The excitement and buzz around event marketing has allowed us to overlook many of its shortcomings — specifically where it misses one of promotion's greatest strengths: quantifiability.

“We have clients who are very bullish on event marketing, and who are eager to make a lot of noise and create excitement,” says Brad Bryan, president, U.S. Concepts, New York. “Measurement is just not as high a priority for them.”

Many of U.S. Concepts' retail clients, such as Wal-Mart, rely on transactional data — sales growth after the event. This is still the most common ROI approach: to measure sales volume in the weeks after the event, conduct direct questioning as attendees are leaving the event, and in many cases, do an e-mail follow-up in the succeeding weeks.

“For Wal-Mart's management, ROI equals sales,” he says.

Is That Enough?

Other companies take ROI measurement a few steps further. Michael Westcott, vice president of marketing, The George P. Johnson Co., Detroit, advises clients to use at least seven ways to measure their event marketing: track lead quality and quantity; calculate total audience size and the quality of impressions; assess the overall effectiveness of the brand message; gather competitive intelligence (from a trade show floor, for example); gain a better understanding of audience behavior; find specific sales opportunities at the event where an incentive is given; and evaluate the effect on public relations. “Marketers and the agencies that support them should build in programs that measure as many of these parameters as possible,” he says.

Like Bryan, Westcott has learned that different clients have different measurement priorities. In the high-tech sector, for example, sales opportunities are the most important measure. For consumer brands, impressions tend to be more relevant.

For companies that can't get enough data, AMP Designs, New York, developed its Brand Ambassador Tracking System, a Web-based reporting tool that captures estimated attendance figures and demographics on the crowd as well as the numbers of samples, premiums, and coupons distributed. BATS also allows the event staff to transmit quotes, photos, and event highlights to a secure Web site, where the client company can review it and use it as it chooses.

But for all the data that is being generated and crunched, Pam Batalis thinks that many companies miss the mark with their measurement techniques. Batalis is vice president-business development for Brand Keys Inc., a New York — based research and brand consultancy. She is also the co-chair of the Promotion Marketing Association's new ROI subcommittee.

Adding to the pressure, she says, is the fact that consumers have grown more complex. There has been an overall increase in the volume of marketing messages assailing the average American.

Measuring ROI is no longer enough, says Batalis. “We need metrics that will quantifiably assess all aspects of an integrated campaign. … We're beginning to encourage people to think about ROE: return-on-equity. We want people to ask how their promotions and events drive brand equity.”

Equity measurement goes beyond the transactional data or the assumption that the numbers of widgets moved at a county fair was the indicator of loyalty or a tendency to buy widgets in the future. “The problem is, it's not,” she says.

Batalis advises marketers not to rely solely on direct or indirect data; effective analysis emerges only from the appropriate mix of both. Questions should be based on clinical psychology models to unearth emotional responses. The goal is to find out what consumers really think versus what they say they think. ROE measurement also relies on weighting algorithms, and factor and statistical regression analysis.

Too Much Information?

Some would argue that there's a point at which measurement can become too complex. Bryan warns that the ROE approach can be too much of a good thing, and might not be necessary to measure every event every time. “The return-on-equity approach makes a lot of sense, but not every company needs that much validation to run an event.”

The payoff, says Batalis, is a stronger brand. “More than ad spend, more than direct mail, events touch the consumer and impact the brand — but brands have not helped themselves” by offering an accurate measure of their effect. “The same-old, same-old doesn't cut it anymore.”

Kathleen Joyce is the editor of Promo magazine, Stamford, Conn. (, a Primedia Business publication.