The impact of Experiential Marketing…


Experiential is growing fast but how can clients be sure that they are getting a decent return on investment?
We find that in difficult economic times there is an even greater demand for research to prove to advertisers that they are getting a return on every marketing penny they invest. This is especially true of niche or emerging marketing activity such as experiential.

Continental Research has evaluated the impact of over 50 experiential campaigns to date so are able to comment on ways of measuring impact. Different types of experiential activity call for different research approaches, but generally our preferred method of measuring impact uses a two stage approach:

At stage 1 we send recruiters to the event to enlist potential respondents from the crowd of event attendees, and collect their contact details. Stage 2 takes place approximately a fortnight later when we conduct telephone interviews with the attendees who we recruited. We leave a fortnight before interviewing to allow respondents time to purchase whatever product or service was being promoted – something we like to measure. Also bear in mind it would not be feasible to conduct the interview at the event itself as the brand experience is usually so immersive that to ask respondents, for example, whether they have heard of that brand would be slightly ridiculous!

We also conduct interviews with a sample of people who did not attend the event. These are matched to the attendee sample on demographics and key behaviour, thus allowing us to compare the two samples and attribute any uplifts in brand awareness, positive perceptions of the brand and purchase solely to the experiential activity.

Due to the large number of campaigns we have measured we have been able to build normative data (i.e. average scores) on some key brand metrics. This has the added benefit of allowing us to put clients’ results into broader context by comparing any uplift on their brand’s metrics against the average uplift.

The research has found that the impact of experiential marketing is truly phenomenal. Even two weeks after being exposed to the activity our norms show that typically someone who attended an experiential event is 89% more likely to cite that brand spontaneously than a non-attendee and 303% more likely to recall advertising spontaneously. This compares very favourably indeed against the impact of other advertising media we have measured.

Much of this can be attributed to how positive respondents are about the event – on average 85% will score the experiential event either ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

In terms of the impact on longer term metrics we would look at experiential’s impact on brand equity: Earlier this year Continental worked with Sledge – one of the leaders in experiential marketing – to evaluate some activity promoting the NIVEA Visage range.

If we compare perceptions of the range between the exposed and non-exposed samples it’s clear that the experiential activity has had a significant effect on perceptions of the brand (the red arrows denote statistically significant uplift):


Furthermore our normative data shows that 60% of people who attend an experiential event talk to other people about the event – on average between 4 and 5 other people! And 51% of people exposed to experiential marketing go on to recommend that brand typically to 4 other people.

This positive impact of experiential activity on an attendee’s perceptions of the brand and their likelihood to recommend it indicates that as well as boosting the necessary short-term measures (such as awareness of the brand), experiential is also effectively building a deeper, more long term relationship with consumers by significantly and positively influencing the way they think about that brand.

I can confirm that clients are demanding both ROI and also firm proof of the ROI from their experiential activity. It is imperative that experiential is evaluated, but whilst we wholeheartedly encourage our clients to have an evaluation element integrated into their campaign, budgets often dictate that this isn’t possible.

We encourage clients to reserve some budget to evaluate their campaigns, but many clients just don’t have any money. It is a sad fact of these hard times that agencies have to work harder to deliver more creative work that in return delivers a higher number of consumers – but for less budget. So there just isn’t any money left to pay for research and evaluation. We know that when experiential activity is measured and evaluated the results are simply phenomenal. The work that Continental Research did for us for NIVEA proves this.
Social media and digital can provide a cost effective way to measure the success of experiential work. For last year’s innocent Village Fete we created several social media platforms (using facebook, flickr, you tube etc) for visitors to leave feedback, upload pictures and generally interact and tell innocent and the innocent community about their experiences. These sites helped create a community and turn visitors into advocates, but they were also very effective ways of channelling feedback about the event and of course, the brand.
This article was written by Ian Irving, Commercial Director of Sledge and Max Willey of Continental Research.

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Chris Wareham