How Do You Measure Experiential Marketing ROI?


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Certain elements of experiential marketing almost always make a lot of sense to brands—even if they’re only just beginning to employ experiential strategies.

Customers want to feel a real connection with a brand—live activations allow them to develop that connection.

Customers want to have fun and be entertained—live activations can accomplish both.

Customers want to interact with brands that allow them to express something about themselves—live activations can give them the vehicle for that expression.

You and your marketing team likely have no problems buying in to these truths—they’re intuitive. They make sense.

The part of experiential marketing that may give you pause, however, is the all-important question of ROI. In other words: How do I measure ROI for an experiential marketing campaign? Too often, marketing departments don’t have the answer to that question, so they end up ignoring it.

However, you can measure the ROI of your experiential marketing campaigns—and effectively, too. Here’s how.

First, define success for your experiential marketing campaign

You can’t measure success if you don’t know what success looks like.

What’s your goal for your experiential campaign? Here are some examples:

  • Lead generation—do you want to capture names and emails? Social media handles? Specify the information you need.
  • Brand awareness—are you trying to break into a new market, or reach a new demographic? Specify the market or demographic.
  • Increased sales—are you selling products during the event? How long will you be measuring sales after the event is over?

Once you’ve identified exactly what you’re trying to do, you can decide on the most appropriate KPIs to measure.

Choose KPIs to measure both general and specific goals

When choosing which KPIs to measure, it’s important to go beyond the usual suspects: number of attendees, number of product or service purchases, number of email captures.

These are still important numbers to track, but they won’t by themselves give you a terribly clear idea of how successful your event really was. Throngs of attendees don’t necessarily translate to increased sales or even increased brand awareness, so going deeper can give you much better insight into what actually worked, and what didn’t.

If your goal is lead generation, in addition to how many emails you captured, you’ll want to track:

  • Conversion ratio (the number of qualified leads / the number of engagements)
  • Engagements per brand representative (the number of engagements each brand rep experiences throughout the event—make sure each rep is measuring engagements using the same criteria, or you’ll end up with unusable data)

You’ll likely have additional KPIs that you’ll need to track, as well, depending on your audience, activation, location, etc.

If you’re looking to increase brand awareness or change brand perception with your activation, you’ll want to track:

  • Brand sentiment (how people are feeling about your brand?)
  • Brand awareness pre- and post-event (how did your event change attendees brand awareness? This is usually discovered through surveys)
  • Social media brand awareness (how many people used your branded hashtag, how many new followers did you get, how many mentions of your brand showed up online)

A perfect example of an experiential campaign aimed at changing brand perception is Weight Watchers’ #WeighThis. The 2015 campaign asked women to weigh “what really matters” —their accomplishments, rather than their bodies—and then commissioned an artist to paint the women’s comments onto small scales for an art installation in New York’s Grand Central Station.

The results included a 428% increase in social mentions, and a 33% increase in positive social mentions.

Increasing sales is a generally an easier thing to measure—sample KPIs include:

  • Product sales during and after your activation
  • Product samples during the activation
  • New customer purchases
  • Returning customer purchases

Once you’ve gotten your KPIs in order, however, how do you ensure that they actually are tracked during your event?

Give staffers ownership over KPIs

The employees or hired staff who will be working your experiential brand activation will need to buy in—first, to your definition of success, and second, to the importance of measuring specific things to determine ROI.

Staff who will be sampling product will need to keep track of how many samples they give out and to how many people.

Staff who will be greeting people need some way of counting how many individuals they interact with. A manual tally counter works great for this—there’s no need to get too technological here.

If you have exhibitions or demos that participants will be interacting with, make sure you have some way of counting how many people engage. If the demo includes a technological aspect, you can require an email to unlock a demo, or even require attendees to press a “Start” button in order to engage.

Tracking softer KPIs, like brand sentiment, can be trickier, but it can be done. While sentiment is, by its nature, subjective, if you ask staff to pay attention to how people are interacting with them and what they’re saying about the brand, you can get a good idea of—at least—whether people feel more positive about your brand after the activation, or more negative. Ask staff to jot down any particularly potent comments or feelings from participants.

Compile your KPI values to determine ROI

Determining your ROI will be a different process for every brand, and for each activation. Certain KPIs will carry greater weight than others, but by looking at all of them together, you’ll gain a clear picture of just how successful your experiential campaign really was.

Measuring the ROI of experiential marketing is challenging, but doing so can give you invaluable insight into how people perceive your brand. If you’re ready to dive into experiential, contact us at Zen Media today. We’d love to help you plan—and measure—your next experiential brand activation.


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