The advertising world is increasingly talking about experiences. Whether that be people desiring and valuing experiences more than they do things. Or how experiences are a greater driver of growth than traditional advertising as people tune out or block advertising.
However, these discussions are often short on evidence with no clear link between activations and business results. This makes it hard to ascertain what is actually happening in this space versus what people claim is happening.
I sat down with Fiona Blades, President and Chief Experience Officer of MESH, an agency that has been measure experiences for a range of blue-chip clients for the last 11 years. We discussed how to measure experiences, how their approach has been validated and what they have learnt along the way.
Why did you start a company to measure experiences?
I started it because I knew that it wasn't just the TV ads that were impacting people. It was very clear that there were many different types of experiences that impacted somebody's decision making. And if you didn't understand all those experiences it would be difficult to know what was changing people's behaviour.
I always loved the quote by Jeremy Bullmore "People build brands like birds build nests from the scraps and straws they chance upon" because that's the ethos that I have. Working with Mercedes Benz we knew that walking into a dealership was important. We knew seeing your neighbour’s car was important. But many of these experiences were not being measured and yet they were having a fundamental impact on what people were doing.
So how do you typically help clients?
I remember we worked with Gatorade in Mexico. The team had a gut feel that investing in experiential touch points like Parks, Gyms and Fitness Centres was going to have more impact than some more traditional media; but they'd no way of measuring that. So they said can you come in and look at it. And sure enough, if somebody had one of those experiential experiences they were twice as likely to positively change their brand perceptions. So the more we can help with measurement the more confidence we can give to clients to use these channels.
How does your approach to measuring experiences differ from other people's?
Well, first of all we look at all experiences. We have an experience model that correlates share of experience with market share. What we mean by share of experience is every experience that somebody has had whether it’s paid, owned or earned. We've collected these in real time - that could be everything from seeing the car on the road to seeing a TV ad.
We know that share of experience has a better correlation with market share than share of voice, which isn't surprising because share of voice is paid media only so you are missing out on two-thirds of your experiences. Paid media is what you push out whereas what we're measuring is what people pick up. So that's the first thing; if you want to grow your brand you need to think about excess share of experience.
What other elements of an experience are important?
All experiences are important but not all channels have equal impact; a face to face conversation is going to have more impact than walking past a poster so we can look at which channels impact the most to make investment decisions.
And the quality of experience is really important, in particular how positive an experience is. A positive experience normally has three times the impact of a neutral one on brand consideration.
And media placement, we know whether placing your poster at a tube station, a bus station or in a taxi is creating the most impact. And we know the context; so what's happening at different times of day. For one client we were able to see that a TV ad viewed on one day had a much more positive response than viewed on others days.
Through consistent experience metrics we can measure and compare apples and apples because you can look at how many people have been reached by the call centre versus by the branch vs mobile app vs TV.
How has your approach been validated?
We've worked with Cranfield School of Management for 7 years. In terms of validation, we've used a whole load of different techniques and we fed the data into things like market mix modelling.
What's exciting when you do that for a company like LG Electronics is that normally they would only know how much money they had invested in retail and what sales had been generated and this data isn’t nuanced enough to come out of the baseline of market mix modelling. But we can see what percentage of people were reached by the interactive display, were reached by the TV wall, were reached in different retailers, for example, Best Buy vs Walmart, and we know how positive these experiences were. Then we can compare LG to brands like Samsung or Phillips. So we got much more nuanced data to feed into econometrics. Which then means it lifts everything out of the baseline and the decisions you take are going to be different because you can explain more of what's going on.
What are some of the most surprising things you’ve discovered?
I think the fact that retail advertising significantly impacts on brand consideration. For example, most people will be picking up their own share of voice. So LG knows what they’re pushing out and what their share of voice is compared to other manufacturers. But actually, they need to know when Best Buy is advertising their brand. This is because, of course, Best Buy and Walmart and Lowes are all putting ads out featuring LG TVs. And we know that, in some instances, those ads are working better than the manufacturer ads.
So we're putting those ads into the share of experience figures, which most people wouldn't be doing. We look at retailer advertising featuring our client’s brand differently as we know it has a significant impact on brand consideration and yet it's being ignored by most companies - but it’s fundamental.
How are you are influencing client’s comms plans and business results?
Well, the Gatorade one is an obvious one where they changed the plan. We said we think you should be investing less in these channels and more in these others because we could see the cost efficiencies in relation to the experiences that were being generated. And they came back six months later and said look at our charts and the brand metrics had improved on the key things the team was looking to impact.
Paul is Global Head of Strategy at Vizeum. He is a Global Strategist with experience that spans a variety of sectors (CPG, Tech, Pharma and Finance) and disciplines (Media, Advertising, CRM and Sales Promotion). He is responsible for European Strategy across all Starcom Global Network Clients including Samsung, P&G, Coke, Airbnb, Novartis, Etihad, Mars. Paul holds a Bachelor in Biological Sciences, Zoology from the University of Oxford.