What is engagement anyway?

What is engagement anyway?

A couple of weeks ago I was catching up with my friend @richardkeeves in Perth for a glass of vino. He was a bit distracted trying to catch a radio segment – something about football and drugs, but we soon settled in for one of our usual explorations of things that don’t make sense in business and marketing land.

And top of the list that night turned out to be the term engagement. It seems like it’s everybody’s favorite buzz word d’jour. We need to engage with our customers so they’ll be more loyal. Engagement is our priority. Engaging with our ‘ustomers’ is the only way we’ll keep them from leaving…

So, what is engagement anyway?

While at a recent conference, another friend, @chrisheuer posted a great definition of engagement that I thought goes some way towards unravelling it.

“Engagement is interaction with intention that goes beyond concern for the transaction.”

One thing that Richard and I agreed on was that engagement wasn’t really a single thing or state. There’s a whole continuum involved that starts with interaction and ends with sharing. And engagement sits somewhere along that path dotted with escalating levels of me caring about you and what you’re doing.


It starts with some form of contact. It might be initiated on my side or your side. I see your ad. Pick up your product from a store shelf. Stumble upon your website via a Google search. We have lift off.


I give you something in return for something else. We trade. My email address for more information. Money for your product. We’ve made a connection. But I’m still at a distance.


I really love what I got and want more. The product really is the best thing since sliced bread. That information you gave me really helped. I come back for more. I’m starting to get that loving feeling.


Now we’ve got something cooking. We’ve moved past that dating thing and are really getting to know each other. And here is where the definition from above really kicks in. I don’t sense that all you want from me is another transaction. I’m comfortable that what you care about is what I care about.


And I want others to know and feel what I do. So I share what I know with a friend. But I’ve got to be confident that I won’t look silly. We’ve got a relationship going which means now we’re both vulnerable. So sharing becomes the ultimate act of the engagement continuum.

The nuances these points on the continuum highlight have huge implications that just a blanket discussion of “engagement” misses.

Try and go too fast and you’ll never get me to an exchange. Break a promise once you’ve got my involvement and I’m much more likely to lash out. Make me look bad if I share you and that’s probably the end of the relationship.

Building brand is the result of a deliberate and conscious set of actions and decisions. So it only stands to reason that when they directly relate to your relationships (customer or ustomer), it’s worth spending some time on the detail and nuance rather than trying to paint everything with big engagement brush stroke.

I don’t for a second think that Richard and I cracked the engagement code over a glass of wine. However, it sure highlighted that there’s a lot more thinking to be done.

I won’t ask you to engage or share your thoughts (I don’t know you that well yet), but if you’re so inclined an exchange via the comments of what engagement means for you would be great!

See you next week.


Don’t miss the opportunity to get your brand questions answered by posting them on twitter @michelhogan or emailing me at michel@brandology.com.au.

Michel is an independent brand analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at michelhogan.com. Follow her on Twitter.


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