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The Engagement Marketing Disconnect Between Consumers and Brands Rages On

"After surveying 250 marketing executives and over 2,000 consumers, it’s clear that what marketers consider to be high-value engagement is not always thought of in the same way by consumers."

The above line is from a recent report put out by Forbes Insights and Turn called “The New Rules of engagement: Measuring the Power of Social Currency" and unfortunately continues a trend - a trend I myself have written about as far back as last December.

Last December I wrote of The Major Disconnect Between Brands and Consumers When It Comes to Social Media. About a month later I followed that up with Even More Proof of the Major Disconnect Between Brands and Consumers When It Comes to Social Media. Each article touched on a different survey/study which showed a huge divide between why marketers think a consumer likes/follows a brand on social media vs. why a consumer actually does so.

Well according to the aforementioned Forbes Insights study the disconnect is alive and well and may even be widening.

From the Key Findings of the report:

  • Marketers view consumers’ proactivity via social media as more engaging then consumers do. The inflation of “engagement” in this case has been caused by the ease of social media use and equating online followers with successful marketing. Measurement of social media engagement is an area where CMOs often don’t know what they don’t know.
  • Fundamental disconnects in how marketers and consumers understand and value engagement tactics may cost marketers great opportunities. The biggest schisms are found in approach to redemption rates, discount codes and loyalty programs. Additionally, marketers’ attempts at personalization and customization engage few consumers. This finding may stem from consumers’ high expectations of what true customization and personalization stands for.
  • Consumers identify strongly with brands, particularly younger consumers, who view their relationship with brands as a reflection of self. And they approach and interact with them in a variety of ways, from social media to traditional advertising. They don’t necessarily view this as engagement, however. Rather, their view of how they interact with and relate to brands is much more holistic.

Just take a look at the chart below and spot all the disconnects between what marketers value compared to what consumers value.

Perhaps the most glaring example of a disconnect from the above chart lies in the fact that 49% of marketers rate forwards or shares of ads or other content online as a strong influence on their engagement measures, but just 15% of consumers say they feel engaged or invested in a brand when they share an ad.

So the next time all you marketers out there break into a happy dance because 100 people shared your ad you may want to temper your enthusiasm just a tad as it is not indicative of a consumer who is necessarily engaged with your brand per se.

And you also may want to not take out your dancing shoes just because you grew your Twitter followers by X%.

Different Strokes

From the report:

"The two groups (consumers and marketers) differ fundamentally in how they define the state of engagement with a brand; what companies consider engaging is not considered anywhere near so by consumers. But this also cuts both ways: some activities that consumers consider highly engaging are seen as less important by marketers. This may be costing companies great opportunities to engage consumers."

The first two results alone from the chart above say it all and if not all, they say a lot. Consumers are creatures of habit, they are human beings which means they want something in return for their engaging with your brand.

From the aforementioned The Major Disconnect Between Brands and Consumers When It Comes to Social Media:

This Is Not Just About Social Media Engagement

The need to engage with consumers extends well beyond the scope of social media. People want the personal touch, they want to know brands understand them and offer the ability to create a brand experience that matches their individual tastes.

Yet that is apparently not happening as you will see another example of the major disconnect between consumers and brands.

From the report:

"72% of marketing executives say that they have personally reached out to customers, but just 9% of consumers say that they feel engaged or invested in a brand because of such gestures. The personal connection has been a cornerstone of marketing strategy."

And since I am such a huge fan of infusing humor into, well just about everything in my life but especially advertising and marketing, I had to share this one final finding from the report which speaks directly to the power of humor to connect and engage.

Sources: Forbes InsightsMarketingCharts.comGoogle Images

Named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review and a Top 50 Social Media Blogger by Kred, Steve Olenski is a senior content strategist at Responsys, a leading global provider of on-demand email and cross-channel marketing solutions. 

Join The Conversation

  • Dec 11 Posted 4 years ago Craig_Hughes_

    Hi Steve - thanks for taking the time to write such a thought provoking piece.

    I agree there is a disconnect here but disagree that this is any way a new finding or a kick in the balls for 'engagement marketing' (whatever that is?! If marketing doesn't seek to be engaging in some way with someone, what the hell are we being paid for?!)

    There is always going to be a disconnect between what a marketer (optimist) believes levels of engagement to be and what the consumer (sceptic) believes their engagement with Marketing Comms to be. One will over-estimate and the other will under-estimate.

    Given that people are not very good at understanding their own motivations, I think it's healthy to be sceptical of studies which seek to get purely qualitative, anecdotal feedback. 

    What's important to me is that there is a similar ranking of the levels of engagement, and the graphs look pretty similar actually, so I would say that, from this limited data, there does appear to be a decent correlation.

    Does that make sense? 

  • Dec 6 Posted 4 years ago Neil Charter

    Excellent article and like thinking to what I continually  challenge others with. Great to see such an open and frank expose. At the end of the day most anecdotal surveys around the average office reveal the reality. That is not to say there is not a purpose and a level of engagement that it offers, let's just keep that in perspective until the next evolution layer of social media finds new engagement strategies.

  • LorenzMba64's picture
    Dec 6 Posted 4 years ago LorenzMba64

    Very insightful and informative. The companies that are likely to get a better return on the portion of their marketing spend allocated to digital activities are those that better 'engage' with the consumers by aligning their measurement parameters with those that the consumers use. This perhaps proves a truism that the cliche '...what's in it for me...' remains relevant in marketing.

