Marketing's new imperative: engagement

April 8th, 2008     by ddeal    

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This blog post comes to you live from the 2008 Forrester Marketing Forum, held April 8-9, 2008, in Los Angeles. The purpose of the event is to take a snapshot of the state of the art in successful marketing.

Normally these kinds of events are hosted by an executive who sets the stage with a few lines of harmless opening patter. But not so here. On the morning of April 8, Forrester’s Harley Manning sets the stage by establishing marketing’s new imperative for success: engagement. According to Harley, engagement is a lot like art: you know it when you see it. You experience engagement in a Jordan’s Furniture store which features a liquid fire works display, a cafe, and furniture artfully displayed. Jordan’s engages the consumer.

Similarly, in the online world, immersive worlds like the online Nike Store create an engaging consumer experience, not an impersonal transaction. Nike also engages its customers.

Why is this important?: because engagement is the answer to the marketer under pressure to define a better relationship with consumers in a world where phenomena like social media and ad-skipping technologies threaten to make the marketer less relevant. Engagement sets the agenda for the entire two-day Marketing Forum, too.

Brian Haven, a Forrester senior analyst, then discusses engagement in more detail. Brian discusses engagement through the eyes of Jen, an IKEA fan who lives near Cincinnati, Ohio. Frustrated that IKEA lacked a presence in Cincinnati, years ago Jen launched her own blog, Ohikea! You might say that Jen is an engaged IKEA consumer who helped bring IKEA to her area. And how did IKEA reply? The store distanced itself from her blog instead of engaging her. IKEA blew a change to engage because IKEA did not know what to do about Jen.

According to Brian, engagement requires a different way of interacting with your consumer. Marketers can’t afford to think of consumers as being “driven through a marketing” funnel through a series of traditional tactics — not at a time when consumers are seizing control of the brand experience through social media technologies. Engagement transcends all marketing channels and tactics.

Brian says that engagment consists of the level of involvement, interaction, intimacy, and influence that a person has with a brand over time – the 4 i’s of engagement.

Involvement consists of the presence of a person at various brand touch points. Interaction consists of the actions a person takes while present at those touch points. Intimacy is the affection that a person holds for a brand. And influence is the likelihood of a consumer recommending your brand.

Examples abound: GlaxoSmithKline allowed a consumer, Laura, to express online how one of its dietary supplements products have helped her lose weight — a way of engaging with consumers that has led to more than 1 million people trying the product in the first six weeks and generating $155 million in sales. This experience occurred because GlaxoSmithKline engaged with a brand enthusiast — unlike IKEA.

How to get started learning how to engage? Fortunately, tools exist already. Engagement starts with using tools like personas and market research to understand not just who your engaged consumers are, but how and why they become engaged.

Engagement is one of the principles of digital marketing that my Avenue A | Razorfish colleague Joe Crump writes about in his point of view, “Digital Darwinism.” In this PoV, Joe introduces a new way for companies to understand how to take advantage of the unique attributes of the web to build stronger brands. For more on the topic of Digital Darwinism, click here.

What great — and bad — examples of engagement do you see in the online and offline worlds?


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