Everyone knows about ROI, as in “return on investment.” But for evaluating the success of an experiential brand event or marketing campaign, businesses should take an equally close look at ROI, as in “return on innovation.”

To get the most from a brand event, it’s important to look past conventional, post-campaign numbers in order to get a clearer understanding of the event’s impact on audience engagement, memorability and brand perception. In addition to standard ROI, brands should evaluate whether their innovative strategies are connecting with their target audience and inspiring a stronger, longer-lasting connection with them.

Measuring event return on investment and return on innovation

Traditionally, ROI refers to the past and current financial profitability of a given investment — in this case, an experiential brand event — used to assess a brand’s ability to generate earnings. Leading indicators can include:

  • Attendance — The number of people physically present
  • Share of voice and market share — Percentage of online content and buzz around the event
  • Advertising sales — Ad revenues generated that can be applied to the event

When the focus shifts to innovation, the objective is determining how well audience experience leads to active engagement across every available touchpoint:

  • Engagement — The number of people who attend and actively engage with the brand (requesting information, visiting a booth, sharing the brand message on social media, etc.)
  • Memorability — How well do audience members recall a brand after an event? Did the strategy engage audiences before, during and after the event? How did the brand strategy differ from the competition?
  • Brand perception — Was there an emotional connection with the audience? Did the audience truly believe (and love) what the brand had to say?

A comprehensive evaluation of a brand event should factor both types of ROI into the equation.

Your checklist for measuring event ROI

Here’s a checklist to help guide your approach to event ROI and assist in creating brand experiences with the greatest impact and best possible results:

Establish Clear Goals

It’s not enough to say, “We want to put on a spectacular new product launch,” and hope things fall into place. Committing to clear, measurable goals in the earliest stages of the planning process gives your event team a tangible guidepost for action. The result? A more strategic program and a smoother post-event evaluation process.

Toss Out the Rulebook

Unlike a conventional look at return on investment, event ROI is most effective when you move past the usual metrics. After all, every creative brand experience is different (as are the objectives of those experiences), so there really aren’t industry-wide standards of measurement to go by.

If you adopt this out-of-the-box attitude during the brand event’s early planning stages, you can consider the brand experience in a fresh way — transcending stale, traditional metrics that only get in the way of a unique and impactful brand event.

Customization Rules!

Just as traditional metrics don’t necessarily apply to event ROI, the same can be said for event strategies. Remember, to really work, your event must break free of the noise and clutter in your audience’s lives and be something fresh and unique to your brand.

ROI strategy must be customized for each program or event. Define your key metrics or performance indicators in a way that is likely to resonate with your desired brand experience.

Categorize Metrics

The best ROI strategy reflects both the return on investment and the return on innovation. Look closely at how the innovations that made up a key part of your experience impacted your brand story. Did these innovations change the way attendees see you, or did they reinforce how they already feel?

Getting a handle on both investment and innovation enables brands to design a thorough evaluation of the brand experience. As noted earlier, key metrics include attendance, share of voice and market share, engagement and memorability.

Get Emotional

Emotion is one of (if not the most important) driver in the way many consumers evaluate and become loyal to a brand. Look for signs of “brand love” among the audience attending your brand event. Do they believe in what your brand has to say? Does your brand message make them feel engaged and enthusiastic?

Brand love and perception are the key goals of every brand event or engagement.

Look to the Future

All the post-event analysis in the world isn’t worth much if you don’t apply your findings to the next big brand event. The evaluation process should focus on leveraging these results and using them to refine strategy and planning for future events. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What elements of your program had the greatest emotional impact on the audience?
  • Which messages were most enthusiastically received?
  • How should content be changed both in promoting the next brand experience and in the event itself?
  • What needs to be changed about social media activity revolving around your next event?

Your audiences embark on a journey with your brand that may begin with a well-designed and executed event. When such events succeed in “bringing value to people’s lives in the key moments that matter,” innovations in that brand experience “can entertain, solve problems or create new utility across the journey.” For more in-depth information on successful event ROI, take a look at agencyEA’s infographic below.

By Claire Holland

About the author

Claire Holland is Director of Marketing Communications at agencyEA in Chicago, a brand experience agency specializing in experiential, digital and traditional engagement. She guides the strategic vision of the company’s brand, messaging and voice, while supporting and evolving brand strategies for clients. Holland also oversees agencyEA’s internal and external marketing communications, including digital marketing and public relations.

Event ROI Checklist from AgencyEA