What does engagement really mean?

By Jose Villa
CEO, Sensis

As this newsletter celebrates its one-year anniversary, I thought it would be appropriate to get back to some basics. During the course of 50-plus articles, Hispanic marketing experts have discussed a variety of subjects ranging from acculturation to the macro-economy to e-commerce. However, I don’t think enough time has been spent introducing the powerful concept of engagement that is the foundation of this column.
First, a definition. As with any recent marketing term, there are many definitions out there for engagement. However, I think Forrester Research has summarized it best as follows:
Engagement is measured as the level of involvement, interaction, intimacy and influence a customer has for or with a brand over time.
Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Yet I would argue that the concept of engagement has ushered in a new paradigm in the advertising world – one that has dramatically changed how marketing and advertising need to work in 2009 and beyond for both the general and Hispanic markets.
The term engagement is a result of marketers’ efforts to navigate the brave new world of advertising. Engagement manifests itself most clearly with the collision of two of the most established paradigms of the marketing world – the awareness model (expressed through the concepts of “reach and frequency”) and the marketing funnel – that have, for the most part, been irrelevant in 2009.
At some point we have all spoken about creating “awareness.” In fact, most of us have probably spent more than a few years and more than a few dollars developing programs built around the concept of awareness – trying to get “top of mind” with certain target audiences. The way we’ve probably gone about this is through some controlled expression of a brand that we anticipate will change “hearts and minds” with the right message delivered at the proper reach and frequency. Sound familiar?
Unfortunately, in today’s consumer-driven media world, this model does not work. Consumers filter out “one-way” messages as noise. That’s of course if they are even consuming the media you are depending on to reach them. Although the Hispanic media landscape has evolved more slowly than the general market, these transformational shifts in media consumption are reverberating throughout the U.S. Hispanic community.
The marketing funnel, while still useful in some instances, generally misses the boat of the new consumer-driven marketing world we live in. Why? For one, consumers’ trust in traditional media has significantly diminished. More and more people are looking to their peers, who are now more vocal than ever, for information. The primary role of advertising is now about creating conversations. Therefore, the ultimate goal of getting someone down a linear path from awareness to transaction no longer fits nicely into a funnel. The funnel fails to capture the bi-directional conversation and asymmetrical influence of peers.
When looking at the Hispanic consumer, I would argue that the influence of peers, which is driven by network effort, is only multiplied as a result of Hispanics’ organically larger social networks (family, friends, all those “primos,” etc.). Add to this data that shows that Hispanics over-index in social media activity (whether it’s social networking, blogging or simply creating and sharing content), and it’s clear that Hispanics are influenced and influence others more than their general market brethren.
The good news is that engagement measures what we need to focus on moving forward. Going back to Forrester, it outlined a four-part model that can be used to measure the interaction of consumers with brands and how to track it:
Involvement tracks site visitors, time spent, page views, reach, frequency, media impressions, etc.
Interaction measures the contributions to blogs, content creation and uploads, and purchases.
Intimacy monitors consumer attitudes, perceptions and feelings about a brand through surveys, service calls and brand studies.
Influence measures the likelihood that consumers will recommend or advocate products or brands. Summarized well with gauges such as Net Promoter Indexes (NPi), brand affinities, etc.
More simply put, involvement, interaction, intimacy and influence sum up how much time a consumer spends with your brand. The more time spent with a brand, chances are, the greater the affinity for that brand.
This engagement model is not new and has been championed for a number of years by digital agencies. As digital agencies increase in prominence and the efficiencies and models used in digital advertising spread to traditional advertising it is inevitable that engagement will increase in prominence.
In the Hispanic advertising business, the effects of this paradigm shift toward engagement are popping up all around us. Whether its Hispanic agencies forgoing their corporate Web sites for Facebook pages or the growing “Latinos in Social Media” (www.latism.org) movement, Hispanic advertising is quickly moving to engagement.
 
Column courtesy: MediaPost Engage:Hispanics.