Monday, September 26, 2011

If a marketing event happens in a subway, and no one is around to live-stream it, does it make a sound?

Here’s a cool promo event: HBO sponsored a vintage 1920s subway train to promote the season premiere of its “Boardwalk Empire” series.

Fun, yes, but how does it help HBO?  Short answer: a marketing event can make a sound, but you have to know how to listen.

You could argue that a train running only on weekends in September to three stations on the West Side of Manhattan constitutes a limited event, and you’d be right.  Most events have limited audiences, the number of the people who attend.  While some events have built-in measurements, such as sweepstakes entries or samples distributed, this one had very little to measure.  One of the vintage-looking car cards had a prompt to follow the show’s lead character on Facebook, but how many people saw it?  Who knows?

Nielsen ratings probably wouldn’t help measure success because the event comes before the season premiere, which means no room for comparison.  Still, HBO could get a good sense of the power of the event with some very simple measurements.  Here’s how:

  • Even though event attendees might not friend Nucky Thompson on Facebook, they would probably mention the event on Facebook or Twitter.  HBO could follow mentions of the show on social media using social listening tools such as Radian 6 or Visible Technologies.  A simple graph would reveal spikes in activity for the New York area on weekends if successful.  While social mentions to not necessarily guarantee viewers to the show, it does help build the case of the project’s success.
  • The nature of web searches might change around the event.  People might search terms such as “vintage subway rides” or “old subway train” after seeing the cars pass by or hearing about them from friends.  So, by measuring keywords before, during and after the event weekends (and, of course, using SEM and SEO to promote the event’s page), HBO could see the bump afforded by the promotion.

Got any other event-measurement tactics?  Please share!

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