How can experience be truly effective in a digital era. Experience is in fact one of the most effective ways to create meaningful relationships with consumers, but the cost of physical reach is high and metrics often too ambiguous to justify budget. Imagination's Christophe Castagnera investigates.

As the bell rings to signal the start of the IPA’s third EffWeek conference it seemed a pertinent time to look at how one of the most difficult to analyse marketing channels is measuring up.

The advent of integrated campaigns and measurement tools now allows brands to take their experiences from the physical to the virtual. There’s potential for a campaign to go viral, creating a wider reach and engagement and stronger ROI. It’s a cost-effective and powerful way to generate impact, so it’s no surprise that going viral remains the Holy Grail for many brands.

This year Imagination launched the first ever index for Live Brand Experiences. Created in partnership with social listening service Synthesio, it analysed and ranked the top 30 award-winning experiences of the previous year. The experiences that came out on top all carry lessons for brands, highlighting the ‘supercharge’ effect that experiences can create, and the powerful uplift that follows.

There are four vital attributes to a successful brand experience campaign. It must be timely, creating a moment that audiences fear missing out on. It has to be personal, generating memories unique to the individual. It must be viral, creating stories to be re-told. And finally, there needs to be an incentive, in the form of a unique experience for the user.

When it comes to looking at these concepts in practice, there are four standout campaigns from the top 10 of the Brand Experience Index that harness these qualities.

Amplification: Nike Strike Night (ranked 1)

With this Grand Prix award-winning campaign, Nike brought together eight of the best strikers in European football for a head-to-head battle broadcast to the world through Facebook Live. The event itself was housed in a secret underground music venue in Islington, London, which generated an exclusive, can’t-be-missed feel.

Audiences were engaged directly to help shape the result of the competition, which created organic amplification. From the data we observed there were two peaks. The first was at each live moment, where fans took part and conversed during the live moments, and the second peak was the celebration once Andre Silva won the competition.

The overall effect was of theatrical crescendo, which led to the FOMO (fear of missing out) phenomenon. We can see from the impact of this campaign the power of creating a moment not to be missed.

Sentiment: The O2’s 10th birthday (ranked 5)

When music venue The O2 turned ten, it was an emotional experience. Fans found themselves immersed in the experience as true stars, from being welcomed by bands playing renditions of their favourite tracks, to getting their very own moment in the spotlight inside a ‘blue carpet,’ where their own names were lit up.

Around 58 per cent of mentions on social were seen as positive. The deep personalisation of this experience meant fans felt involved, as opposed to just witnesses. The effect was felt long after the event itself was over, and the word ‘memories’—which was also associated with words like ‘amazing’—was frequently used across social afterwards.

Our own data shows that when experiences are personalised such as this one was, the conversion rate is 86 per cent higher than from a generic experience. Customers want brands to talk to them one-on-one and will reward the ones that do.

Amplification supercharge: Jaguar Land Rover I-Pace VR Concept Launch (ranked 3)

World firsts are opportunities to grab headlines. This concept launch saw the Jaguar director of design and vehicle line directors live-streamed into the event itself through VR to reveal the car. Guests from London and LA were brought into shared virtual spaces to interact across the continents.

This was the world’s first VR launch and brought amplification to a new level. The data shows the boost was not only in terms of the volume comparison of the social mentions with baseline data, but also the width of the reach. Community analysis showed social conversation around Jaguar usually comes primarily from the automotive community.

However the VR launch widened its reach to include technology and leisure communities too. The launch reached 543m people worldwide, with a video of the experience viewed more than 2m times.

Brand experience is not just about the physical audience. The virtual effect matters too, by creating a story worth talking about and spreading. In future this will become more important in marketing metrics.

Sentiment supercharge: Samsung Slider (ranked 6)

A sentiment supercharge shows an uplift impact on brand health, in comparison with the conversation around the brand in general. The Samsung Slider won audience’s hearts in a unique and fun way. This was a four-person part-carriage, part-roller coaster created to let fans experience rugby in a completely different way that imitated the thrills and spills of the match itself. Data showed words like ‘crazy’ and ‘fun’ were used to describe the experience.

This was an example of a one-of-a-kind incentive that customers couldn’t find anywhere else, and of adding value to brand health as well as promoting products.