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Recalibrating Your Marketing Budget: The ROI on Brand Experience

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Chris Cavanaugh

Chris Cavanaugh

Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer

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Add brand experiences to the mix to gain loyalty

There’s never been a more exciting and challenging time to be a CMO. Our roles continue to expand with changing demographics, the explosive growth of digital and data, and the demand for our efforts to drive real and measurable business results.

Marketing in today’s environment has become more complex and competitive, and as a result, much more valuable. This has brands exploring unique approaches in their quest to engage with audiences and compete with the onslaught of online distractions. This also might be the reason we see a growing reliance on brand experiences to capture attention and build lasting relationships. Where many marketing channels are great at building awareness, the strength of the brand experience medium is that it can build loyalty like no other channel. 

If you are leading your company’s marketing effort, and you are currently considering all options, here are a few reasons brand experience may just be the missing link in your marketing mix.

They create a deeper connection

Digital marketing is an essential part of the marketing mix, but it is ultimately a one-dimensional medium, whereas brand experience, with its interpersonal face-to-face dynamic, provides a human element and the ability for audience members to connect with each other and with the brands they love. In our recent study, we learned that 59 percent of CMOs recognize the potential for brand experiences to create ongoing relationships with key audiences

Our same study revealed that more than 90 percent of marketers agree that brand experience delivers strong personal interaction and more compelling brand engagement. And why not? A brand experience is a shared moment between audience members and a brand. Instead of simply building a messaging campaign or a website, you are building relationships, and more importantly, a community. 

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They are infinitely more measurable

From mobile devices and apps to RFID and NFC to emotional analytics and biometrics, a typical brand experience space is bristling with hundreds (if not thousands) of data touchpoints. Utilized properly, they would offer myriad ways to learn more about your audience (including their behaviors, interests, and emotions), and in turn, unlock the deeper insights that will help you learn how to better serve them.

To date, we haven’t quite unlocked the full potential of all these brand experience data touchpoints. Some of the smartest minds in the industry are working on creating “data ecosystems” that would allow us to consolidate and unify our entire data strategy — including how we collect, manage, store, and analyze said data. I’m confident we will see some incredible developments in this area in the coming years that will only make the medium that much more valuable.

They are more immersive

Brand experiences combine education, entertainment, and engagement. A brand experience begins as a blank canvas, and through a combination of design, storytelling, world-building, technology, human interaction, and multisensory engagement, it becomes much more than the sum of its parts. It becomes something beautiful. 

The best brand experiences take attendees on a journey, surround them with the world of the brand, and allow them to linger there, soaking it all in. The benefit of this? No other medium can match the ability of brand experience to create a lasting impression and leave the participants feeling inspired and motivated.

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They have a higher potential for sharing

Social media has become a highlight reel of our lives. It’s a way for us to share our unique life experiences with our friends and family, and events are a prime sharing location. In fact, nearly half of all Millennials surveyed (48 percent) admit to attending events so they can collect material to post to their social feeds. They clearly want to share — you just have to give them the right material to inspire them. 

Designed properly, brand experiences can provide a wealth of photo and sharing opportunities for your audience. The right aesthetic certainly helps. Good signage and event-specific hashtags are a given, as are live video feeds to include non-attendees and expand reach. But you should also consider newer technologies such as geofencing, which creates a virtual boundary around an event and allows you to analyze all the social media posts being made from within that area. 

They can create lasting memories

The unique thing about brand experiences is that they capture a moment in time. People pack their bags and board flights to travel across the country (or around the world) to attend them. And the most successful brands are the ones that create experiences that resonate long after the venue has cleared out. 

The question is, how do brands maintain that energy once the event has closed its doors and everyone has gone home? This is where digital marketing comes in. Today’s most successful brands take that momentum and apply it to ongoing campaigns, extending the narrative — and the memories — via a number of digital channels such as email, social, and web promotions.  

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They resonate with younger audiences

By now we’ve all heard the statistic that younger generations are more interested in experiences than in material possessions. We also know this shift is driven by an overarching need for authenticity. A brand experience reverses the communication flow of traditional marketing (by inviting audiences in rather than coming to them) and allows them to make honest, authentic connections and build a relationship, not just with a brand but with other people as well.

Because of their authentic nature, brand experiences have a higher “stickiness” potential, meaning that they can develop brand ambassadors for life. And as we all know, retention and brand loyalty can provide a higher ROI than acquisition. 

Getting a good return on your investment

Now more than ever, brand loyalty is key. Channels continue to pop up at an alarming rate, audiences continue to fragment and blur lines, and the competition for attention spans and hearts is steep. The CMOs and marketers of today and tomorrow will need every tool in their arsenal to build dedicated, loyal audiences and retain them over time. 

Fortunately, the industry is doing a great job keeping up. Over the years, we’ve seen brand experience and digital continue to develop and evolve, creating exciting new possibilities for the entire marketing world. What’s more, these are two channels that are “growing up together,” in a sense, reveal intriguing opportunities for ongoing brand narratives that jump from one channel to the other seamlessly. 

With brand experience, there’s a good chance we’ll see a future where the connection between brands and their audiences has no clear-cut beginning or end — it simply continues to build and grow like any good relationship. And that’s a return any CMO would approve of. 

For more on important trends in the industry, download the insights paper: Tomorrow, Today: The Future of Brand Experience

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