by Adam Mack
November 25th, 2014

As Weber Shandwick evolves as an agency, we increasingly find ourselves doing much more than traditional public relations. We are no longer just PROs but also digital strategists, content creators, event builders, community managers, storytellers, trainers – the list isn’t endless but it is rather long.

In truth, what we have really become are ‘engagement professionals’, equipped to engage audiences in a multiplicity of ways across a multiplicity of channels.

As we enter new disciplines and offer clients these ever-broader services, we recognise that our understanding of engagement needs to deepen and broaden. Relying on our existing expertise and instincts is no longer enough, which is why we have sought expertise outside our sector, indeed outside marketing altogether.

The Science of Engagement is a unique study that explores the science behind effective engagement, applying the learnings of neuroscience, psychology and anthropology to help brands better engage their audiences.

By collaborating with leading minds in the above fields, we have identified the 10 Principles of engagement and its 19 fundamental ‘Elements’ and have applied this to the world of brands through a brand diagnostic methodology.

Ultimately, this work has allowed us to understand how brands across categories compare in terms of their ‘Engagement Footprints’ and, critically, which Elements are most critical to purchase consideration and intent. We then use this insight to create engagement campaigns that address weaknesses and fill the gaps.

One area of focus for us has been consumer technology and, in particular, mobile brands – a sector that we have looked at in some detail. By studying the footprints of brands in the mobile arena and better understanding the path consumers follow to purchase, we have unearthed the following about the category:

  1. The category is heavily driven by ‘social’ Elements, those that are closely aligned with our human need to connect with others, suggesting that those in the space need to make people feel part of a ‘set’ (Belonging) and project how much the ‘herd’ are behind the brand (Herd Behaviour).
  2. People shopping for mobile phones are much more drawn to attractiveness than those in other categories, and this increases as they get closer to purchase – the brain is fast to engage with beauty, so those that bring this sense of Aesthetic to their brands, devices and communications will be those that most engage consumers in the category.
  3. Anything that has true Meaning for consumers will be more frequently sought – our psychologist told us that people seek meaning in everything they encounter so those brands who can find a way to give their consumers purpose and direction will be more likely to engage them.
  4. Whilst past experiences have little bearing on whether someone is aware of or considering a mobile brand, it becomes a critical factor when purchase is imminent – people assess the personal Experience they have had with the brand as they get more serious about purchase so brands seeking to retain custom should target their customers with positive memories of their relationship at this point.
  5. Finally, social buzz becomes less important as the consumer approaches purchase – whilst Social Totems (those things that unlock conversations and social interactions) are important to get people to consider a mobile brand, it is significantly less important when it comes to purchase intent (where Meaning and Experience take over and it all becomes much more personal).

So whilst a more detailed brand-by-brand analysis would allow us to be develop more specific engagement strategies for mobile brands our insight suggests that mobile brands must do 2 things if they are to better engage their consumers and customers: a) convey a sense of welcome and growing popularity to the new customers they wish to entice and b) dial up the personal touch as their customer approaches purchase.

So, in a nutshell, Science of Engagement tells us that mobile brands must act like Members Clubs – creating welcoming brand environments, ensuring exceptional service, reflecting personal needs and values. Create the right club and the right people will come.

Groucho Marx once said: “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member”. Science suggests he would be in the minority.

Adam Mack is Chief Strategy Officer, Weber Shandwick EMEA

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