EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT. WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN?
Emotions play a huge part in winning the hearts and minds of your customers.
A large potion of what a customer does in any brand is related to how they feel; feelings drive decisions, even if we are aware of them or not.
What does emotional engagement really mean for the world of marketing and creative businesses? Is there are a fundamental shift in our understanding as to how marketing communication works, or is it just that we now have the tools to communicate the way humans have always found to be most persuasive? What is the right tension between the product message and emotional engagement?
We have researched this question with leaders across the fields of brand marketing, media, sales, digital/social and creative in my attempt to answer what emotional engagement really means, and how it differs depending on your role within an organisation.
So how do you view the word engagement? It can be quite varied based on how you see the world based on your profession.
The social media professional
Engagement is seen as a precursor to effectiveness. It drives the social media professional and quite rightly so. Perhaps a better viewpoint for a social media marketer’s is… Would your brand survive a real life social setting? Would your brand be inept in a social setting? Or would it charm and engage by the way it gives in a social setting? In the social world being interesting is key. That means not bragging. Rather, it’s about talking about others, being helpful and useful. The level of usefulness or helpfulness a brand can be the more engaging and shareable the brand will be. This encourages a social dialogue in which the brand is a participant – not the controller. At this point consumers can advocate if the right levels of engagement are achieved – Nirvana from both soft and ultimately the hard measures of a brand.
The brand professional
All brand marketing personal are under pressure to deliver the hard measures of business – today. So it’s no wonder that although they are listening to the message of brand engagement they are not always hearing it. It can feel like it’s a long journey when there is a short-term timeframe required. For the brand marketer the challenge is having one eye on today with the other on tomorrow. We can see that brand marketers inherently believe in emotional engagement for their brands, yet not at the expense of short term results and predictability. And therein lays the difficulty. It is almost impossible to predict behavioural reaction.
The research professional
I feel sorry for market researchers. Most probably because I was one many years ago. They are expected to have the answers – to provide a definitive view on how the future might look and why the past happened the way it did. There is an exciting new phase in market research is exploring the potential for greater understanding and predictive accuracy by moving research from asking direct questions of unreliable respondents to asking people what they notice, believe and predict about others. Increasingly new methodologies like those developed by BrainJuicer are confirming that engagement is not purely a function of rational decision making rather that our emotive and instinctive decision-making is much stronger than our rational and conscious decision-making. The world of market research is strongly tied up in methodologies and benchmarks. The question is are we worshipping long held methodologies and benchmarks at the expense of generating real and new insights that lead to greater levels of engagement?
The creative professional
In essence the creative has always been motivated by emotional engagement. The belief that people make decisions with their heart is ingrained in many creative professionals’ belief systems. Long have they railed at prescriptive research methodologies and formulaic briefs. So now we have a new era of engagement upon us. What is the role of the brand and or product? Are people simply rejecting advertising? Do eyeballs equate to success? Saying that you want emotional engagement is one thing, doing it well is another. This requires new skills and collaboration. No longer is any one creative the ‘owner’ of the big idea. This is a shift in thinking for many creative professionals, as many have longingly sought the hero status as the ‘owner’ of the big idea. Some, unfortunately do not relate well to the incremental and collaborative approach now required for multi channel, multi platform, multi audience engagement.
Emotional engagement is a whole lot more complex than simply writing the word engagement on the brief. It requires a new level of collaboration and coordination between channel and platform specialists, clients, creatives and researchers. Importantly, it’s about letting go of out-dated rationally based methodologies, and taking the giant step of accepting that emotional engagement is the KEY driver of commercial success.
Emotional engagement should start with the end in mind. What are we trying to achieve? How are we going to measure it? What specialist resources do we need in the collaborating team? For us, emotional engagement is not a mad rush for eyeballs. Relevancy is the key. Being respectful of the relationship between consumer/customer and the brand is something that will stop social ineptitude – it’s not about you, it’s about them! It’s about thinking of your brand as a friend – how interesting, how useful and how helpful are you to each other? Get these questions right and you’ll discover a world of growth awaits your brand.
Despite most marketing systems and methodologies being based around rational decision-making, humans have always been moved by emotional communications. Persuasiveness is the ultimate goal and that starts with things that connect emotionally. With the advent of digital and social media we now have the tools to really leverage word of mouth the most persuasive form of communication. It’s easy for anyone to ignore communication that is irrelevant or boring. This choice means that producing an emotionally engaging piece of communication is now no longer an option – it’s essential. The evidence linking commercial success and emotional engagement in communication is indisputable (see the extensive work done by ‘Binet & Field’ and BrainJuicer with the IPA Datamine in the UK.)