Engagement marketing, making your brand work harder
In this iPod, TiVo, and Second Life world, old fashioned marketing doesn't have many legs. Consumers are uninterested, or bored, or worse, openly hostile toward brands. Don't believe me? Read Naomi Klein and call me in the morning.
With so many ways for consumers to tune out or to narrowcast, why is it that so many marketers still prefer the one-size-fits-all school of marketing and advertising? Some predictable advertising, a boring launch event, a dash of desperate-looking PR and maybe a couple of weak in-store promotions - that's the formula that still passes as marketing for hundreds of brands across Asia.
The reaction of consumers? No recall, lack of interest, price shopping, fatigue.
The companies that can make it work in today's market have learned not how to talk to consumers, but rather how to engage them. They reach consumers at a time and in a space where the consumer is more open and receptive to new information. These marketers go deep with their consumers, they build real interest and loyalty, and they never go off message.
Using techniques like experience marketing where customers get to touch or experience the product, ambient marketing where the space itself becomes the message, word of mouth marketing and viral marketing where customers are encouraged to adopt the brand and act as evangelists, or guerrilla marketing the low cost option using non traditional or undercover marketing, these techniques all have one thing in common. They all involve deep interaction with and engagement of the consumer.
But how do we make the shift from traditional marketing practices to what I like to call engagement marketing?
I believe the secret lies in three basic fundamentals. First, clearly identify the driver of your business. Second, find a set of tools that really brings this driver to life. Finally, once you get on the path, don't deviate. You should be able to push this driver for a very long time, hopefully years.
And though this sounds obvious, I would argue that many companies can't even clearly identify the driver of their business. Through my years in Asia I have watched many brands flip from one tagline or ad campaign to the next, quarter by quarter, if not week by week. Either these companies are having problems identifying their driver, have focused on the wrong driver, or they're so impatient and inconsistent that customers can't receive the message two days running. When there is a different and unrelated marketing campaign each quarter, how can you possibly hope to deepen customer relationships?
Who does it right? Here are three examples: Apple, Starbucks, and the Economist. If you look at Apple, they know that the driver of their business is built around design. The products are sexy, the interface is sexy, and even something as menial as opening up the box is a sexy experience. The brand devotion to Apple is cult-like. You couldn't hope for more engaged consumers. Starbucks also understands its driver. They moved well beyond the idea of simply selling coffee, and built an environment that is relaxed, warm and welcoming. They created an urban coffee lifestyle, and they've sold it around the world.
The Economist is perhaps the best marketer of the bunch. They don't have the sexy design product or a physical environment as a driver. Instead their marketing is built around the unique, intelligent and quirky tonality of the magazine. While that doesn't sound profound, their consistent and laser-like focus has taken their driver and deeply reinforced it through some of the most clever advertising around.
To connect as well as the marketers listed above, you need to think like a customer. Explore the spaces and places where customers will be more open to your message. Do you have a place brand? A "touch me" brand? An idea brand? Do you know what your driver is? Are you sure? Are you wiling to spend months, if not years, using this driver to deepen your relationship with your customer?
If you're not, good luck. You and a thousand other people will continue to pour ideas over the heads of unreceptive consumers. But if you are, congratulations. With focus, and time, you might just capture the customer's attention again.
Regional director, executive creative director
- Apple Computer Ltd
- The Economist Newspaper
- Splash Communications
- Starbucks Coffee