Experiential Learning: the Retention Times for Different Learning Styles

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Experiential as a discipline has struggled to truly prove itself when it comes to return on investment (ROI). Although there are many agencies and brands investing in this area it is still well behind the more established disciplines such as advertising, media and PR. Obviously one of the huge advantages of digital is that any work done on line can be easily measured through various metrics and analytics.

With that in mind I recently read a report conducted by the US and UK Postal Services which for me goes some way to explain the possible ROI that can be achieved through a good experiential activity.

The report looked at the retention levels of students and employees based on three different learning styles; being told, being told and shown and being told, shown and physically experiencing something.

Extensive empirical evidence produced the following results…


Recall after 3 weeks;

  • Told = 70%
  • Told & Shown = 72%
  • Told, Shown & Experienced = 89%

Recall after 3 months;

  • Told = 10%
  • Told & Shown = 32%
  • Told, Shown & Experienced = 69%


So as you can see the retention levels when something was experienced in comparison to the more passive forms of learning were staggering. So why then the experiential industry isn’t shouting this from the rooftops about studies like this I don’t know.

Now this is only one study and although it was a huge sample set across two countries it still sits in isolation. As an industry we need to be conducting more of this kind of research. By utilising this data and combining it with truly ‘experiential’ campaigns that engage and educate the consumers we will really start to push the discipline forward and properly compete for greater shares of clients budgets.

In my mind experiential has never been about competing as a volume medium. It’s obvious that the reach of a face-to-face brand experience will never stack up against a TV campaign or press ad. However, its true power comes from the ability to engage a consumer and as the results of the above report show, truly educate the consumer about a product or service at a much deeper level than any other medium.