Experiential Marketing Measurement: Bolted-on not Baked-in

Recent meetings, research, and invitations to upcoming events inspired this proponent / promulgator to post on research and measurement in the experiential marketing space: events, sponsorships, out-of-home, direct-to-consumer, feet-on-the-street, people as media.

It strikes me that the experiential marketing space is plagued by the same problem the PR industry is: (warning: huge over-generalization coming here) a lack of strategic and measurable objectives linked to the overall organizational goals. Rather, what’s all-too-frequent are random acts of feet-on-the-street . Lots of vague, passive logo soup for the branding soul, ‘brand hug’ stuff. Not so much active ‘brand buy’ stuff. Questions all-too-commonly left unanswered: who do you want to reach? Why? With what effect? What do you want them thinking? Feeling? Doing? Metrics common to the traditional, non-experiential marketing realm–brand preference, likelihood to consider, visit, try, buy, switch, recommend, donate, whatever—generally seem conspicuously absent. (Notable exceptions below)

If the overall approach to experiential marketing (planning and execution) is granular and tactical (driven perhaps by budget and timing), then its measurement is commensurately tactical. Here, measurement often falls into the ‘how much’ and rarely into the ‘how good’ and ‘with what effect’ categories. Myopic measurement-by-tactic not meta measurement-by- objective. Bolted on the back end, not baked in up front. Lots of counting (both contracted and accrued). Some data collection. Little follow-up or activation. Less qualifying. Even less correlating. It’s not about exposure (alone). It’s about interaction-driven impact. Say no to buzz.

But, there seems to be some interesting, perhaps even exceptional, work going on in the space that goes beyond looking at how many t-shirts the cannon squad shot up into the crowd or funky advertising equivalency metrics based on how long a logo was on-screen. Organizations like the MTM Measurement Group and Kneebone Inc. Come to mind. I’m sure there are a bunch of others and I’m looking forward to coming across those. It’s often the organizations that are doing the really neat work that you’d like to hear more from. Trouble is, because they are good at what they do, they are busy. Good for them. Better for their clients.

MTM (Micro Targeted Media) Measurement Group—what sounds like fairly sophisticated hard and software solutions to report post event and in real time engagement within an event footprint: audience measurements such as counts, traffic patterns, proximity, dwell time, as well as demographics (age, gender, ethnicity markers). Add in-field, on-site electronic data capture and surveys and we’re getting close to approaching the elusive experiential marketing ROI. Good for MTM. Better for their clients.

Though I haven’t seen behind the methodological curtain, Kneebone Inc offers what sounds like a, pretty, er, well, sound and robust method that places the measurement of experiential marketing in the broader marketing mix answering questions like: “is it working?” and “how does it perform relative to other tactics?” I imagine there’s some form of market mix modeling (statistical analysis popular in the consumer packaged goods space) at work here. Whatever it is, it seems popular with some very high end clients. Good for Kneebone.  Better for their clients.

Any comment on measurement would be incomplete were it not to mention the ‘S’ word. Standards. Should there be a singular, standard method or metric? Absolutely not. A standard set of guiding principles and best practices? Absolutely. I know they exist in the PR space. I quite like key performance indicators but what might be key for one organization might not be for another. They’d be different one context to the next; one industry to the next.

The ‘B’ word is the ‘S’ word’s ugly cousin. Benchmark. “Against whom or what should we be benchmarking our efforts?” One of the more common questions in measurement. In the case of sponsorship, consider benchmarking against other similar properties. Or, perhaps, very different properties but among competitors. Or, consider benchmarking yourself in an aspirational way relative to competitors and/or properties that, one day, you’d like to emulate.

Hung up on cost? Like the idea of measurement but worried that to implement it would just take budget away from tactical execution? (Measurement means one less wrapped Hummer on the cross-country beach tour). Don’t we measure in other marketing areas to be smarter about where we spend and to avoid costs associated with off-target objectives or strategy? Can we afford not to measure?


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