We’re living in a world of amazing possibilities. The internet, email, social media, mobile devices – all of these technologies allow us to connect with one another in ways that weren’t possible twenty years ago.
However, this connectedness of the modern world has some big-time implications for businesses. Traditional advertising was a one-way exchange. The marketer sent out a message – in the form of a commercial, a billboard, a magazine ad, etc. – and the audience passively received it. This was mass marketing.
Individuals might react very differently to the same piece of advertising or overall campaign.
With mass marketing, companies have been able to get a decent idea of the impact their advertising has on their audience as a whole. However, real-time, detailed feedback just isn’t possible except in very specific and limited scenarios like focus groups.
Engagement Marketing is a Two-way Street
Engagement marketing is all about two-way exchanges. While mass marketing is a one-way street, engagement marketing seeks to let consumers be equal partners in developing the brand.
The same tools that let you stay connected with friends and family anywhere, anytime can be used to create a more positive overall relationship with your consumer base.
Think about it – even when businesses are doing traditional mass marketing – let’s say a commercial – social media and other online formats allow the audience to engage with the marketing materials.
For example, a car manufacturer makes a commercial.
Maybe it’s a really funny commercial. People start talking about it online. Quotes from the commercial pop up in people’s posts and everyday conversations. Maybe someone turns it into a meme or makes a parody of it.
Here, people are engaged, but this isn’t really engagement marketing because the company isn’t actively participating. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it approach that sometimes works but really isn’t sufficient given what your customer now expects from marketing.
You see, the immediacy and ultra-connectedness fostered by the web and social media have created an expectation of greater responsiveness. It’s also given consumers a greater sense of their own power.
Engagement marketing isn’t a single type of marketing strategy or campaign. It refers to different, often really unique and innovative, approaches to developing the brand image.
The key characteristic that these approaches have in common is that they make consumers partners in the process.
What Does Engagement Marketing Look Like, Anyway?
There are a few key elements that engagement marketing campaigns have in common. These include:
- Continuity – these campaigns often don’t have a defined start and end date. They go on indefinitely, changing over time in response to participant interests and feedback.
- Personalization – they engage individuals rather than all consumers or targeted demographic groups
- Multi-format and multimedia engagement – engagement marketing makes use of as many different channels of communication as possible. It seeks to find the brand’s audience wherever they are, including social media platforms, online directories, review sites, etc.
- Behavior-driven campaigns – engagement marketing adapts based on what consumers say and do – both overall and in relation to the campaign itself.
If you’re concerned that engagement marketing seems very haphazard, you shouldn’t be. The very best engagement marketing approaches are extremely focused and goal-oriented. Yes, they are flexible and adapted, but their creators have specific plans and have ways of determining whether their campaigns are effective.
The very best engagement marketing approaches are extremely focused and goal-oriented. Yes, they are flexible and adapted, but their creators have specific plans and have ways of determining whether their campaigns are effective.
Still Not Sure What Constitutes Quality Engagement Marketing? Here Are a Few Examples.
- WestJet, a Canadian low-cost airline, asked people what they wanted for Christmas, then went out and bought it for them.
When flyers arrived at their destinations, their desired gifts reached them via the baggage carousel. They were all wrapped up and everything. Who wouldn’t keep coming back to a company that delivered a totally personal gift in a surprising way?
- The US Tour Operators Association was able to increase its Facebook likes by almost 10x with it’s Around the World with USTOA contest.
Beyond giving something away (which people always like), this particular contest generated a lot of interest through shares. All-in-all, over 30 mainstream journalists shared. That’s a pretty good way to gain both credibility and exposure.
- The Dove Real Beauty campaign set out to show “real” women (as opposed to models) being beautiful.
This had a big impact because so many women have long been frustrated seeing only women with the “ideal” body type being depicted in advertisements. The Dove campaign engaged people by showing itself on popular social media outlets like Facebook. Where real consumers could respond immediately upon seeing the ads, viewers were able to voice the ways the ads affected them. Many identified with the different body types they saw represented.
On the other hand, some criticized the campaign for suggesting that those women portrayed would not think of themselves as beautiful in the first place. In the end, the discussion was what was most important. Dove became a brand that addressed (if imperfectly) the issues that concerned women.
- The Make a Wish Foundation helped one kid become “Batkid” and increased its exposure big time.
This isn’t a business interest, obviously, but what this charity did is both inspiring and informative for for-profit advertisers. When the Make a Wish Foundation transformed San Francisco into Gotham so that a kid could save it, they made a video that tons of people wanted to watch and comment on. It touched viewers in a very real way.
What do all these marketing campaigns have in common?
They all engaged people in discussions not just amongst themselves, but with the company or organization. Engagement marketing continues to evolve with the available tools, and we see even better strategies coming to light.
The one thing that top engagement strategies have in common is a “customer first” approach. That is, customers get to become active participants in helping your brand develop its ultimate identity.
And that identity is constantly evolving. There is no waiting period. As consumers’ tastes and interests change, they voice those changes to the company. The company then gets to respond, addressing what people are feeling at that very moment in time.
The potential for responsiveness puts a lot of pressure on marketers, but it also creates new opportunities. Marketing and advertising have always been a challenging field. But now, more than ever, you’re expected to keep abreast of trends and consumer interests at an astonishing rate.
With those challenges, however, come great benefits. In today’s business climate, letting the chance to be fully responsive pass you by would be a big mistake. Successful companies seize the right opportunities, and engagement marketing is a big opportunity.