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It’s the 21st century, and I swear this still happens.

If you’re not familiar with what “brand activations” is, most likely you’ve seen it in action. This article on Econsultancy describes it best, but in simplest terms, brand activations includes things like things you can experience in malls or in stores for the brand (usually for a new product), or even simpler, product sampling. The activity needs to deliver an experience, not just a product, to the point the brand is “activated” within a consumers’ mind.

Herein lies the rub. While digital-based brand activations, like their advertising product cousins, are wholly measurable (as long as you code it right, that is), offline is often another story. As late as last year I heard an event organiser lament about a large, multi-city event he did for a certain brand where they did not invest in proper customer data management systems, and data collection was done manually in the field. Yes, written on paper and such. It took additional weeks for them to compile all the data into legible reports.

More advanced deployments often use spreadsheets — some even using Microsoft Excel on multiple laptops, of which files need to be synced and compiled later on. Some prudent ones use collaborative spreadsheets like Google Sheets or (less popular) Excel Online. And, while data input may be much more efficient and cleaner than paper input, it becomes a pain when you need to extract certain data for it (usually, “how many people have signed up?” or “how many females have received the product?”) which need further work on the spreadsheet.

There are other problems that arise at offline deployments, stuff like tracking samples going out, or calculating how many people have actually used those VR goggles. You see, while creating brand experiences enhanced by tech may be great, if you don’t invest in a supporting data management system behind it, you may not get two important things:

  1. the actual customer data. Collecting data is always an investment that will prove its worth in the future. The better your data strategy is, the better returns it will provide down the line.
  2. measuring the actual activity. Are customer footfalls provided by the venue accurate? Are you sure the guy with the clicker isn’t slacking around? And if you have footfalls, what’s the percentage of people who actually handled a sample product or participated in whatever experience you provided?

From an event tech company standpoint, allow me to share what I think has been common wisdom at when discussing a possible potential with clients:

Start with a data objective

Many of my discussions with event organisers or brands often start with whether has “new tools”, which in this context usually means something “new” that attracts people to try. In my experience, this works some of the time, but since you have to make something “new”, it doesn’t really provide return on investment since it’s usually expensive. And also, since it’s new, usage time per customer is usually high, thus decreasing the total customer impact.

I usually start with asking what the deployment objectives are, including if there’s a data KPI involved. How many people do you want signed up? How many samples are you aiming to distribute? What kind of data would you like to get from your customers (with consent, of course)? Of course, there are brand priorities, sales objectives and so on, but collecting data consistently for your brand activations will at least provide you with a customer database, and provide insight on how to do future deployments more efficiently.

Create a customer experience flow

This is something I think many people take for granted when planning; — “we’ll figure it out when we start loading”, or “this should be intuitive for our customers”. While we can’t predict how everybody will behave when faced with our deployment, we can plan ahead and create a customer flow — much like how app developers create a user story — and allow for variance. This can be as simple as creating a flowchart, but preferably, you plan your event layout together with the customer flow in mind.

Tip: consider the entire customer flow, not just when they arrive at your deployment. This may even affect your choice of location!

Integrate and measure customer experiences

Your brand activation deployment might involve people using VR goggles, or passing through a multimedia tunnel, or playing a game. While these things are good for branding, you should really consider on accurately measuring the number of people actually engaging with what you have created. Some things we usually do:

  • require a simple sign-up before playing a custom game
  • use “gates”: flow the customer through a “gate” which they have to go through before experiencing something, where an officer can be placed to with a clicker, or using more high-tech stuff like required QR code scanning or RFID chips.

Tip: the customer experience itself can be integrated to your customer data management system through APIs, but if this turns out to be difficult, using a “gate” — say, tap RFID first at the attendant to play the XBox — is also quite effective and efficient.

Consider gamification

If you have a long customer flow, you may want to insert gamification. Say you have 6 activity areas that you want the customer to visit, you can design a customer flow so that when a customer visits each activity area, they get 100 points, which then can be exchanged with branded prizes starting at 300 points. You can use stamp cards, or track this electronically through QR codes or RFID chips issued to customers.

Tip: through using the same system, you can track your stock of freebies and samples given out as well.

Automate reporting as much as possible

While everything I’ve described is still totally doable manually, using a customer data management system designed for your event helps a lot for daily reports to the client (they always ask, right?) and compiling the final activity report. You can also cut down a bit on the number of officers or attendants needed in the field, or decrease their workload. Field work is often overwhelming and sometimes full of distractions, so for important things like measurement and reporting, I always recommend some sort of automation.

For instance, by requiring customers to sign up and get QR code wristbands to engage within the event, you already can measure how many people have actually engaged not only with your event, but at each activity space. You can even ask for more ways to gather data and insights from the customers, as long as it is an integral part of the customer experience flow.

Tip: say you want to measure interest in color schemes, you can do this: set up a digital photobooth (which sends a photo, with a branded digital frame, to the customer’s email) that offers 4 alternative digital frame designs, each with the different color schemes you want to test. Customers will choose the digital frames that they like; you will have the number of customers sampled and the usage numbers of each digital photoframe.

Naturally, there are a lot of possibilities and permutations when you seek to use tech to enhance your brand activations, and not just for stronger word of mouth. We haven’t even begun about passive and active data collection. If you need to know more, drop us a note on contact[at]wooz[dot]in!

Original post here.