Why brands need to not only engage, but evaluate

In the world of brands and communications, we spend a lot of time thinking about how we can influence what people think about brands. But we spend a lot less time talking about what we expect people to do; how we expect them to act and interact with our campaigns and how we want them to participate with our brands. Vanella Jackson, global CEO of Hall & Partners explains more.

Yet we all recognise that if we engage and actively participate in something, it will lead to a richer, more rewarding experience. Active participation is also more likely to get us to not only do it again, but talk about it to our friends and recommend the brand to others.

Many brands have embraced this with enthusiasm, actively planning their entire engagement strategy around a unifying idea. Kraft, for example, have brought the concept of “making every day delicious” to life through their use of iPhone apps for recipes and cookbooks. Pepsi now talk about “refreshing the world”, through a campaign that asks people for refreshing ideas to improve the world that they will support with grants thus encouraging people to have an ongoing dialogue with the brand.

Inviting people to join in and take part in something and giving them something to do that others can see and copy is immensely powerful. It can create a new social emotion around the brand and sufficient momentum to propel a brand forward.

I do wonder, however, as we plan these new engaging campaigns whether marketers and their agencies recognise the full power and potential for brand participation. Everyone talks about media now as being owned, bought, or earned, but are they really maximising the potential of earned media as an integral part of their strategy?

In many instances it seems that brands are using technology to lead the creative idea, rather than seeing a participatory strategy as part of a well planned and thought out extension of the brand experience. Successful engagement needs to have a clear idea about how people are expected to interact and how, once this relationship has started, it is sustained and rewarded.

When left unplanned, it is difficult to capitalise fully on the potential for brand participation. You risk ideas not being seen to connect to the brand and also starting a new relationship, have no clear and relevant way to sustain it.

Raising expectations and going out on an experimental ’first date’, with no follow up and feedback is bound to disappoint.

Brand participation needs to drive a specific intended brand experience and response. So marketers need to think about how brand participation activity makes a relevant connection to the product or service and that is clearly recognised and understood.

Another important challenge is to understand whether your assumptions about how your new, participatory activity is contributing to building a deeper, more rewarding brand relationship. As we all embrace these opportunities for creating more participatory and engaging experiences, we need to be clear how we expect them to deliver.

I am still astonished that within our increasingly imaginative and integrated world of brands and communications, so many turn back to the familiar world of measurement and use tools created to measure broadcast advertising and backward-looking databases, to evaluate their forward-looking approaches to engagement marketing.
Why would you only track ’awareness’ and ’relevance’ metrics for a highly targeted entertainment idea, that is expected to ’reward’ and ’gain’ credit from a few, rather than ’tell’ many?

Why would you not have a clear set of participatory metrics that measure how people interact what they ’do’ as well as ’think’ in response to the campaign and brand? Would you not want to know whether your engagement activity is creating a deeper response to the brand than your advertising?

Marketers need to understand that the world of brands and communications has changed and become more complex, and that engaging campaigns work in lots of different ways and therefore need different, more forward looking and sensitive development and evaluation metrics.

Brands are held in people’s minds as a set of unconscious, primarily emotional and, often unconnected, associations. Therefore it makes sense to measure peoples unconscious ’sensing’ of a brand. We also measure how they are being influenced by the behaviour or others and identify the ’social emotion’ that is going on around a brand.

We explore this using implicit as well as explicit questioning and by introducing more qualitative measures alongside hard metrics. We also have a specific set of metrics to measure engagement and participation. Brands need to not only listen to the ongoing conversations about their brand, but interpret and understand how best to respond.

As Kraft expands their brand experience into multiple touchpoints beyond the fridge, we see ’brand sensing’ and ’brand participation’ measures increase.

We know people think others like them and using Kraft products and that they themselves are open to interacting with Kraft, whether it is to offer recipe ideas or talk about products and brands to friends. We also know that high ’sensing’ of others activity around the brand and the willingness to participate with Kraft makes Kraft one of the world’s most engaging brands. Our study shows Kraft to be in the top 10 of the most engaging brands.

We believe a more planned approach to engagement strategy and evaluation is the way forward to building successful, profitable brand participation.

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