Engagement Marketing

New York Times had an article, a few days back, on the problems with the traditional brand campaigns and the emerging field of “engagement” marketing. Check it out here (might be restricted content after today).

Marketers of all sorts are now being urged to give up the steering wheel to a new breed of consumers who want more control over the ways products are peddled to them. Exhortations to bring consumers into the tent dominated the agenda of the 96th annual conference of the Association of National Advertisers, which took place here Thursday through yesterday. The nearly 1,000 people who attended the conference — a record for the trade group — heard one speaker after another describe a need to replace decades worth of top-down marketing tactics with bottom-up, grass-roots approaches.

“Consumers are beginning in a very real sense to own our brands and participate in their creation,” he said. “We need to learn to begin to let go” and embrace trends like commercials created by consumers and online communities built around favorite products.

For example, Yahoo Music asked fans of the singer Shakira to contribute video clips of them performing her song “Hips Don’t Lie,” and the submissions were culled to produce a fans’ version of her music video.

It’s a good idea to engage your customers in building your brand. The issue though is “how”. Companies are still trying to figure out how to get engagement marketing to work for them. Just having customers send pictures of products, (that is what Acura is doing in its latest Ad in Newsweek)  is not enough. Companies need to get to the underlying story of who the users and how the product is an important part of their life, to have a better chance of relating to other users.

As noted in the previous post, with the 90-9-1% rule for Intent community participation, spending a whole lot of money to engage a small minority of users who are likely to work with a company, is really not likely to provide a good return on investment. Instead, what is needed is to generate brand messages, with community participation, that can be effective with a majority of the population. For this, companies need to get users to tell their story, with a good placement for the product, such that the story is interesting and potent as a brand message. But with the substrate of anonymity on the Internet this is really hard to do without expensive and explicit customer engagement?

youTube was a huge success of engagement marketing but it had the advantage in the area because their product was the platform for telling such stories but for other brand owners it’s a difficult challenge.


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