XP Land’s Guide to Measuring FOMO: Part 1

The brands that don’t invest in experiential aren’t confused about its power. They absolutely understand the impact it has on consumers and how it establishes connection to foster lasting trust. They know the magic of experiences. But, what they don’t know is how to capture that lightning in a bottle and turn it into an Excel spreadsheet. They have no idea how to measure experiential data.

The future of measurement is changing across marketing channels. No one knows this better than Nielsen, as the company reels from the de-accreditation of it’s national and local TV ratings service. Traditional age, gender and ethnicity demographics that Nielsen and Comscore rely on don’t actually tell us anything about audience attention. Today’s demographics look more like gamers, music festival fans and craft beer aficionados.

Right now, marketers planning their 2022 budgets know that, in order to get any money to invest in experiential, they must first calculate and defend its ROI. Data is king (or queen) because it is the most effective way to allocate budget — what makes the most impact gets the most investment.

Data tells the big bosses upstairs which projects succeed and which fail, but the campaigns with the most stats and figures aren’t always the most “successful.” It’s data storytellers, the interpreters who translate numbers into narratives, that hold the power. And too many data storytellers know that it’s easy to exaggerate and deceive when no one else knows how to decipher the truth. What’s omitted is just as important as what’s shown.

Take Netflix’s Squid Game, which on October 12th became their “most watched series yet,” seen by more than 111 million households. This 111 million isn’t the number who watched from beginning to end. Plenty of people made it through the first episode of the show, said “not for me” and turned it off. So how long did one have to stream Squid Game for Netflix to count it as a “watch?” Two minutes. If you’ve seen Squid Game, you’ll agree that someone didn’t really watch it if they only saw the first two minutes.

The way this measurement — 111 million — tells the story of the underdog success of an ambitious international project will forever transform content strategy across streaming platforms. Data — but more specifically the story it tells — drives decision making.

So how do you measure FOMO?

Experiential has a measurement problem. That problem is not the inability to collect data, but the fact that we’re choosing not to collect data. But why?

It’s hard to measure awe. It’s hard to measure delight. Sometimes we send a survey way after the delight has faded. (Do YOU fill out those surveys?) Sometimes we put a kiosk with smiley faces and frowny faces. (Do YOU push the smiley face?) Sometimes we rely on how much people talked about our event on social media, but we can’t force people to tag us or use our hashtags, no matter how clever we make them. And are people generally pre-disposed to rant about a negative experience than rave about a positive one.

Events and experiences also have long and complicated consumer impact. Someone may have attended a concert in July, then didn’t engage with the brand that produced it again until the holidays. This doesn’t mean that the experience didn’t emotionally resonate with them or that the memories were lost. To be frank, we often choose not to collect data because we worry the numbers won’t look sexy enough to the non-experiential folks.

Also, the importance of measuring reach and impact is too often sidelined to focus on producing the experience itself, and this neglect of reliable measurements leaves too much room for data storytellers to fudge the numbers. Like … way too much room. Sometimes they’re honest best guesses, but in other cases, the numbers are straight up fiction.

OZY Media was caught exaggerating attendance at OZY Fest, having shared attendee numbers that were impossible given the size of their venues. Their lies were made possible by the industry’s “high tolerance for bullshit,” says former Digiday EIC, Brian Morrisey.

That tolerance for bullshit is rapidly declining. Businesses are relying more and more on trusted measurements to demonstrate the value of projects, which has been a consistent challenge for XP. Sure, we all know that experiential is critical to every brand. But it’s difficult to justify putting money toward it without concrete value measurements.

Good news: XP measurement tools exist. But we need to correctly implement and standardize them, which is no small feat. XP Land met with data guru and former Nielsen director Jei-laya Hassan, who helped us understand that there are, in fact, data-driven solutions for the measurement questions facing experiential.

So, what’s the formula for measuring the return on experiential (ROXP, as we call it)? We need to start with three types of measurements:

  1. Reach — How many people participated in the experience?
  2. Impact — How did attendees’ understanding or perception of the event or brand change based on their experience?
  3. Behavior — How does an attendee’s understanding or perception of the event or brand change their behavior or cause them to take action (like subscribe to a newsletter, follow a podcast, sign a petition, vote, become a mentor, or, of course, did the event persuade them to buy something)?

Each of these questions requires its own measurements, process and tools. XP Land will be rolling out deep dives on each in the coming weeks. First up, reach.

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