1. We Are All Designers

Designing for Return on Interest

Whatever industry you happen to be in, when the conversation turns to metrics, it pretty quickly jumps to the bottom line. We wouldn’t be good business people if we didn’t care about Return on Investment. From product development to marketing, everyone wants to know that they’re getting their money’s worth.


One hundred years ago, retailing pioneer John Wanamaker reportedly said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

I’m not sure we’re much smarter today, but in the world of experiential design, we at least understand that participants also demand and deserve good value. It is no longer sufficient to sell exhibitors floor space, invite the entire database, and expect people to come. Or, more to the point, to come back. Ever.

Attendees don’t take time to attend expos to see how much square feet you can fill up. They come to learn, to socialize, to make valuable business connections, to shop for solutions, and to fill any number of personal needs. Today we owe them a curated experience.

In this sense, I like to think of “ROI” as “Return on Interest.” People will go to the shows and conferences where they get the most for their time. If we want people to spend their priceless time in our expo, attending our convention, or engaged in the branded experiences we create, we’d better be prepared with a personally rewarding proposition that holds their interest.

In the era of immersive experiences, we are seeing that the boundaries between analog and digital content are dissolving. Smart marketers are discovering new ways to engage with and connect people. How we help people connect has everything to do with why they are willing to connect with us. Are we providing the information, education or experience they need professionally? Are we helping build their network? Are we raising their equity within a valued social community? Are we entertaining them in a way that will keep them coming back? What’s the user experience?

Before you solve for Return on Investment, design for Return on Interest. The correlation isn’t accidental.