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Jack Glasscock

Return on Investment vs Return on Experience

Return on Investment (ROI) has always been the king of metrics. No-one likes to waste money – and marketers, like in any other industry, need to justify their expense with a cold, hard stat. But…it’s 2020 and, even in this digital age, customers crave experiences over material possessions. So, is Return on Experience (ROX) here to steal the crown?

When we posed the question to our Creative Director, Matt Rowland, his eyes lit up, he sat back in his chair and he encouraged us to pull up a pew…and pour a brew.

“I’ve always struggled with ROI as the sole measurement of success for an activation. Consumers aren’t necessarily considering their purchase at that stage. Their brain is still trying to convince itself that it’s done its calculations and it’s getting the best product at the best price…from a brand it’s not completely opposed to.

Yes, investing in point of sale design to pull your product out on a gondola end in a supermarket will instantly justify its investment; that’s just a question of visibility. But, when it comes to a bigger ticket item, like a car or a £1000 smartphone, you need to generate a deeper emotional commitment.”

At that point, you could hear our Managing Director, Tim Leney, walking up the stairs into the Studio. He’d made himself a coffee and was ready to weigh in on this headline topic.

“What we’ve found in our 35 years of experience…and experiences…is that shoppers have a preconditioned bias towards brands they like and it takes more than an aggressive price point to change their mind. They respond to first-hand experience, especially when it comes to slower moving consumer goods. The right strategy and the right experience will be much more memorable and effective in bringing your brand front of mind over and above competitors.

And for that you need time…time to convince and time to nurture brand affinity. So, you can supplement it with some instant gratification; a chance to win or a giveaway. But it all feeds into the grander ambition, creating positive associations and encouraging a move from passive to active consideration.”

Matt nodded in agreement, took another sip of his cup of tea and added, “even though you might not feel the need to urgently replace your car, or your smartphone, a quality experience will plant a seed and create a timeline for sale post-activation.”

“Personally, I like the concept of ROX.”

We all spun around to see our Group Account Director, Dawn Nottley, ready to join the conversation.

Without skipping a beat, Dawn continued, “it acknowledges the buying patterns of consumers and the halo effect that activations have on sales. Regardless of how subjective or unquantifiable you think it is, it’s an essential part of the marketing mix when taking a new product to market.

Consumer dwell time is worth its weight in gold. It creates dialogue around your product, its innovation and USPs. Without it, you could be trumped by your competitions’ price point. Opportunity to sell gone. Just like that.”

Tim stands up, picking up Dawn’s metaphorical mic drop in the process and goes to leave the studio, leaving us with a salient point, “ROX makes the consumer the centre of attention, rather than the brand or product. Creatively, that forces you to position your product in relation to them, rather than the other way around. Positive brand experiences create a natural environment where sales can take place without appearing disingenuous.”

But, never one to relinquish the last word, Matt puts down his cup and punctuates our debate: “Getting an accurate ROI for brand activation is a challenge – and while ROX might take the focus off sales figures I doubt it will go a long way to appeasing the bean counters who set the budgets. But, it’s not wholly dependent on financial investment. As long as you make sure your activation is true to your brand ethos, well-conceived and relevant to the consumer journey, I can’t see how your ROX wouldn’t be through the roof and translate into sales – be it on the day, or in the future.”

So, really, it’s not a question of ROX replacing ROI…because it doesn’t. In fact, a carefully considered approach to ROX could ultimately satisfy your ROI by creating memorable experiences that live with your consumers and that ensure your brand lives with them too.

On the day, there wasn’t a winner between our three stooges because, ultimately, they were all singing from the same hymn sheet.

Written by Jack Glasscock
February 13, 2020

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