By Emily Lyons
Standing under the umbrella of the event marketing profession is experiential marketing, a perspective to marketing that is rapidly gaining ascendancy. Without getting too broad, or too narrow, “experiential marketing” can be defined as an event marketing communications strategy which makes use of live, interactive brand experiences to convey brand messages to a given target audience.
These are not, by the way, just “events” in the ordinary sense of the word. Instead, they are events which are carefully designed to ignite a firestorm of positive, compelling emotions in the hearts and minds of the attendees making such events an experience which endures in their memories (precisely because of this emotional aspect).
When the concept of experiential marketing first emerged several decades ago, the traditional, “mass advertising” community of marketers took little notice. It was only after the power of experiential marketing had been demonstrated over and over again (in an age where consumers were drawn to extraordinary emotional experiences) that it dawned on the marketing orthodoxy that perhaps it was time to take a closer look at this fresh perspective as a way of capturing consumer attention and advocacy.
The experiential perspective to marketing was not without its early critics, and one of the foremost arguments that are still levied against it is the claim that it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of such experience-based campaigns. Such criticisms are without merit, as they fail to understand that the traditional KPIs of mass advertising is simply not relevant to experiential marketing.
Instead, other metrics are important. Still, it needs to be stressed that experiential marketers must take a rigorous approach to live brand experiences using a deft blend of science and art. Data must be compiled throughout the brand activation, and specific, measurable objectives outlined before the live brand experience must be decided upon. The impact of each and every live brand experience must be consistently measured, for only in this way can experiential campaigns with greater and greater effect be reliably created.
As an experiential marketing practitioner at Femme Fatale Media Group, I have learned that the following are just some of the useful questions to ask (and answer) after each live brand experience.
How Effectively Did the Brand Experience Reach the Target Audience?
This can be determined by a “headcount” of all event attendees (through guest sign-up lists and so on). With this number in hand, one can learn whether or not any pre-experience marketing used to generate awareness about the upcoming experience was successful.
How Effectively Were the Attendees Involved in the Experience?
To answer this question, several methods can be used. One of the most popular metrics here is the rate of “engagement,” or the percentage of attendees which interacted with brand ambassadors for a given amount of time. What did messages about the brand the attendees receive? Experiential marketing can be dramatically effective at conveying complex brand messages; however, it is important to determine if the live brand experience actually succeeded in succinctly delivering the intended brand messages to the audience. Thus, post-experience questionnaires, surveys, and interviews are useful for tackling this question.
How Likely Are Attendees to Recommend the Brand to Their Network?
Experiential marketing is the most powerful driver of word-of-mouth marketing, a cornerstone of successful brand communication in The Information Age where people have little trust in anyone except their friends. So measuring the word-of-mouth reach of any live brand experience should be of paramount importance; a first step to capturing this information is to ask attendees how likely they are to recommend the brand (or talk about the experience) to their friends and network. What were the attendees doing throughout each aspect of the experience?
Embedded within most live brand experiences are “sub experiences” in which attendees can immerse themselves. For example, they may choose to spend most of their time or energy at a particular game or challenge instead of a photo booth. Collecting this kind of data tells you what aspects of the experience the target audience finds most compelling. But just gathering data here is not enough: go one step further, and seek to understand why the target audience preferred certain components of the experience over others (this can be asked during a post-experience questionnaire). The answer to this question is useful in designing future experiences which have even higher levels of impact.
Again, these are just some of the questions to ask after a live brand experience. There are more, and some of them depend on the exact objectives of the brand activation. Either way, regardless of the specific questions you ask about your activations, take note that experiential marketers who are experts at their craft know that the collection of deep data before, during and after the live brand experience goes a long way towards generating powerful insights which can be leveraged to create the greatest experiences yet.
For more tips from Emily Lyons, view Femme Fatale Promotions & Media blog, or follow her on Instagram at @EmilyLyoness.