traditional media will also have their own individual value. This should be considered when reviewing the success of your campaign. An advert in the Metro driving people to your stand at Waterloo Station doesn’t have to be considered as a cost to the live campaign – as it has an intrinsic value in its own right.

In this case you can look at the success of campaign – of which experiential was one element. Over time you will begin to build a picture of how to tweak the individual elements, and justify further expenditure in the right areas for you.

I hope this goes some way to explaining how we as an experiential agency go about measuring the success of our clients’ campaigns. No matter what the experience and objectives there will be an answer that fits, but as a brand you can be safe in the knowledge that the model will be in some way unique to you. 

I’d love to know your thoughts – do you think there is a one size fits all ROI model out there? Have you had difficulty justifying investment in experiential due to lack of measurement models?