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Tips to incorporate first-party data collection into experiential marketing

Learn from expert experiential marketers about their tips for capturing first-party data at branded events.

By Katie Hicks from MarketingBrew

Listen to episode here

So you got people to come to your marketing event. Now what?

Adam Salacuse, founder of experiential marketing activation company Alt Terrain, told us that he often has to remind clients to incorporate first-party data collection into their experiential activations so that customer interactions aren’t just one-and-done.

“It’s unfortunate because really the end goal is, ‘How do you have impact beyond your [event]?’” he said.

We spoke with Salacuse and other experiential marketers about their tips for capturing firstparty data at branded events.

Time and place
Dave Kersey, chief media officer at GSD&M, told us that the agency often builds pre- and postevent data collection into events—from asking people to sign up beforehand to thanking them for their attendance and offering to keep in touch afterwards.

“We do see success from both, because ultimately, if someone’s signing up, they’re interested at some level,” he said. Post-event, he added, people are “more connected to the brand, they’ve experienced it, they’re doing it proactively because they want more from the brand,” which could indicate a better return rate.

During an event, Salacuse said one way to collect data is by featuring activities that require contact, like a photo booth where people enter their email address to receive the photos. From there, he said, the brand can follow up to see if the customer would like to continue the relationship.

Salacuse said other ways include asking people to sign up for an app or subscribe to a newsletter in exchange for things like samples. “People are more apt to give their information out when they’re in a good mood, when they’re having fun, when they’re emotionally engaged,” he said, adding that “you don’t want to feel like a transaction.”

Make it natural
Marc Simons, co-founder of creative agency Giant Spoon, also emphasized the importance of making the data capture not seem too sales-y so as not to potentially disrupt the experience. “If it feels like it’s going to be out of place, we will sort of recommend against it,” he said.

Giant Spoon recently collected first-party data at Lizzo concerts for her brand Yitty by encouraging people to take pictures of an inflatable butt (not kidding) with a QR code on it. From there, people were taken to a page where they could share their information and enter into a sweepstakes.

He also pointed to a Comic Con activation the agency did for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, in which people signed up through a form as if they were being processed at the precinct in the show.

“It didn’t feel as jarring. You were like, ‘Okay, cool. This is fun. This is part of the experience,’” he said, adding that “it’s not just about collecting your data, but it’s actually part of the in-world experience that you might be creating.”

Keep in mind
If a brand is looking to build up a loyal customer base, Kersey said that he generally advises against offering one-time incentives in exchange for customer information: “What I’ve seen in the past is people will sign up just for the immediate discount, but it doesn’t really connect them to the brand long term. It’s just for that instant gratification,” he said.

He also said it’s important to be transparent about what data is being collected and how it will be used. “Consumers are becoming more aware of what they’re signing up for and how their data is going to be used, knowing that their data has a lot of value to it,” he said. He added that he’s seen some brands make sign-ups seem mandatory, while others have sold data to affiliate partners, which is “getting a lot of pushback from consumers.”

One final tip? Kersey said to customize your messaging instead of inundating attendees with generalized email blasts: “Having a thoughtful marketing structure on how to reengage people is key, versus it feeling like a very organic experience in person and then [they] become another number on the distribution list.”

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