JOHANNESBURG - Experiential marketing is what brands do to get their stakeholders to engage with them; to “participate” in meaningful brand experiences. 

As a discipline it’s been defined in many ways – one being a forum where a brand can “extend a hand” to touch and engage the consumer. It’s also been referred to as an evolution of what interactive advertising was a few years ago — anything that pulls people into the brand, digitally or physically. 

However you define it, most people would agree that experiential isn’t new — but it is far more prevalent, visible and popular. No social media post, email attachment, mailer, or television advertisement can inspire, evoke emotion, and generate brand loyalty as much via a single experience. More than that – it’s been turbo charged because of social media and technology; with social media, it has become possible to justify even greater investment in an experience knowing it will pay dividends when people share it on their platforms. 

Like any marketing activity – as this channel has grown and become more mainstream, so too has the need for ROI, measurement and justification of investment. What can’t be measured can’t be managed and what can’t be measured won’t be funded. So to retain its credibility and to compete well against other media choices available, there need to be measures in place to review the success of experiential activations. 

LISTEN: 

iol-20-experiental marketing.mp3

Measuring ROI on SEO activity and pay per click advertising is easy in comparison – you simply review data from Google Analytics and compare to the previous reporting period. But when it comes to experiential – these measurements have traditionally been murky, vague and often unsubstantiated. Yet comprehensive, integrated and relevant reporting is at the heart of building real value for clients. The bottom line is you need more than a gut feeling to tell you at the end of a campaign whether it did well or not and the longstanding perception that activations activities are “feel good” and experiential and cannot be measured, is totally unfounded. If activations are to offer the returns clients expect and rightfully demand, then a more scientific approach to reporting is required; an approach that ensures accurate and insightful commentary. It’s not just views or earned media metrics but a “cocktail” of factors and there’s no one size fits all solution. 

The activations landscape focuses on outcomes like brand switching at Point of Purchase, coupon redemption and sales results, acquisition targets or sign ups achieved, communication reach, “brand in hand”, lead generation or digital or social media engagement and even perception changes.  All of this, including perception change, can be measured and the specific outcomes of a campaign should be built into the reporting, and the results a measure of success. Establish KPIs Upfront The development of wonderfully creative campaign solutions is important [and the easy part of the campaign] but doesn’t trump the need for a good brand strategy, KPIs (key performance indicators) and a method to measure the activation’s performance against agreed returns. So the first step to success is knowing what you are measuring. Client/agency collaboration in the planning phase is therefore fundamental to putting ROI measures in place; it’s at this point that the business outcome driving the campaign – should be defined.  By translating objectives into analytics before the campaign even starts will ensure the analytics have context. It’s also important to agree upfront on the metrics needed – there is such a thing as too much data. Only measure what you need. Meaningful Reporting Insights Steer Strategy Formidable reporting, accountability and measurability must be the pillars of the review process – lending authority and credibility to activations. A detailed and comprehensive reporting system that provides immediate feedback to clients is really important. 

The reports should be easy to read and use, with graphics incorporated for an ‘at a glance’ view of key insights and learnings. Determining the campaign KPIs at the outset will ensure the provision of relevant, meaningful reports. When activations are properly measured, you’re able to make more confident adjustments to the campaign strategy, giving you the insights you need to tinker with it until you reach your set goal. Field intelligence, competitor analysis, learnings and any additional insights, should also be incorporated in the reporting process. By way of example, clients find it refreshing to see a detailed reconciliation of shifts worked in their reporting. They also understand that a brand activator can fall ill or face a transport issue. As long as the missed shifts are worked in / credited Perhaps most importantly, accurate and honest communication occurs, these issues can be managed.

Context and Measure = Power Despite the inherent value of consumer engagement promotions and experiential activations, years ago they did not hold their own and were not attracting the same interest as other more traditional marketing activity. However as the industry has evolved, the true value of a two-way conversation taking place creatively and tactically in relevant environments, is far more valued and better understood. This evolution to activation, is also supported by the deeper appreciation for the value of human connection, how seeding and word of mouth can impact and grow a brand and how easily ‘ignorable’ a one-way marketing message can be. With its ability to delight participants, create memorable experiences and attract new customers, optimising the outcome and results for clients, and being able to show the measure of the return must be at the heart of this industry’s mandate – always remembering that the context of the measurement is what gives the data power.

- EBIZ RADIO