Experiential Marketing is the Next Big Thing. Here’s How to Measure its ROI.

Jeff Meade
Mar 9, 2018 · 4 min read
Tara Wilson Agency activation for Samsung (Feb 2018)

Marketing clients are always looking for the next “bright, shiny thing” to offer their audience. For many, that next big thing is experiential marketing. And for good reason, “The experiential marketing strategy is really the only way to give consumers an uninterrupted brand experience.” Tara Wilson, founder of the eponymously named experiential marketing agency, Tara Wilson Agency. Full disclosure: I am currently the Managing Director at Tara Wilson Agency.

What is Experiential Marketing?

I tapped Marco Valadez, partner at The ID Agency, to provide his take on experiential marketing. Marco and I worked together at The Rebel Agency to help Toyota launch the Scion brand. Yup, just dated myself. Marco says “Experiential marketing is an important piece of the puzzle for brands trying to connect with their audience. Digital has transformed us from passive consumers to active participants. Thanks to social platforms, customers expect always on, two-way dialogue with brands. It’s now about keeping that conversation going and cultivating an ongoing relationship instead of just driving transactional moments. A well thought out experiential marketing campaign helps humanize brands and create real emotive connections with their customers. It brings the brand to life and into the consumer’s life in a relevant and authentic way. Great experiential campaigns bridge that gap from the digital to the analog world.”

Experiential marketing adds on to digital marketing by appealing to all five senses. This interactive, one-on-one way of building brand relationships continues to gain ground as a way to increase lead generation, brand advocacy, and sales.

Keep in mind that experiential is not synonymous with event marketing. Yes, an experience can be linked to an event, but it doesn’t have to be. Consider Google’s installing interactive posters around San Francisco encouraging people to select what non-profits should get a piece of it $5 million charitable donation. This was more of a hands-on interaction with tangible benefits than a specific event.

The Experiential Marketing Difference

When a marketer implements a new SEO strategy or tries a different PPC campaign, it’s relatively easy to gather the data to measure campaign success. With a basic comparison of before and after analytics, the marketer can gauge whether the website rankings have improved, or ad clicks have increased.

How, though, does the marketer measure success when it comes to out-of-the-box advertising that ranges from pop-up shops to special events? While it’s not likely to be as easy as setting some filters on Google Analytics and reading a few charts or spreadsheets, measuring ROI for experiential marketing can be done.

Measuring ROI for Experiential Marketing

It is important to have some goals in mind when you’re developing an experiential marketing campaign. Before launching, take the time to settle on objectives or outcomes that will indicate success. Often these will be focused on brand sentiment, social engagement, and sales.

Track participation — Collecting email and social handles, having a counter at the entry, or looking at distributed giveaways are a just a few ways to track attendance.

Measure brand sentiment — This is still more abstract than analyzing clicks, but it’s not impossible. To get a handle on brand sentiment you might:

  • Survey customers and consumers before a new product release, then host your event, and survey again.
  • Look around. Look at people’s faces and see whether they’re having fun.
  • Monitor site, blog, social media engagement for a spike during or following the experiential campaign.
  • Review social media reaction using social listening tools to see how followers, influencers, and others react to the campaign.

Measure social engagement — Again, this is more difficult to directly attribute to your team’s live activities but using a specific hashtag for the experience can help indicate campaign success. Social media platforms are going to be key to generating buzz around the experiential activity. So be sure to promote a simple, memorable hashtag and respond to people using the tag in their social media interactions.

Measure sales — Seldom can a marketer track a specific sale to an experiential campaign. Yet, tracking sales patterns in relation to campaigns may help you identify peaks in product sales related to particular experiential pushes.

Experiential marketing gets “82% of participants talking about a brand with others, moves 62% to research a brand online, changes the way 65% view a brand and — perhaps most importantly — inspires 53% to go out and buy a brand at retail,” according to Momentum Worldwide.

These stats suggest that you might also see an uptick in sales or website visits on the heels of experiential marketing, though it will be more difficult to directly link the numbers to the experiential efforts (since presumably it won’t be the only thing you’re doing!).

There are more, mind-blowing ways (I can’t write this without putting my hands on my heads and slowly wiggling my fingers away) of measuring engagement in experiential marketing in the near future. In a few years we’ll be able to employ facial recognition and tracking software at live events to assess faces in the crowd to gauge their happiness (via smiles or other expressions) as well as age, gender and even how long they hang out at a particular destination.

In the meantime, since there are so many ways to measure experiential, the best idea is to develop clear KPIs beforehand. Identify the strategic objectives and what will be analyzed before, during, and after an event to make sure your experience is resonant with the audience while truly contributing to brand objectives.

Jeff Meade

Written by

Agency Advisor :: I help agencies earn status, attract new customers and grow their business.

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