The metric to measure + the sentiment to design for

5 min read

Illustration by Niallycat

In the late 90s Pine & Gilmore introduced the concept of the experience economy, they suggested that this new economy is based on an offering of memories.

So, you can argue that the whole point of leveraging the experience economy, through a brand experience is to initiate positive feelings or emotions. These then transcend into a positive association, deeper connections with the brand, and ultimately influencing action.  

If we’re talking about objectives and outcomes, then we should be designing for moments that initiate feelings like joy, excitement, curiosity & trust. If this is so, then should the success of these curated moments not be quantified? If you don’t think you curate your experiences in this way, you most likely are, you’re just calling it an ‘instagrammable moment’. 

Proving the success of experiential is one of our biggest shortcomings. Last year, EA published a survey suggesting 70% of industry professionals still struggle to prove the ROI of experiential. An uncomfortable statistic in an industry that commands billions of marketing spend.  

This is where Affect Recognition (Emotional Tracking) enters the play for me. It is a huge growth industry and big tech is on board. So, the hope is that we are now at a cusp of a reliable method of measuring sentiment. Yes, it is a hot topic on ethical grounds, but I think that when Affect Recognition is integrated into a branded environment it will be approached the same way as we currently exchange our data for an experience of value. 

Whichever way Affect Recognition is integrated into experiences, it will revolutionise the quality of insight we will have to draw upon when design the next experience. Paired successfully with other methods of data gathering we could finally have an accurate way to measure the immediate success of the experience.

The Power of Emotions

Since neuroscience kicked it up a notch in the 90s with fMRI scanning, we’ve known that emotions play a central role in social cognition and decision-making. Last year Forrester Research confirmed; how customers feel, influence their actions 1.5x greater than how they think.
In another study by Schnebelen & Bruhn, they found that positive moment-based consumer experiences positively influenced purchase intention and word-of-mouth behaviour. Other studies have indicated a willingness to pay more and an increased likelihood for actions such as loyalty. 

"The last remaining, untapped area for significant competitor advantage which is enduring... is first understanding the real why? ... That doesn't mean just being customer centric but be Amamygdala centric.... appealing to the parts of our brain that influence our behaviour without any effect on our reasoning"
Rory Sutherland, VC, Ogilvy (Nudgestock 2020)

Something I find particularly interesting is that if we can find the positive in the present then we achieve something called a ‘happiness advantage’. Shaun Achor in his brilliant TEDx talk states that this advantage makes our brains perform significantly better than at negative, neutral or stressed. As a result, your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, and your energy levels rise. This is because of a release of dopamine to the brain, which makes you happier but also turns on all the learning centres in the brain. Apply this to experiential and we have a customer that is far better engaged with increased recall and you can sleep happily knowing that you’ve made a positive impact on someone’s day. 

On the topic of civic actions, Gilovich has proven experiences make us happier, which makes us more grateful, which in turn makes us more likely to engage in a prosocial act. So, the implications of creating positive focused experiential activations within fundraising could be tenfold.

End notes

It is, however, important to stress that we are aiming to induce momentary positivity. Happiness is a complex long-form concept, we as organisers can only curate a short period of time but aiming for these moments to endure in the remembering self and impact a participants life positively to maintain an ethical experience.  

Each participant is an individual, interpreting touch points differently. They come to the experience at different levels of positivity because of external factors and also how well you have created anticipation. Eliminating negative triggers will be just as important as creating positive ones and understanding your target demographic will be critical to understanding what creates a happier experience.

I can't escape the feeling like this is an exciting opportunity to improve how we approach experiential design. So, if we plan to design more for a holistic positive experience with rich storytelling, I believe we will see better experiences, measured much more effectively.


  • Emotions play a central role in social cognition and decision-making.
  • How you feel influences actions 1.5x greater than how you think
  • Positive experiences improve likelihood to purchase, advocacy and loyalty.
  • Be Amygdala centric (it's the part of the brain that receives input from the sensory systems to affect the emotional response... it is believed to process positive stimuli & emotional memories)
  • Happiness advantage exists and with it we are more intelligent, creative, energetic and willing to learn.
  • Happiness results in gratitude. Gratitude is often returned as a prosocial action.
  • Effecting a person's life positively is personally rewarding and ethical, so design for happiness