Marketers are no longer satisfied simply by a great idea and a track record of success. And rightly so. Competition for hearts and minds has never been fiercer, especially in experiential – with spend rising each quarter in the UK, according to the latest IPA Bellwether.
What’s more, Freeman’s Global Brand Experience Study last year illustrated that advertisers are planning to invest more in experiences globally and, of course, they want to know that they’re spending their money wisely.
In a recent piece for Campaign US, SET’s executive creative director Ivan Entchevitch highlighted the enormous value of experiential to brands, as well as the critical importance – and massive challenge – of properly quantifying success.
Entchevitch is right to challenge the pre-eminence of social media shares, 'likes' and click-throughs for measuring the supposed impact of real-world activity. Sure, those simple digital metrics are a useful indication, but they only tell part of the story.
They are not analytical tools, simply measures of one aspect of reach. It’s the same in the physical world – 50,000 interactions, 200,000 samples distributed. These are measures of volume, not value.
Set SMART goals
Too many people mistake a review for an evaluation. Proper evaluation means understanding whether you achieved your business goals. To do that you need to know what your goals were in the first place. The best goals are SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound – but at the very least they should be quantifiable.
Experiential has such a wide variety of potential approaches and solutions that it’s impossible to define a universal measurement technique. That’s why client-agency collaboration is vital from the start, long before pen is put to paper, before the campaign is designed. Because each campaign has not only its own distinctive characteristics, but also its own set of success criteria, and effective measurement lies in understanding them clearly.
Isolate the variables
Entchevitch’s idea of a full attribution funnel sounds amazing. He says it’s both challenging and expensive, although not impossible. Or is it? Even if some clever smart tool comes along that can pull out an individual’s many touchpoints on their "winding and cross-channel customer journey", will it ever be able to tease apart what each interaction attributes to the larger whole? Perhaps. But it seems a long way off.
In the meantime, understanding value comes not from an increasingly complicated web of connections and interdependencies, but from the long-established (and rather simple) scientific method: isolate the variables. Who needs a perfect econometric model of the value flow of experiential intervention when you can look at the relative impact of the action you’re taking and see whether the activity is delivering against the objectives you’ve defined?
Test the impact
You can then test its impact on the recipients using robust research methodology and compare that with a control group, identical except that they didn’t experience your brand activity. You might find that, for instance, there was a 21% strengthening of the broadcaster’s offering of "cutting-edge programming" among those who did the experiential activity. Then by returning to respondents a few weeks later, once the dust has settled, you can get a true read on the longer-term impact of the activity.
When we understand things fully, we can measure their effectiveness and make better decisions. By working closely together, brands and agencies can further our collective understanding, moving ever closer to that truly connected and effective experience for customers. If that means incorporating insight-driving measurement methodology into every activity, then we’re fine with that – any opportunity to understand more and make the work better, for brand and customers alike.
Dan Parkinson is planning director at experiential marketing agency Sense