Experiential Marketing Magical Thinkers Are the Measurement Menaces of the Month

Magic thinking marketers are those who believe that “sharing,” “earned media value,” or “smiles,” are acceptable proxies for business value when measuring experiential marketing. They are our Measurement Menaces of the Month.

We totally share Sam Ruchlewicz’s disdain for marketers who use pseudo metrics to “measure” their events (see his article on measuring M&M’s experiential marketing). As Sam points out, M&M’s measured success (or only tried to, actually) in terms of:

  • 26,000 consumer impressions;
  • 2,200 tweets of the M&M’s hashtag, #UnsquareCaramel, and
  • the garnering of more than 6 million earned social impressions.

They give completely unwarranted credit to impressions, declaring with awed-by-large-numbers pride that the brand’s earned media outreach resulted in “more than 147 million impressions, and the effort overall generated 466 million impressions to date.”

If I was an investor, a board member, or a CFO I would first say “So what?”and then ask:

  • Did the event increase market share relative to other new candy flavors launched this year?
  • Was it more or less successful than their launch of mint-chocolate M&M’s?
  • What was the relative increase in market share relative to marketing spend?
  • How many full-price packages did they sell as a result of the event vs. a year-long TV campaign?
  • And most critical of all: Was it cost effective?

But no one, apparently, thought to anticipate these questions ahead of time. And worse, the metrics that were collected did not allow them to be accurately answered after the fact. All-in-all a giant measurement fail.

M&M’s is just one example of many Measurement Menaces that indulge in magical thinking relative to experiential marketing. Adweek reported that Deb Curtis, vice president of global partnerships and experiential marketing for American Express, believes that smiles are just as good a measure as revenue: “Sometimes the best research of all is looking at people’s faces and seeing how they’re responding. It’s a tried-and-true way to see what’s working.”

I wonder if her CFO or VP of sales buys into that calculation. Who knows, maybe it will be on their next EBITA report. ∞

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