By Christophe Castagnera, head of strategy, EMEA at Imagination
A defining moment has been reached in the Middle East for the experiences industry. It is a region looking to diversify its economies, with a young dynamic population. Combined with brands – both local and global – willing to be bold and innovative, that makes brand experiences one of the most potent forces for marketing. As brand experiences have evolved from one-off, in-person events to 360-degree engagement platforms supported by integrated new technology, they introduce storytelling and inspiration, rarely matched in other brand communication.
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But unlike traditional marketing, measuring brand experiences – and specifically return on investment (ROI) – has always been difficult. It became a little easier during the Covid-19 pandemic; with most experiences moving online, digital metrics such as visitor numbers, cost per conversion and engagement rates could be tracked.
But digital metrics only reveal one side of the story, and it can be challenging to implement them correctly for integrated brand experiences. With 72 per cent of customers reporting they prefer experiences to things, there is clearly a need – and opportunity – for a fresh and more considered approach that measures experiences in a way that complements established measurement practice for mass-media, CRM and digital channels.
So where do brands start?
The first place is with ‘engaged minutes’. Customers spend more time engaged with a brand experience compared with any other form of marketing and brand activity. Experiences are more layered in their
offerings, often with multiple ways to engage, and they also create a personal connection with the consumer – leading to a greater emotional impact.
Engaged minutes can be calculated by multiplying the minutes a consumer spends engaged with an experience (virtual or in person) by the number of consumers partaking in the experience. This results in a metric that is as simple to understand and use as the number of page views, click throughs or reach.
Different experiences can provide different levels of engaged minutes. For example, let’s consider a medium volume and medium dwell time experience: the ground-breaking Visa Masters Of Movement sponsorship experience at the World Cup in Qatar.
The Visa Masters of Movement sponsorship experience at the Fifa World Cup in Qatar welcomed visitors who spent over 60 minutes engaged in the experience end-to-end. This generated nearly 8 million engaged minutes.
Then there is a low volume, high dwell time experience – Ford Go Faster. This was an immersive 3+ hour experience, for a smaller volume of guests, but with engaged minutes in excess of 250,000.
Naturally, there will be key moments throughout an event – not all minutes are created equally. It is important to consider these when designing the experience, so a more sophisticated model of engaged minutes can be developed. Brand engagement of this sort can be harnessed for first-party data capture, sales conversion, brand advocacy or all three.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ strategy. Brands need a clear vision of what they want to achieve from the experience – be it increased brand awareness, customer engagement or sales. By analysing engagement and behavioural outcomes from numerous experiences using our XPKit platform, we have identified three main outcomes:
Reaching new audiences to expand the customer base
Deepening engagement and increasing advocacy to change brand perception
Deepening engagement and driving commercial returns
TRACK YOUR METRICS
Measuring brand advocacy (using net promoter score), brand funnel metrics and brand image are the most logical and cost-effective next steps for measuring brand experience ROI. Despite all being frequently used in marketing, they are not consistently applied to experiential campaigns.
Choose metrics that align with your goals and track them before, during and after your brand experience. Clients applying this rigour to measuring brand impact effects have found quantifying the results transformational. For example, automotive brands have consistently measured the brand funnel impact across awareness, familiarity and consideration rates for their global exhibition programmes. They found that they outperformed national averages for these metrics in their key markets where those shows took place.
Understanding how people behave and how they interact and engage with a brand experience is essential, and a quantitative aspect must support any qualitative research. As mentioned, digital transformation triggered by the pandemic has seen more virtual and hybrid experiences, making it possible to accurately measure experiences. Key metrics like guest count, dwell time, social shares, content views, lead conversion, and sales conversion can all be tracked.
From a customer experience (CX) perspective, it’s important to measure brand experiences consistently across all customer touch points so that brands can understand how to design experiences for the best emotional engagement. For example, customer rewards and loyalty programmes for supermarkets or coffee shops provide approximately 1 per cent discount, but in return generate increased loyalty to their stores. Linking these programmes to experiences and tickets to live entertainment boosts this further.
With significant international events like the FIFA World Cup in Qatar and the World Expo in Dubai, 2022 was a revolutionary year for the Middle East – with the region expected to carry the strongest investment momentum into 2023. And it’s exciting to see Middle Eastern economies largely embracing the move to becoming experience-led.
But for brands to fully use this experience economy, they must create and implement a unified brand experience measurement framework to support and complement their initiatives, across all touchpoints.