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Experiential Marketing: Calculated Risks with Big Payoffs


Every Startup owner is a calculated risk taker. To be an entrepreneur and to take risks are synonymous. Yet many startup owners are reluctant to take the risks that are involved in Experiential Marketing.

We all know that making a memorable, personal connection with your audience has valuable branding payoffs. But, as any digital marketer can tell you, there are no guarantees. You’re plunging money into an unknown commodity with no real indication of ROI, right?


Experiential Marketing tactics are not always easy to predict and measure by traditional marketing standards, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t sound evidence of a positive brand influence and return on your investment. It’s all about being able to dig deeper into what is considered “a success”, it’s about taking calculated risks that have big payoffs.

As with many opportunities in the business world, some of the biggest rewards lie on the other side of risk – a risk of adverse branding, a risk of targeting the wrong audience, a risk of losing money. Experiential Marketing can be hard to accurately measure and predict – therefore, it’s risky. But what business venture isn’t a risk? How do you decide which risks to take?

Calculating the Risk of Experiential Marketing

How do you calculate the risks involved in Experiential if it’s so different to traditional above the line marketing? It’s actually not that different from any of your other business risk calculation.

You must start with Data. (sorry)

The data you need depends on who you are and what you want to do, but there are some basic questions that you can ask at the start of any campaign, and they will help you to calculate your risk, find your experiential direction, and set up your KPIs so that you can monitor the success of your campaign.

Questions To Ask When Calculating Your Risk And Direction

Calculating business risks and finding inspiration for campaigns may not seem like two things that should be in the same equation, but the answers to these questions usually have a twofold effect, in that they will help you to do both.

What’s your Brand Essence?

We recently published an article on why it’s important to define your brand values. Your “Brand Essence” helps you to answer this next question:

What is the message you want to send?

Once you have a clear idea of what you want to say and why you want to say it, it will become much easier to define the parameters of your campaign.

What do you hope to achieve through this campaign?

Yes, your knee-jerk answer will probably be “generate sales”. That is the underlying goal of every business. But as a marketer you know that to generate sales you also need a strong brand, a happy audience, and good exposure. Maybe your goal for this campaign is “increase Facebook fans”. Maybe it’s “create awareness about a new product”. It could be any number of things. You have to define a realistic goal for your campaign before you design it, and before you can measure your success in achieving the goal. You also need to be specific. If you want to increase followers you should have a target such as “increase Facebook followers by a thousand people”.

Who are you marketing to?

Who is your target market? Do they tie in with your campaign goals? Where do they spend their time online? Where do they spend their time in reality? What do they spend their money on? What makes them happy? What makes them sad? Who are these people? The answer you get from these questions will help you to direct your Experiential Campaigns and ensure that your campaign goals are realistic.

What are your competitors doing?

When we say your competitors, we don’t just mean other companies with products or services like yours. We mean every other company that your target market spends money with. Learn from those around you. What has worked for them and what hasn’t? What kinds of campaigns get the biggest response from your specific target market? These are valuable insights. Learning from the successes and failures of others will save you precious time and resources.

Data Processing: How to use your Data to calculate Risk

There is a reason why good data costs, and also why successful companies track it. Analyzing your data will help you to calculate the risk involved in what you want to do.

Any business analyst will tell you that you need to take all of the data above and use it to paint a picture. Do your campaign goals tie in with your business goals? Is the tone of your campaign in tune with your brand? What do your customers want? How much do you have to spend and how can you get the most impact for your budget? Do you want to work with an affiliate company? If so, who, and why should they choose you?

When you have this laid out in front of you, it becomes easy to calculate the risks against the potential payoffs, and even to estimate the results you can expect.

What About the Downright Unmeasurable Stuff in Experiential Marketing?

No matter how many metrics, systems, and KPIs we put in place – there is always going to be a certain amount valuable brand equity gained through Experiential campaigns that just can’t be measured right away. Some of it can never be DIRECTLY measured. The only thing you can do is it give it time, watch the trends, and have a bit of faith in what you’re doing.

These “Unmeasurable” Things Include:

Brand Recognition

When a customer recognizes your brand, it doesn’t just mean they know what your name is and what your logo looks like. Brand Recognition means they relate to what your company is all about. They recognize you for the things you do, the things you stand for and the value that you bring to people’s lives.

Emotional Connection to the Brand

Your Brand Experience is designed to make people feel. Feelings are hard to measure. While you can watch the comments on Social Media and see how your sales trends are affected over time, you won’t see the true scope of emotional connection to your brand until it becomes part of your customers’ story too.

Email Signups

You might not be able to see a direct link from website landing page to Email signup after an experiential campaign, but you can see how many new people look for your website and sign up over the next couple of weeks.

Social Engagement

Yes, you can measure this, especially if you have a dedicated hashtag. What you can’t always measure is the effect that Social Engagement has on your revenue – which means it can be hard to track it’s ROI. It is undoubtedly still an essential part of your marketing, though.

Word of Mouth

How can you possibly know how many people hear about your campaigns by WOM? How can you track how long it will last? You can try, you can set up “How did you hear about us” questionnaires on your site. You can track how many new subscribers and page-likes you get in the weeks following a campaign. It is hard to track the exact ROI, but you can definitely get a feel for it if you track your trends over long periods of time.

Building Trust

Trust is one of the most valuable and un-measurable commodities for any brand. Without it you are nothing. With it, you can do amazing things. If your customers really trust you, you can go great places together. Experiential marketing campaigns can build a personal, face-to-face level of trust like no other kind of marketing can.

So, get out there and start writing stories with your market, building trust with your customers, and delivering brand experiences that get people talking!

Dan Salganik

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