In the good old days before content marketing, marketers relied on email and advertising to reach prospective consumers and build advocacy. These channels were swamped by marketers and consumers got smarter adopting technology to filter ads and block them.
Consumers were making choices to “approach or avoid” aligning with theory around advertising. They now have the power to engage with content or avoid boring or negative stimuli. Fast forward a few years and marketers wised up to this and developed useful content designed to inform consumers rather than sell to them. Rich content found its way to the top of search pages and therefore without costing an organisation a cent in advertising dollars, it could deliver a consistent stream of incoming web traffic.
This sounded too good to be true, a medium to cut through the noise that offered consumers something of value for nothing but their details in return. Marketers then started pumping out content in vast amounts, quantity went up, quality went down. Organisations began to fund the spread of poor content through paid channels and eventually it too became clutter, less valued and caused consumers to develop negative attitudes to content advertising thus actively avoid it.
Pulizzi, defined content marketing as “A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly- defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action”.
Most marketing teams are focused on creating content that informs and empowers consumers while creating strong relationships around the brand or its products. Marketers develop content through emails, tweets, blogs, websites and native advertising to fulfil brand objectives but not necessarily to meet customer needs. Does all this content create true engagement from your customers?
It does not! Consumers are more savvy than ever and content marketing does not guarantee engagement.
True engagement is the idea of turning on a prospect to a brand idea, connecting with them on a deep level and being able to break through the clutter so that they are more receptive to advertising effectiveness. Content can’t measure up to this emotional connection. Islam and Rahman suggest customer engagement as a construct to build and enrich customer relationships, a strategic imperative to building a sustainable competitive advantage that has the power to affect customer satisfaction and loyalty.
According to academic scholars Kelly, Kerr and Drennan there are specific triggers of engagement:
- cut through,
- brand self-congruency,
- social outcomes
Therefore, brands need a customer focused approach based on relationship-building strategies delivered through customer engagement triggers. Marketers need to devise effective marketing strategies to enhance customer experiences, drive customer loyalty and escalate brand performance and value.
Companies are increasingly seeking customer participation and engagement we can see this through brands such as Nike and Coke. They have created communities around their brands, encouraging user generated content, while developing brand advocates. They are focused on the customer experience.
How can brands achieve true customer engagement?
The answer is simple, to create meaningful engagement, brands need to go one step further and fully understand their target market. Connect with audiences on digital channels they use and provide opportunities for them to share and create social capital or self-congruency with the brand.
“User Gratification” theory provides an understanding of underlying motives for use of specific media and allows marketers to harness this knowledge to further engage consumers in meaningful ways on the right channels. Marketers need to know their theory, and how it is applied in today’s technological landscape. Embrace change and stay on the front foot.