Thursday, 14 August 2014

Beware! Engaged can be vacant.

The pursuit of engagement has become the Holy Grail for marketers, as I blogged here a few years back, and the enthusiasm for the creation of Engaging Experiences has certainly not abated. Engagement is an objective written loud and clear on many a marketing plan. Even the humble owner of a Facebook page with a couple of hundred likes is informed continually about how many people are engaged with the page that week.

But the problem arises when it comes to measurement. Engagement is a slippery fish to pin down and fit into a nice KPI pigeon hole, if you'll excuse all the mixed metaphors.

Perhaps that's because engagement has become one of these words that people use without really thinking what it means.

I looked up engagement in one dictionary and found "The act of engaging or being engaged."

The Advertising Research Foundation defined it, in March 2006 as "Turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context." And Wikipedia offers the following for engagement when used in a marketing context: "The extent to which a consumer has a meaningful brand experience when exposed to commercial advertising, sponsorship, television contact or other experience." This last mouthful brings to mind rats in cages having full-strength carcinogens painted on their raw flesh by sadistic scientists.

To get away from these tortuous and tautologous definitions, maybe it's easier to look at the verb rather than the noun. To engage is to occupy or attract someone's attention, from one perspective, or to participate or become in involved in, from another.

Interesting that the words attention and involved appear in this definition. Do desire and action follow? Has a wheel been reinvented somewhere?

Engagement is here to stay but it's worth questioning what is behind the word for our particular case. First of all, the question is "engaged with what?" - a piece of communication, be it a TV spot or an app,  some aspect of the brand, or the brand as a whole? And what are the terms of that "engagement"? Is it something longterm, or is it something specific to a discrete period of time. Is it short and intense, or more of a longterm undercurrent of commitment? Once you know the nature of the engagement, then you can work out how you might measure it.

Engaged can change rapidly to vacant, devoid of meaning.

No comments: