Yes, you can measure brand experience
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution but that doesn’t mean experiences can’t be measured. With clever planning and the right tools, Taryn Atkinson tells us how it’s done.
Marketers often believe brand experience or experiential marketing can’t be measured. And we all know that in today’s data-driven marketing environment, it’s almost impossible to mobilise budget for activity without having tangible results that clearly demonstrate ROI.
All too often, this means experiential activity is overlooked or is the first thing to go when budgets are cut.
In reality, a well-deployed (and well-measured) brand experience can be a business’s most powerful and efficient spend. With established and accepted measurement practices, the metrics for traditional media activity often goes unquestioned, while clients say their gut instinct tells them experiential activity is making an impact but they are at a loss to prove it.
With more global brands shifting their focus and funds to live experiences – Amazon one of the most active in this space – it’s time to bust the myth that experiential isn’t measurable.
The number one mistake businesses make when attempting to measure brand experience is trying to retrofit a measurement strategy. It is misguided to think that simply conducting a post-event survey or checking for an increase in the brand’s Facebook likes will give you all the data and insight required to effectively evaluate an activity.
The correct approach requires developing a measurement strategy from the start that directly aligns with the project objectives. This means being as specific as possible about the change that you’re trying to effect – whether that is increasing brand awareness, building brand advocacy or generating leads. The more specific, the more scope there is to measure results, and, ultimately, analyse performance for continued optimisation.
Getting pointy with goals and KPI’s can take guts but the benefit is holding us all accountable to developing solutions that are not just creative but also effective. The very best brand experiences are designed with measurability in mind and anchored in clear core objectives. Agency partners should be supporting brands in this process by providing measurement frameworks as part of the initial creative response or, better yet, at the briefing stage.
Finding the right tools
Once we’ve made sure each encounter in the ecosystem of an experience has a clear objective, the next step is to define the specific metrics and the best suite of tools to enable us to measure them.
In the case of consumer facing experiences, passive smartphone detection technology can be used to gauge extensive metrics such as walk-bys, conversion, dwell time, return visits, and, where applicable, track those visits back to retail stores or other places of purchase.
If you want to get even more granular, you can employ multiple sensors to discover behaviour analytics around a user’s journey through an environment, identifying key engagement points. This works equally for internal and external engagement initiatives.
This data can then be used to assist in optimisation of staffing, site design, layout, merchandising and for informing future marketing campaigns.
But why stop there? Data collection, network-opt- ins and apps integrated into the experience offer an even deeper level of data as well as the always coveted retargeting opportunities. All of this has the potential to directly link to sales through merging sales data.
There’s also huge scope for integrating social into live experiences, and with 49% of people creating their own mobile video at events, that’s a solid incentive to consider tapping into behaviours that give you even more visibility of the impact the experience is having.
Qual meets quan
It’s not just quantitative data that can be measured. One of the most valuable (and often untapped) areas of brand experience is the speed and ease in which qualitative data can be gathered. In the live space, there is the opportunity to conduct research in a natural environment.
This tends to capture candid reactions rather than the artificial responses that can come from traditional market research. To give you an example, through listening to consumers on-site during a recent campaign, we were able to identity a unique selling point that then informed the creative on a digital campaign for the brand.
In all of this, we need to take a holistic view of the business and exploit opportunities for integration and collaboration. This can be done through long-term conversion data from the sales team, observing overall brand tracking, integrating the results and activity of other agencies, partners or stakeholders within the business, all with the view of closing the loop on the entire user journey.
At the end of the day, when it comes to data analysis, it pays to ask the question, ‘Is it interesting, or is it useful?’ Use this as your guiding principle when sifting through results and evaluating projects. If something has been measured, no matter the result, there is always an opportunity to find valuable insights that can inform future initiatives.
Now that we’ve demonstrated brand experience is measurable in concrete and definable ways, the next challenge is opening up an industry dialogue around a universal means to measure brand encounters between online and offline experiences.
The future of measurement isn’t about working in silo to make claims about our own efficiency above other channels. Instead, there is a genuine opportunity for agencies, marketers and stakeholders to work together sharing data and insights to deliver holistic and effective experiences with ROI firmly at their heart.
Taryn Atkinson is the client services director for brand experience agency Neonormal.
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