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While the economic impact of COVID-19 is likely to be felt for years to come, signs of recovery are increasingly on display. In the U.S., stronger spending is signalling a broader economic surge; between January and March, the GDP grew to within 1% of its pre-pandemic peak of late-2019. Economists expect it to pick up further in the second quarter, with many expecting output to grow by 6% - 7%, according to the Wall Street Journal.
More risk-tolerant, unvaccinated Americans have been leading the spending charge, but with increased vaccination rates and new safety guidelines, that will likely change soon. More and more vaccinated Americans are venturing out of their homes. As of late-May, the NYC subway had hit its highest daily ridership since March 13, 2020; more than 1.7 million traveled through U.S. airports—the most since the beginning of Covid; and the San Francisco and Kansas City Symphonies held their first in-person performances.
For the U.S. and other fortuitous countries that are rebounding from the virus, the outlook is improving. But as businesses reopen and begin building viable financial models, it will be challenging for some marketers to navigate their way as they come through their first recession. To this end, we asked event and experiential marketers if they had lessons they could share from the 2008 recession; their answers underscored the crucial importance of investment in marketing based on incisive data analysis.
“The 2008 recession provided an emphasis on data collection,” says Tavi Fulkerson of The Fulkerson Group.” Events had an increased need to produce demographics, sales leads, mailing lists, etc. Metrics became important to company decisions and how money was budgeted.”
Jennifer Best, All American Entertainment, agrees. “During the recession in 2008, spend and budgets were analyzed and scrutinized more closely than ever,” she says. “As marketers, having a plan to demonstrate value and positive ROI of activities is always a good practice, but even more so during a recession.”
“Recessions breed tomorrow’s market leaders,” says Giant Spoon’s Jeff Bardin. “When you make more noise than you should given your size, you grow.” But, he’s careful to point out, that doesn’t mean that the ‘less is more’ approach is always necessarily the prudent one. “Many companies cut their marketing, creating an uncluttered media space and a real opportunity for their competitors. Past recessions have shown us that investing in marketing during a downturn is strongly associated with positive shareholder value, customer loyalty, and long-term profitability.”
Proving ROI and protecting campaign spend have long been challenging for experiential marketers, but it will be particularly so as events continue to open up. Budgets and resources are tighter, attendance is lower, and there is a higher demand for quality leads. Data will be the one defining factor that drives decisions.
“Data must be captured in a very methodical way, so you can use it in a methodical way,” says Andrew Carlin, EVP, Sales & Customer Success at Limelight. “This is one of the ways our technology comes into play.” At Limelight, we use consumer data to monitor how effective live marketing campaigns are for our clients, YoY. Our AI driven predictive behaviour models help our clients to close the loop on their marketing campaigns and optimize future campaign strategy to improve ROI.
In the coming months and years, it will be imperative to show that you can accurately measure results, show ROI, and prove that your experiential campaigns are valuable. Now is the perfect time to evaluate your marketing stack and ensure that you have the tools you need to create impactful events with a limited budget. Analyzing consumer data enables all of us to make better decisions about the future and ensure that we understand customer and prospect behaviour and how it impacts our bottom lines. Today and going forward.
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