As much as the marketing industry is talking about “consumer generated media”, it’s talking about “engagement”. The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) put forth a working definition that’s as good a starting point as any:
"Engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context."
Problem is, that “brand idea” is most often an advertising idea. In that way, “engagement” feels like it has been co-opted by the advertising community as a way to protect budgets. By doing so, they’re suggesting that an advertising idea can change behavior to a much greater extent that it really can. News flash: Unless you’re talking about direct response, advertising is a means to awareness.
I posted a similar sentiment in a comment that I left in response to Max Kalehoff’s post about a marketer from Coke and their perspective on engagement. I agree with the Max and the Coke guy that sales really are the thing. Max ends the post with this question:
But short of sales, can’t engagement also be hugely important if it ties to a pre-defined business outcome, like a changed attitude, preference or behavior?
Since I’ve had time to think about this since I posted the comment, I can address this question from a different angle. Specifically, I think the net positive with all of this focus on engagement is that marketers are now getting serious about how to place value on soft measures. What engagement ultimately speaks to is an attempt to develop an overall integrated measure. While that may be impossible, it’s also important to shift how marketers judge value for those perceptual and attitudinal measures that help create a holistic picture of how well a campaign is performing.