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How We Cracked the Code on Measuring Brand Experience

A little over five years ago, my team and I at GMR Marketing set out to answer a question we had faced time and again from clients over the decades as brand marketers.

It was always some combination of the setup: “We love experience marketing,”

Followed by the qualifier: “but….”

And then the hammer: “I’m finding it hard to justify to my (insert boss’s title – CFO/CEO/President/etc.) why we should continue to invest in experiences when we don’t have measurable ROI compared to the rest of our marketing mix.”

It was a problem without a solution. Nobody in the experience marketing business had a scientifically proven way to demonstrate ROI. So, we at GMR set out to discover whether the industry we created in 1979 could be shifted permanently, by delivering solutions that allowed us to confidently tell brands what, where, and how they should activate and what ROI they should expect when they do all those things.

Was it easy? No. If it was, I wouldn’t be writing this with “a little over five years ago” at the outset. It took years of quantitative and qualitative data collection and research. It took years of hard work from humans – data scientists, strategists, and creatives – analyzing that data and devising and refining lab and field-based experiments to stress test our hypotheses and position data at the forefront of brand experience.

The hard work paid off, and in 2022, we hit a breakthrough that developed into what is now known as SOLE Science™. We spent the year doing continuous direct measurements of brand experiences everywhere they happen across North America. The experiences of 450 distinct brands, observed across dozens of sporting, music, and cultural events, along with conferences and expos.

That data science practice we have been cultivating since 2018 took that observation data and analyzed all of the tactics used by those brands. Things like footprint size, brand ambassador behavior, sampling, swag, games, digital technologies, amenities, product demos. In order to understand how need states are being met, we measured participant reactions. Both subjective measures that ladder up to concepts like coolness and shareworthiness, but also more objective measures such as footprint utilization. Line length. Dwell time.

More critically, we also collect specialized measurements of the hallmarks of memory-making. Sensory immersion. Engagement volume. Relevance to context.

The result is what I’m sharing with you today – the inaugural GMR Brand Experience Index©, the first-ever holistic assessment of brand experience impact on brand-embedded memory creation. You can review our analysis of the most effective memory-making branded experiences at each of the events we measured in 2022, see what we took away as broad trends and relevant takeaways, and celebrate some of the boldest and most effective moves made by both the usual suspects and the scrappy upstarts.

And for our clients? We have the answers now, and we’re actively sharing our findings with them through the lens of SOLE Science™. For everyone else, you’ll have to reach me to find out, but suffice it to say: We know what’s happening. We can see what’s working and what isn’t. And, most importantly, we understand how it all works and how that translates to that long-awaited ROI that is six times more likely to have consumers remember your brand when it matters most, when they are considering alternatives and making purchasing decisions.

If you’re a marketer or a brand decision maker, I know you’ve dealt with that C-suite skepticism I posed earlier about the quantifiable value of experience marketing. The answer we have is a dream come true, because we’ve been there too: The data-backed power to stand out from a sea of brand sameness. The real-time evidence to create memories that matter without wasting your company’s time and money. If any of that interests you, hit me (Elke Jones) up for a conversation. I promise it’ll be the first of many great experiences with GMR.