Valuing the intangible

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Valuing the intangible

Pádraic Gilligan, chief marketing officer, SITE, looks ‘beyond’ ROI with a new White Paper


PCMA, with the support of Marriott and others, released an interesting White Paper in December entitled ‘Beyond ROI … to ROE (Return on Events): Measuring The Impact of Business Events’. Working with branding agency, Fruition Co, this White Paper makes a compelling case for a holistic approach to event measurement, one that considers both the quantitative and the qualitative outcomes.

ROI (dollars out/dollars in) is one measure, but what other factors contribute to a broader view of an event’s impact? And how do we evaluate, measure, and report on those factors?

PCMA’s White Paper might be new, but the questions around evaluation, measurement and reporting are decades old. They are also questions that incentive travel professionals have grappled with for a very long time. In this regard, the results from this year’s Incentive Travel Industry Index do yield up some interesting insights.

Incentive travel has always been linked with financial ROI in that the entire programme is funded from the incremental sales generated by the campaign itself. The campaign produces an immediate uplift in performance (and revenues) and the value of this is offset against the cost of the campaign, meaning it’s self-liquidating. ROI is calculated by subtracting the cost of the campaign from the incremental revenues that it generates. 

When asked to identify the most important outcomes for a motivational campaign, incentive travel professionals have always ranked financial outcomes, like the example above, in the top spot. That is until this year. This year’s Incentive Travel Industry Index (ITII), for the first time, deprioritises tangible, financial ROI in favour of the intangible. This year, as our industry battles with what is arguably the biggest challenge it has ever faced, we rank soft power above hard dollars – decisively. We place the highest value on the intangible. 

Over the past few years ITII has been tracking a gradual shift from tangible outcomes to intangible ones, from quantitative benefits to qualitative ones, to use the terms deployed by the PCMA White Paper. 

This certainly reflected a growing realisation that incentive travel impacted qualifiers and their organisations in ways much more impactful than mere economic outcomes – the relationships built across the organisation between qualifiers and company officers, for example, or the connections forged between qualifiers. 

These were enduring outcomes that impacted positively on company culture, reinforcing values and fostering company loyalty.

The 2020 results indicate that we’ve taken another step forward in terms of how we value the intangible. When asked how the future importance of various programme benefits have changed relative to programmes run prior to Covid-19, the top four benefits are all intangible involving improved engagement, better relationships between employees and management, etc. 

ITII 2020, despite the turbulent year in which it was conducted, shows evidence of an industry growing confident and strong in the realisation that incentive travel is impactful way beyond the obvious ROI that it generates, delivering enduring, intangible benefits that make a serious difference for qualifiers and corporations alike.  

Stuart Wood is a news reporter across the Mash Media editorial portfolio. He writes for CMW alongside sister publications Conference News, Exhibition News, Access All Areas and Exhibition World.

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