Marketers know that they need to create engaging experiences that will resonate with their audience. That’s a given at this stage. Where they engage is a different debate. Let’s keep it simple for this discussion. Ideally budget allows for a live experience that uses the correct channels to promote and subsequently amplify post event to deliver the desired results. That’s an ideal textbook scenario where budgets are not squeezed. So what do we do when budgets come in to play?

Experiential marketing has always struggled to shake the tag that it can be a costly and somewhat inefficient discipline. The main issue here being that the comparative metric is usually reach. It’s a bad comparison. We have already agreed that we are looking for meaningful engagements and not just reach so can we please stop that right now?

Brand teams want the buzz that comes from an engaging experience as once we transfer from live to social we have our tracking metrics ready to go and boy do we love tracking reach and sentiment online. It makes sense. It allows brand teams to have reportable data that goes nicely into a quarterly presentation and most importantly shows an upward curve in likes, follows, clicks and hopefully sales if we have all done our jobs right.

The issue is that the live experience is seen as the big expense on the campaign and as it is more difficult to track live sentiment and also produces a much lower reach it’s the first item that gets put on the chopping board when the budget butcher dons her finance hat. It’s simple. 5000 people experienced the campaign in person and we reached 500,000 through our social amplification. Super. I know where the budget is going. Slow down tiger. It’s not that easy. We need to make sure we are using representative data when creating the buzz. Let’s make sure that the 500,000 reach is actually reaching the right people.

Advertising is making the same mistake. Take Facebook Insights. This system allows you to quickly and easily understand the demographics and interests of a brand’s Facebook fans.

According to Facebook’s data, 86% of Lady Gaga fans are female. If you accepted that at face value, you would ignore men when trying to sell her albums. But is that correct?

Spotify streaming data tells a different story; according to that, only 56% of listeners are women.

The Facebook data harbours a bias. It doesn’t capture all of Lady Gaga’s fans but merely those willing to publically admit their fandom. Social media data reflects what people want the world to think about them not their actual behaviours.

If the problems were isolated to a few Lady Gaga fans, then advertising could rest easy. But many of the data sources we rely on are flawed.

For example, social listening systematically exaggerates the importance of brands in consumers’ lives. Only those with a strong opinion bother to tweet about a brand.

So it’s clear we need the honey to deliver the right buzz. And let’s be honest no one wants cheap honey. Value is important but quality is what is vital. What can we do? 

  • Don’t overlook the creative. Work with excellent storytellers and empower them to create experiences that have a compelling narrative that will engage with people.  

  • Think beyond the primary experience at the inception. Yes invest properly into the live experience but then make sure you are smart in how you set up the experience to live on social for the secondary audience. 

  • The live experience may be unique but are you offering a unique shareable experience for people to connect with their friends and followers? We all love a good photo sharing experience but can we be smarter about how we create this vital moment? 

  • Look beyond your paid and owned channels to deliver earned media. Be specific and target relevant media and involve them from the off in the pre promotion. Develop content for their channels that is relevant to their audience. It’s win-win. 


Jonny Davis