An article written by Alan Mitchell featured on Marketing Magazine last week made us think and re-think about the definition of consumer engagement. In his article, entitled ‘The great brand engagement myth’, Mitchell highlights that “every brand wants to engage better with its customers, so why should the ‘e’ word put marketers’ backs up?” As a brand engagement agency, it is our job to understand how consumers act and react to brands. It is all about having a cognitive and affective commitment to nurturing a mutual and active relationship with consumers. But what exactly does this mean? How do we do it? Is it measurable? Is it real? Why is it so difficult for marketers to grasp the meaning of brand engagement?
Well, Mitchell is right; engagement is one of the most overused and misunderstood words in marketing. By definition, engagement means ‘the action of engaging or being engaged’, ‘a formal agreement to get married’, ‘an arrangement to do something or go somewhere at a fixed time’. However, in the marketing arena, we keep finding many different interpretations and conflicting ways of measuring the level of engagement with consumers, which ultimately make brands struggle to understand the process behind, and the real meaning of consumer engagement.
Firstly, there is no one-size-fits-all consumer engagement plan or road map. Instead, as McKinsey highlighted last year, there are some guiding principles that brands should adopt to reach consumers at every stage of the consumer decision journey. According to the McKinsey study, “we have entered a ‘new era of engagement’, but most companies have not figured out how to deal with such reality”. Relating to consumers and end users requires an in-depth knowledge of their habits and desires, throughout the entire decision journey. This is absolutely crucial if you want to effectively engage your consumers with your brand.
As Mitchell pointed out “while brands want more engagement with customers, not every customer wants to engage with every brand”. The reality is that companies continue to treat consumers as a mass of eyes, ears and wallets; forgetting that each individual has an unique experience with a brand. With the proliferation of channels and devices, customers may actually come close to brands hundreds of times via multiple of touch-points. And the fact is, any of these touch-points can cause the consumer to become frustrated and disengaged. So how can you ensure you are definitely engaged with your consumers?
A match made in heaven
Trust is the perfect ingredient for a long lasting relationship. In this rapidly dynamic, ever-changing landscape, consumers have the choice of engaging with or ignoring your brand. They have increasingly high expectations, which makes engaging them prior to a purchasing decision a challenge. Contrary to Mitchell’s argument, the word engagement is not an attempt to singularly define every element of marketing communications. Rather, it is all about nurturing a mutual and respectful relationship with your consumers, by tapping into who they are and how your brand can add value to their life, whilst providing them with an offer that they cannot resist.
From an experiential standpoint, the best form of engagement is making your brand memorable by proactively reaching out to consumers through personalised, two-way communications. When making it real, you are basically reaffirming your brand’s value and your mutually-respectful relationship: I’m here to meet your needs and expectations, by showing how you (customer) are important to me (brand)! This ultimately has a strong impact on customer decision-making and real engagement with your brand.
In today’s world, social media has added a new dimension in terms of how consumers acquire and digest information. Building trust with your audience is based on tapping into the online ‘communities’ where they share new ideas, discuss concepts and assess values. It’s also within these communities that brand advocates emerge and help spread positive word-of-mouth about your product or service.
The outcome for the engagement definition debacle is simple: before investing your time and budget in the wrong channels, you need to ask yourself: Who am I trying to engage? What will truly engage my audience? And more importantly, why should my audience care?
These days, real brands are more valuable than ever. On the other hand, brands that lack meaning and differentiation are punished. By following these questions as gospel, you will be able to determine the ideal brand offerings necessary to satisfy your consumers every expectation.
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