Yes, we live in a digital world, but live experiences are far from dead or passé. From creative industry conferences to summer camps for adults, music festivals and Airstream pop-up shops, opportunities for experiential marketing abound.
It’s easy to understand how in-person experiences can build brand love and loyalty among key audiences. Yet measuring the impact of these efforts is less than straightforward for many marketers. First, we must define success as being both about the quality of the event experience for attendees as well as the ROI of brand impact for event hosts and sponsors. If we know to consider the full lifecycle of an event, we can pinpoint measurement opportunities at key moments, which unlocks our ability to truly understand the value of physical brand marketing.
Consider first impressions carefully
As marketers, it can be easy to focus on the post-event impact, when really we need to begin by recognizing the importance of that initial guest experience. In addition to crafting a truly special experience, be ready to adjust based on initial arrival response – how does the room feel, how comfortable do the first attendees seem? Is everyone being greeted properly? Is important signage being missed in their current location? Notice anything that seems out of place or stuck in terms of flow and fix it before the night goes into full swing. First guest impressions can really help you steer the event toward success.
Plan for – and harness – the ripple effect
When done correctly, social media is the perfect compliment to a live experience. However, success is not simply getting people to post on social media with a hashtag (or reporting that final number of social mentions as proof of building buzz). A stronger marker of event success is tracking how many people who were not at the event shared, commented or otherwise engaged with event coverage. On the brand side, you can help encourage this type of sharing by creating social media assets – think educational facts, inspirational quotes and moments, photos and videos – and making it easy for people to capture these at the event as well as encouraging reposts on brand-owned channels. Social media is powerful, but it’s most powerful when you are creating opportunity for engagement but individuals who were not even at your event!
Build evaluation into the event experience
One of the best ways to determine the value of your event is to directly ask attendees, so don’t be afraid to get feedback from your guests. Design a post-event survey or follow-up communication delivered at the end of the event (or the morning after), inviting attendees to tell you what they think. Qualitative research is a great way to analyze impact and make improvements for future events. You never know what you’re going to hear, and it’s always worth it to open these floodgates.
Develop a means for attendees to stay connected
If you are creating a live experience that engages, educates and inspires attendees, it’s in your best interest to also provide an environment where that conversation may continue. Whether a follow up event, membership site, social group or forum, don’t just let the energy of the event die. Drop in occasionally to recap the experience and remind everyone the key takeaways and keep them posted on brand movements.
Another way to understand impact is to continue to measure post- event conversation and engagement. From a business perspective, staying connected to attendees offers a highly engaged, loyal community who are likely going to be more interested in attending your next event, promoting your initiative or spreading the word than audiences who have yet to experience your event. Your community doesn’t need to live on forever, but engagement should never stop when a live experiences ends.
Measuring event impact and success takes a lot of awareness and reading between the lines, but it can be done. We often view these types of experiences as having a clear start and end time- but once we open our eyes, it becomes clear that some of the best engagement is happening before and after the experience is over. If we can learn to capture that effect, we can produce huge results in brand loyalty.
PS: For a quick dose of inspiration, just take a look some of the recent brand activations at this past week’s Comic-Con in San Diego.
About Danielle Robin
Danielle is the Director of Content Strategy for CatalystCreativ. Listed on this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 for Advertising and Marketing, CatalystCreativ is an experience studio that’s focused on helping cities, brands and institutions flourish by developing educational and inspirational experiences through strategy as well as on and offline campaigns to engage Millennials. CatalystCreativ is funded by Zappos CEO and venture capitalist Tony Hsieh as part of the Downtown Project. Robin and CatalystCreativ have worked with brands such as NPR, Dell, Ekocycle and Starwood Hotels. Be sure to follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Image via: Event Photos NYC