What does 'engagement' really mean?

{PS: This post needs to be updated as my work and various experiences has changed my thinking on how I approach this..}
I have been wrestling with this word for quite some time. A recent article which lambasted this innocuous word for being used irresponsibly across the Social Media articles provoked me to probe into it. What does engagement mean? From its simple english usage, one does understand that it is the means to build a good relationship, be it over the real world of atoms or over the virtual world of bits. However, if we introspect over the meaning of engagement in the real world ( or to be precise, in the traditional media sense), we would observe that the meaning isnt quite the same. I gained this insight during my internship at Radio Mirchi while my senses were becoming numb, thanks to an endless barrage of FM listening, as a part of media monitoring. My poor aural nerve alerted me over a commercial that was playing in the FM Radio. It was about American Tourister: The tough luggage. The positioning hinged upon the idea of toughness

The voiceover in the Spot Radio Ad said : "How many times have you ever been tough to challenging situations like: a) somebody occupying your seat in the train and never budges to move... b) when you were subjected to eve-teasing c) you were accosted by a ruffian.
Share with us your tough experiences through an SMS to xxx number and win cool gifts from American Tourister."

Now what do we make of this? Can we call this an effective "engagement" with the consumers? Some might say "Yes", calculating how quickly over 15 seconds, the ad conveyed its positioning and also teased the audience to grab a gift using their tough stories, thus cementing a relationship between the toughness of American Tourister and that of the consumer.

Let us remember we are talking about Radio as a medium. If you look at the TVC,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysIcnD5oFHg&feature=player_embedded
we can see this well shot Ad of a foreigner's luggage finding its way bravely in the dreaded Mumbai local trains. The attracting power of the visuals make us vicariously feel the toughness of the brand.

As we can see, engagement is reinforced over a span of few seconds, through feeding the persona of the brand. This engagement could turn into a long-standing relationship with the brand, or might simply fade away depending on the power of the message. As we can see, the onus is here on the attractiveness and unique nature of the message which has the potential to break the clutter and make its presence felt. This is becoming increasingly difficult with the explosion of media channels.

So what does engagement mean in the Social Media Space? As the cliched line goes, It is all about conversation. It is the closest any brand can get to building long term relationships, much like humans do with other fellow beings. As we all aware, this engagement takes time. Ask all those who set out to woo a girl. They will tell you how much time it will take. However, the fruits of this long term investment is immense. The obvious reason being, over the period of time, the relationship becomes a sense of commitment with the user. This long-term aspsect is indeed the haggling part of this entire ball game. Marketers must learn to be patient and keep their stakes to build this long relationship. It is quite easy to get tempted to embrace the easier route through traditional media where the engagement is all about flaunting. Haven't we seen in parties, strangers trying to flaunt their talents and their achievement? We feel nauseated and often shun such company. We are witnessing something very similar in the media space. We are looking for a brand which has integrity and speaks honestly without any pompousness.!

The million dollar question is : Are marketers ready?


alone in d crowds said...

Good post Venky.
But more than 'marketers', its the brand owners who needs to be ready to get into that groove.
Conversations in a social media generally revolves around the product, how it felt, whether it satisfied their need, whether it delivered the promise etc. As you wanted, conversations with the clients might lead to great engagement but such social engagements are great in niche marketing. In mass marketing products such initiativs can lead to a lot of pain. Being 'pompous' in adworld is considered a boon in these cases when there can be little difference among competition and you address a really large community. You tend to show them something so out of the world that the engagement is more about the brand than about the product. Take your Pepsi engagement for an instance. You might hate it but there are several guys who went gaga about the idea.
And for a guy who wants to get into marketing, calling it 'flaunting' is certainly a dangerous attitude :P

Venky said...

i agree with ur points..When i say flaunting, what i mean, is while building relationships, brands need to communicate rather than sing their own praise. i used the word to depict that...i agree to the fact that mass marketing needs something extra special to make it kicking..however the point i make is..we are questioning this idea of mass. mass existed when he didnt have anythin for himself which gave him an identity..however now every person establishes his space in the Web and he wants to be perceived differently..