Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Working Definition of "Engagement" Needs Work

Well, never let it be said that those who pop above the foxhole don't get shot at...

The notion of Engagement is clearly important as a new measure of advertising efficacy. The trouble is, that while people tend to agree that engagement is a good thing, no one knows what it is. Well, Joe Plummer, chief research officer of The ARF has ventured a working definition:

Engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context
I don't think this cuts it. But--its great as a starting point. Is there an official way to provide feedback? I'm not sure. I'd love to work on the Wikipedia entry on this one. I have two primary problems with this. The first is that it is focused on a single impression. The other is that there's no notion of time attached to it.

Engagement has to have at least two components: the intial connection with the consumer, and an action that he or she takes, preferably not prompted by the original communication or another re-marketing ad. That is, engagement is emergent effect that happens, after someone is made aware of a product proposition, evidenced by an action he or she takes.

WOM is the perfect example of measuring that emergent effect. Walter Carl made the excellent point that the majority of WOM interactions are the result of someone perceiving a need. I don't walk about telling people about Claritin. But if I meet someone with a stuffed nose, I'll definitely tell them to get some.

So: engagement has to be defined in that way. Engagement is a consumer mindset where he or she is able and willing to bring product attributes up immediately in a context where brand communication is absent. That's pretty close to unaided awareness, I know. But still: it speaks to the notion that the consumer has actively engaged some part of his or her brain to the brand. If there is a program, such as Nike's new soccer thing, all the better. The engagement can then take place in a branded space.
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