This article first appeared in Campaign ME, written by Christophe Castagnera, Head of Strategy, Middle East, at Imagination Dubai.
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. Combine this with brands – both local and global – willing to be bold and innovative, and it makes brand experiences one of the most potent forces for marketing. As brand experiences have evolved over time from one-off, in-person events to become 360-degree engagement platforms supported by integrated new technology, they introduce a level of storytelling and inspiration, rarely matched in other forms of brand communication.
But unlike traditional marketing, measuring brand experiences – and more 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 a fully integrated brand experience. With 72% 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 practices for mass media, CRM and digital channels.
So where do brands start?
The first, and most important place to start, is with what we call ‘engaged minutes’. Customers spend more time engaged with a brand experience compared with any other form of marketing and brand activity. Not only is this because experiences are more layered in their offerings, and often allow multiple ways to engage, but also because they create a personal connection with the consumer – leading to a greater emotional impact.
Engaged minutes can be calculated simply by multiplying the amount of 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.
The ground-breaking Visa Masters Of Movement sponsorship experience at the Fifa World Cup in Qatar welcomed 120,000 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 incredible, immersive, 3+ hours experience, but for a smaller volume of guests, but with engaged minutes in excess of 250,000.
Naturally, there will be key moments throughout the event that will matter more than others– not all minutes are created equally – and it is important to consider these during the experience design process to maximise engaged minutes, so a more sophisticated model of engaged minutes can be developed.
Simply put, engaged minutes are the super-power indicator for brand experiences. This brand engagement must then be harnessed to generate first-party data capture, sales conversion, brand advocacy or a combination of all three.
The next step is to narrow your efforts – there is no ‘one size fits all’ strategy. Have a clear vision of what you hope to achieve from the brand experience. Is it increased brand awareness, customer engagement, sales? Or something else entirely?
By analysing the brand engagement and behavioural outcomes from numerous experiences using our XPKit platform, we have identified three main outcomes that brand owners have aimed for through experiences:
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
Looking beyond engaged minutes, measuring brand advocacy (using Net Promoter Score), brand funnel metrics, and brand image are the most logical and cost-effective next steps for measuring ROI on brand experiences. But despite all being frequently used in standard marketing practice, they are yet to be consistently applied to experiential campaigns.
Choose metrics that align with your goals and track them before, during, and after your brand experience. Clients that apply this level of 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, and found that it outperformed national averages for these metrics in their key markets where those shows took place. Experiences make a bigger impact because of the depth of engagement they provide.
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, the digital transformation triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has seen more virtual and hybrid experiences, making it possible to accurately measure experiences with the same level of precision as online activities. 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 also important to measure brand experiences consistently across all customer touch points – from product marketing to the point of sale, customer services to the ownership experience. The value here is to allow brands to better understand how experiences can be designed in a strategic way to achieve the best emotional engagement, at the right times. Opportunities for creating richer experiences exist throughout the CX life cycle, especially at retail/point of sale and the experience of ownership. For example, customer rewards and loyalty programmes for supermarkets or coffee shops provide approximately 1% of 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 touch points. Considering measurement at every step will enable us all to design experiences to support brands across the region.
Head of Strategy, Middle East, Dubai based
Christophe has 24 years of experience in experience design, brand and marketing engagement for clients and agencies. He works across our offer of Consulting, Destinations, Live and Content and develops through-the-line strategies to develop & communicate destinations ranging from Retail Developments to Theme Parks.
He has a vast array of sector experience, from automotive and tourism to FMCG, luxury and technology.
He understands Brand communications strategy of the highest level, for example, the development of the Global Brand Campaign Strategy for Rolls-Royce. Regionally he was Involved in the Marketing Activation for the Al Wasl Development in Dubai, MDL Beast and Expo 2020, including integrated communications, brand positioning, messaging, channel planning and the measurement framework.
Consulting in experience blueprints and business models
Destinations and placemaking strategy
Customer experience design & journeys
Data analytics and reporting
Primary research including qualitative and quantitative
Integrated marketing & communications planning
Project management (communications and events)
Budgeting / financial planning
Digital content management and research
Christophe works across our offers, including, Consulting, Destinations, Live and Content and develops through-the-line strategies to communicate destinations ranging from Retail Developments to Theme Parks.
He understands Brand communications strategy of the highest level, for example, the development of the Global Brand Campaign Strategy for Rolls-Royce Ghost through; Insights and research planning, client discovery and strategy workshop, development of a creative platform proposal and integrated communications plan.
Regionally he was Involved in the Marketing Activation for the Al Wasl Development in Dubai, the Strategic development of MDL Beast programme of experiences and cultural activations across KSA.
He also worked directly for Expo 2020 client team on a long-term consultancy basis, developed Connected Experience Strategy for integrated communications, brand positioning, messaging, channel planning and measurement framework.
Bachelor of Science Degree in International Business (BSC) from Aston University, UK
IPM Diploma and Member (Institute of Marketing)
Member of the IPA Master Certification & Effectiveness Council
YEARS OF EXPERIENCE
24+ years experience