What our industry produces goes by many names: meetings, conventions, conferences, forums, summits, congresses, and more. Freeman uses an umbrella term — brand experiences — to cover everything from “events, trade shows, sponsorships, virtual and hybrid events, and exhibits, to permanent installations, virtual or augmented reality experiences, and cutting-edge pop-ups.” According to the live-experience company, “There’s an art to brand experiences, bringing brands and organizations to life by designing a sensory experience that creates a lasting and meaningful relationship between the brand and an individual.”
How do marketers see those experiences within the context of their overall marketing strategy? To take their pulse, Freeman recently commissioned an independent study —the 2017 Freeman Global Brand Experience Study — of 1,000 of B-to-B and B-to-C marketers in a variety of roles across North America, Asia, and Western Europe. Those quotes above come from a report highlighting the study results, and here are three findings from that report that I found particularly interesting:
- Two-thirds say that brand experience is an effective way to reach their organization’s goals. I would have expected this number to be higher, but I think it points out that while live event’s ROE (return on experience) is understood, we have a way to go to demonstrate this channel’s ROI in achieving quantifiable goals. Indeed, slightly more marketers see events yielding soft returns — growth in brand advocacy and making customers feel valued — versus being effective at lead generation and increasing sales.
According to Freeman EVP and CMO Chris Cavanaugh, these results underscore the need for measurement protocol in live events. “If those folks at the planning stage had ROI data,” Cavanaugh told Convene, “it would help validate what they are doing — and connect them with the C-suite.”
- The perception of brand-experience value varies according to role. The disconnect Cavanaugh alluded to between live-event executors and executives is clear. Forty-eight percent of CMOs place a high value on brand experience for showcasing the organization’s thought leadership, whereas only 33 percent of brand managers and 28 percent of event planners do. On the flip side, more than one-third of brand managers and event planners recognize the value of brand experience as content generators to share with stakeholders unable to attend in person, yet only 21 percent of CMOs ranked that as important.
- Marketers are slow to embrace technology. Only 22 percent of respondents are using some form of interactive touch-screen technology and just 8 percent are experimenting with virtual reality to enhance the live experience. But those organizations that put on 20 or more shows every year are making better use of these high-tech opportunities: 29 percent use interactive touch-screens and 16 percent use virtual reality. And in Asia, that figure is almost double: 31 percent of Asia-based companies are incorporating virtual reality in their events.
There’s certainly an art to producing brand experiences, as Freeman points out in its report. But as the results demonstrate, they also require the discipline of analytics and hard data. “All teams across marketing, brand, communications, advertising, customer experience, data, and marketing automation,” Cavanaugh says in the report, “must have a clear understanding of what they are striving for with straightforward and measurable outcomes.”
You can download the report with highlights of the study here.