Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Drivers of Consumer Engagement

Yesterday I wrote about engagement—what it is and why it is important. The key take-away is that the combination of consumer and employee engagement improves bottom-line performance. I’ll concentrate on the consumer side and ask, “How do we go about producing consumer engagement?”

A superficial answer is that the new social media are interactive and engaging. That’s true, but it doesn’t provide guidance for marketing strategy. It’s not enough to just add some videos or start a company blog without having clear goals in mind and strategies for getting there. So the real question seems to be, “How do we get consumers to engage with our brand?” The chart from a recent Jupiter Research report distinguishes between interaction-based and communications-based engagement techniques and asks which ones marketers are using. That’s an interesting perspective, but it doesn’t address the strategy issue. Notice that their sample is “social marketers;” usage of these techniques is not this high among all marketers.

Last month I wrote about a CMO study of consumer experience with leading brands across several communications channels. That study focuses on the role of consistent, integrated content delivery across all channels—communications engagement in Jupiter terms. The most important part of the report (download here) may be the latter pages in which they give the items on which they rate the brand performance in each channel. Those items suggest performance benchmarks. However, that still doesn’t necessarily guide marketers in search of their own strategy, particularly which elements of social media will produce the most useful kind of engagement.

A study in 2006 by Carat for IAB in the UK is helpful. It focuses on mothers with small children choosing among several small car brands. The research on their information sources and decision processes summarized in this chart is pretty standard—multiple items (in this case “contact points”) factored into several engagement factors. Assuming typical marketing research, those factors have a significant impact on engagement with the brand. I’m not clear, though, how they measured brand engagement. There is an interesting Guide on this page, along with a series of brand engagement studies including this one, but I haven’t found the specific metric for engagement. I’m accepting it because they seem to be using “brand engagement” consistently, and I'm sure they must have defined it somewhere, perhaps in the IAB member content.

This kind of study (and they find the drivers to be different from one industry to another) illuminates the strategy development process. If the marketer knows the criteria (the factors, in this case) on which the consumer makes decisions, she can work to move the needle on one or more important factors. In this case, style is most important. Which experiential/ engagement techniques will move the needle on style? Video, perhaps? A customize your car, in this case around the needs of your children and resulting lifestyle? Fun is the second most important factor. How do you allow female customers to participate, even help to create, the “fun” part of the car experience? And since they want a feminine car, how do you deliver this to women and not to men?

I keep thinking that there is so much that marketers COULD do in the arena of social media. The strategy question is, “What SHOULD we do?” There is no one-size-fits all answer—this view of engagement makes that clear!


Anonymous said...

When I think of brand engagement, GM's Oldsmobile line comes to mind, and the unsuccessful campaign of "It's not your father's Oldsmobile". Oldsmobile had a strong market of engaged customers, and this campaign served to destroy what was left of it. Since the Oldsmobile brand died before the arrival of social media, it is interesting to think about how it could have been handled in terms of today's market.
Strategy programs need to consider the use of social media without having a negative impact on other targeted segments for the product line. If there is one strong highly valued segment which is being targeted, the longevity of this segment must be considered, and whether or not this type of engagement can be "passed down" to further generations of the targeted population.

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