Insight: New research from Freeman and SSI confirms brand experiences matter to marketers and they are willing to pay for them

Chris_CavanaughlittleGlobal survey shows marketers trust well-designed sensory experiences to build relationships, drive sales and appeal to new audiences

CMOs, brand managers, and event planners alike worldwide are putting more emphasis on in-person brand experiences, according to a new survey conducted by Freeman and SSI, provider of data solutions and technology for consumer and B-to-B survey research. As marketers see the positive results from immersive, sensory brand experiences – encompassing everything from events, trade shows, sponsorships, virtual and hybrid events, and exhibits, to permanent installations, virtual or augmented reality experiences, and cutting-edge pop-ups – they expect to increase spend in this area to get closer to customers, build loyalty, and remain top of mind in purchase decisions.

The study polled nearly 1,000 marketing professionals across North America, Asia and Western Europe, in roles focused on both B-to-B and B-to-C segments, confirming that brand experience is more central to their roles today than it was in the past. They believe both B-to-B and consumer audiences seek more personalised interactions with brands, and more than nine out of ten of them agree that brand experiences deliver stronger face-to-face interactions and more compelling brand engagements.

“The role of brand experience continues to increase in scope and importance, as audience expectations evolve,” said Chris Cavanaugh, executive vice president & Chief Marketing Officer at Freeman. “Steep competition, changing demographics and more sophisticated audiences mean now, more than ever, marketers need new approaches. The right brand experiences have the power to evolve brands, build relationships and inspire action. Our new research helps us understand brand experience as a medium of the future.”

Across the board, more than two-thirds of survey respondents agree that brand experience is an effective way to reach their organizations’ goals. Key findings from the research include:

  • By and large, marketers feel brand experience is great for building loyalty, with 59 percent of chief marketing officers (CMOs) recognising brand experience for its ability to create ongoing relationships with key audiences.
  • As marketers realise the value of brand experiences, they are shifting spend, with more than one in three CMOs expecting to allocate 21-50 percent of their budget to brand experience marketing over the next three to five years.
  • Marketers believe in customising experiences to create stronger connections, yet they may not be moving fast enough. Currently, the top three tactics they are using to drive brand experience are standard: website (58 percent), social media (57 percent) and email marketing (51 percent). However, when it comes to immersing an audience into a brand, there’s an entire toolbox of game-changing technology out there. Companies involved in more than 20 events per year are taking greater advantage of these tools, which include interactive touch screens, location mapping, virtual reality, and gamification.
  • In Asia especially, marketers appear to be early adopters of more immersive, interactive technologies, with 42 percent tapping into sensory interaction as a way to personalise brand experience, compared to 28 percent in North America and 13 percent in Western Europe; 31 percent of Asian companies using virtual reality, compared to a meagre 7 to 9 percent elsewhere. Gamification is another growing digital integration, with 22 percent of companies in Asia versus only 9 percent and 13 percent for their respective counterparts.
  • Brand experience is growing across all sectors, yet when looking at marketing roles within an organisation, there is a disconnect, providing an opportunity for greater alignment. For example, 48 percent of CMOs value brand experience for its ability to showcase thought leadership, yet that number drops to 33 percent among brand managers and 28 percent among event planners. More than 58 percent of CMOs feel brand experience delivers strong impact in connecting audiences to their brands and increasing advocacy, yet those numbers drop by 13 to 18 percent with brand managers and event planners.

For more insights or to download the full Freeman brand experience survey,  visit

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