How Predictive Analytics Helped the Utah State Fair Achieve a Blue Ribbon Year

By August 4, 2015Insights

After five years of static attendance and revenue, a trend that was accelerated by 9 days of rain in 2013 and the condemning of 3 agricultural buildings, the Utah State Fair was at a crossroads. The fate of the 112-year-old institution became the focus of intense debate among the Governor, state lawmakers, and a consultant brought in to analyze alternative uses for the state-owned fair park.

“We knew we needed to make some major changes,” said Jeff Kooring, Sales & Marketing Director for the Utah State Fair. “We needed to understand why the fair wasn’t drawing larger crowds and we needed to reverse that trend.”

Kooring turned to Emperitas, an applied research and predictive analytics firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The company’s unique approach combines qualitative and quantitative market research, advanced analytics, and a team of economists that identify and address the issues impacting their client’s business. This helps businesses organize and analyze information from disconnected sources and outlines clear business solutions.

“We started with bilingual in-person data collection at the Fair to learn the emotional reasons people attend the fair, which gave us a way to segment fairgoers into five targetable groups,” said Luciano Pesci, CEO of Emperitas. “The next step was to show the Fair how different aspects of the fair experience impacted overall satisfaction, if they would return, and if they would recommend the fair to their family and friends.”

They found that “Tradition” was the biggest driver, especially for the most profitable customer segment. “People want to share the experiences of their childhood with their children and grandchildren” said Pesci. The research also underscored the need for great food options served by friendly staff in a clean fair park.


Using this information, the Utah State Fair modified their marketing and advertising approach, moving away from their frequently award-winning conceptual approach that in the past has featured the likes of Napoleon Dynamite. “We moved to simpler (and more affordable) ads that targeted the key drivers outlined by Emperitas” said Kooring. The results were immediate and dramatic, with the 2014 Utah State Fair drawing more than 300,000 people and generating $2.9 million in gross revenues, according to Michael Steele, executive director of the Utah State Fairpark.

“2014 saw the highest net revenue the Utah State Fair has ever had and the second highest attendance overall,” said Kooring. “A big part of that success is because of the data-driven insight Emperitas provided us. Their segmentation and key drivers research identified the right marketing message for the most profitable customer segment. It also showed us what to focus on when improving the overall experience of our fairgoers so they would recommend and return.”

“Although conceptual ads are much more fun, we chose to go literal. We wanted the focus of our ads to be on selling tickets, not just winning awards,” said Kooring, “The strategic power of the research speaks for itself, and the Utah State Fair will be a data-driven organization from this day forward.”

About the Utah State Fair

Since 1856, the Utah State Fair has drawn tens of thousands of visitors each year to promote the State of Utah and the myriad of products it produces. With events by the Utah Dairy Council, Utah Beef Council, Utah Wool Growers Association, and the Utah Farm Bureau. “Utah’s Own” Food Court features locally grown and prepared foods from around the state. The Utah State Fair strives to blend the best of Utah tradition and heritage with new technology and modern ideals.

About Emperitas

Committed to solving business problems through information, Emperitas is a qualitative and quantitative research company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. We provide solutions for organizations across the globe from market simulators and churn analysis to fraud detection and economic impact analysis. Discover how Emperitas can help your organization solve their problems through targeted research and data analysis. Visit today.

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