Guest Blog: Personalising brand experience with a small data approach

Observing attendee behaviour to create more meaningful event experiences

By Niru Desai, VP, Strategy, FreemanXP

Attendee figures, the number of meetings booked, social media engagement pre and post-event… Our industry is focused on measuring the effectiveness — and ROI — of the experiences we create for our audiences. We rely on these big data insights to reveal patterns in attendee behaviour, and to uncover key trends that we can use to inform and improve our event strategies moving forward. As marketers, analytics are essential to what we do, and importantly, this should also include analysing peoples’ behaviour first-hand — otherwise known as small data capture.

Small data is valuable to all marketing disciplines, particularly events. It’s the more granular information that we gain from observing people, and it exists in the glimpses of human behaviour we see every day. We’re lucky that we play in the live space because there are plentiful opportunities for us to capture this type of data.

Big data-style registration technology might be able to reveal overarching information, for example — which panels were most popular — however, a session being oversold doesn’t necessarily mean attendees found it valuable. If we were to sit in on the session, we would have a more accurate understanding of how it was received. Were people distracted on their phones? Did they ask questions? Were they yawning or completely alert throughout? This feedback will allow us to improve our events and create more personalised offerings for guests.

Lego: a case in point  

Let’s take a step away from brand experience for a moment, because after all, small data is the information we extract from the everyday, and it can be applied to almost any situation.

Take Small Data — The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends, a book by Danish branding expert and small data advocate Martin Lindstrom, which includes a collection of first-hand case studies. In one particular chapter, he explains how toymaker Lego was struggling to stay afloat in the early 2000s until a group of the brand’s marketers went to visit an 11-year-old boy in Germany.

They found that he was very attached to his worn Adidas sneakers, and came to realise the shoes were the boy’s social currency, as they highlighted to the world his abilities as a skateboarder. And herein lies the insight: it occurred to the Lego marketers that young people don’t necessarily get bored easily (contrary to the result of an in-house, big data finding), they are actually willing to devote time to something they are passionate about until they become an expert at it.

This finding prompted Lego to refocus its approach. It moved away from the diversification piece, where it had explored movies, theme parks and more, to re-focus its attention on its foundations — the humble building block. By 2014, Lego was enjoying great success again.

The perfect balance

Small data and big data have equally important roles to play, and they complement one another. Big data points at key trends and overarching consumer behaviour, however, we can lose the individuality in this approach. If we layer these big data findings in with real, accurate small data insights that point to peoples’ hidden desires and habits, we’re able to design more personalised and engaging experiences for them. This combination ensures attendees are satisfied, and ultimately leads to long-term event success.


By Niru Desai, VP, Strategy, FreemanXP

Niru develops and designs experiential marketing strategies that enable clients to achieve a maximized event investment while increasing engagement and brand affinity among their target audiences.

Whether at the country, industry, or audience segment level, she specializes in delivering holistic event portfolio plans and creates strategies that go above and beyond clients’ needs. The brain force behind many successful digital and social media campaigns, Niru keeps a finger to the pulse of what’s new, next, and innovative.

And clients love working with Niru because she can seamlessly balance industry knowledge with deep client insights, resulting in a crystal clear audience snapshot with specific points of differentiation – the building blocks to a successful event portfolio. But what really sets her apart is her innovative research methods, measurement strategies, and collaborative nature.

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Areas of interest
Adam is the co-founder and editor of www.eventindustrynews.com Adam, a technology evangelist also organises Event Tech Live, Europe’s only show dedicated to event technology and the Event Technology Awards. Both events take place in November, London.