Engagement beyond borders

16th September 2015

Eyeballs. For decades, advertisers have been on a quest to get their clients’ brands and products in front of the highest possible number of eyeballs. And back in the day when a TV spot could command 100% of people’s attention (give or take the odd trip to the kettle), this was all well and good. The Opportunity To See reigned supreme. The blunt instrument was king.

As we all know, though, the world has changed, dragging the marketing industry along with it. Nowadays, the ad break (when we aren’t watching on demand) has to share eyeballs with our constant posting, tweeting, messaging and snapping on tablets and smartphones. Whether people have an Opportunity To See your brand or not, the chances are they’re unlikely to be engaging with it, at least not for long. Their eyes are everywhere.

In reality, in an environment like this – where a consumer’s engagement options are so many and so varied – it’s no longer about the number of eyeballs you’re in front of, it’s about the number of brains you’re in. And getting your brand to travel the optic nerve between the two requires a whole new set of skills that we as marketers can only hope to assume if we step out of our comfort zone and explore.

For us at Weber Shandwick, this means many things. It means experimenting with new technologies. It means bringing in new skill sets. It means exploring new markets. And it also means seeking insight and intelligence from outside our sector.

It was in this spirit that the Science of Engagement was born three years ago, as we worked alongside anthropologist Dr. Grant McCracken, psychologist Dr. Olivier Oullier and neuroscientist Dr. Thomas Ramsøy.

We identified the 10 common characteristics of engagement (the “Principles of Engagement”) and its 19 constituent parts (the “Elements”). The Principles include the importance of immediacy; the marrying of experience and expectation; and the clear distinction between capturing and building engagement. The Principles underpin the theory behind The Science of Engagement, while the Elements − from Aesthetics and Belonging, to Respect and Newness − provide the practical building blocks for successful engagement.

The final report was a treasure trove of insight from leading academics who had given us a perspective on marketing that we would never have discovered by sticking to the well-beaten track. It taught us about the Caveman and the Thinker, about the power of Herd Behaviour, the irresistibility of Intrigue and the principle of reciprocity.

Since its launch in 2012, we have applied the Science of Engagement to the world of brands, to the third sector, to employee engagement and to city marketing. Its timeless base in “brain” science means that its power is increasing over time, as it continues to educate and inspire us.

As conventional marketing falls by the wayside, the engagement era demands new strategies, new ideas and new techniques. We continue to use the Science of Engagement to navigate this evolving landscape. Over the next three weeks we will be publishing via this blog four fresh perspectives on this area from Weber Shandwick’s experts in the UK and Germany and one of our original report partners, Dr. Olivier Oullier.

Our plans to extend the Science of Engagement into new markets, to explore how people engage with media and to deepen our insight in existing markets mean that it will continue to be a rich seam of insight for us and our clients for years to come.