  • celivingston's picture
    Dec 6 Posted 4 years ago celivingston

    Great article, but I think some of the interpretations of the charts are a bit off. There are actually pretty decent correlations between most of the customer answers and marketer answers. If you look at the relationships between the data, they don't paint nearly as bad of a picture. I think the post has some valid points, but a few are a little overblown.

  • Dec 6 Posted 4 years ago Tom Blackett

    People don't engage with brands, they engage with products and services; if these satisfy then the buyer will return, always with an eye for the alternatives available. Similarly, the word 'loyalty' is a complete misnomer because it implies an emotional element to the buyer-seller relationship. To assume that your customers' commitment is driven by anything more than price and availability is to inhabit cloud cuckoo land. 'Look after the customer and the profits will look after themselves" is a very old saying, but still sound. Abide by it, and you may just - only just - earn an emotional dividend. Then you can pat yourself on the back, but don't kid yourself that it counts for more than a row of beans.

    Retailer engagement, now that's something worth working on.

    Tom Blackett

  • Dec 6 Posted 4 years ago Donald Frazier

    Q1 above omits one very obvious answer as to 'Why do do you 'like' a brand?  One option is "I don't use social media."  But there's not one that says "I use social media, but I don't 'like' brands."

    I think this would account for a not-insignificant share of potential customers.

  • Kathleen Hanover's picture
    Dec 6 Posted 4 years ago Kathleen Hanover

    What is the business value of "engagement?" That's the critical question, in my mind. What is the correlation, if any, between "engagement" and revenues or profits? What is the return on investment? If you have 100,000 Twitter followers, and none of them buy anything from your company, what is the point?

    As a public relations consultant, I'm frequently called on to quantify the value of, say, a press release for a client. I imagine that social media managers have an even harder time quantifying the value of their services than I do. But if you can show that your social media engagement helps position or brand your organization, then more power to you. If you can prove that there's a correlation between views of your latest viral video and your latest boost in sales, even better.

    I would love to know how effective The Old Spice Man was. The first "look at me...now look at your man...now back to me...here are two tickets to that thing you love" video has been viewed over 43 million times on YouTube. I remember sharing it with a lot of friends. The hysterical series of commercials certainly brought new and hip life back to an old brand. But was there an accompanying manly increase in revenues?

  • Dec 5 Posted 4 years ago Scott Mollan

    "Engagement" is perhaps the greatest lie ever hoisted upon clients and marketers. The number of times I have ebndured meetings where this over-used, mis-understood and generally abused term is used, is astounding. A simple look at Oxford will tell you what engagement means. Simply putting a message in front of someone does not constitue 'engagement'. The numbers are meaningless and often a lie. Perhaps those latest smarter-than-you-buzzword enthusiasts should refer more accurately to 'place' or  'annoyance' or 'spam'. Good article, thanks.

  • Dec 5 Posted 4 years ago Clarkozy

    At last. A great sanity check on social media. The advance of technology and the ease of a click has created inflation of value. Voting with a finger (click) is not the same as one's feet (a real recommendation).  And good to see the human side coming through - humour. Well done Steve.  

  • avcotter@gmail.com's picture
    Dec 5 Posted 4 years ago avcotter@gmail.com

    Well done Steve! I think brands completely underestimate loyalty programs.  If you have a customer enrolled in a loyalty program you need to make them "feel the love!"

  • Samuel Chan's picture
    Dec 5 Posted 4 years ago Samuel Chan

    Hi Steve,

    I read your post titled 22nd December 2011 and I think you're pretty spot on with your analysis.
    I like this article just as much. There certainly are brands that are "outliers" and they, as we can expect, perform so much better at engaging their customers. Unbounce.com does it (disclaimer: I'm a huge fan of Unbounce), MailChimp does it, and Wufoo does it. 

    Those are great examples of brand not afraid of infusing great content with suitable humour. I can go on with the list, but I think I've made a clear point in that "outlier" brands that outperform their peers on the Engagement Gauge do exist.

    Thanks again for the article. Very well written and great work!

    Samuel Chan

  • Dec 4 Posted 4 years ago Mark Spector

    Consumers have always underestimated the impact of marketing. I liken this study to the 1970s studies where consumers told marketers television advertising had no effect on thier purchase decision, then said to their spouses during a commercial for a new snack or frozen dinner, "Hey, honey, this looks good. Let's try it."

    Of course, marketers also have a vested interest in overstating the impact of their efforts. Marketers may stress the importance of these metrics as "measures of engagement," even if the majority of consumers are clicking those "likes" on whims, or engaging to receive discounts, enter contests.

    I suspect the truth is somewhere in between. A consumer may not feel all that "engaged" when they follow a brand. But making their preference so public, on some level, psychologically obligates them to maintain a certain level of brand loyalty.


  • Dec 4 Posted 4 years ago HandeVatandost

    Very good piece of writing with the right kind of charts on social media engagements!

    I have gained good insight, thank you! 

  • Dec 3 Posted 4 years ago Neil Grainger

    I don't think there is much value in trying to compare a consumers feelings on engagement with a brand and how a marketeer evaluates its advertising. Just because a consumer doesn't believe they are engaging with a brand by performing a certain action doesn't mean they aren't engaging with a brand. This is actually shown in your own stats. Only 41% of people feel engaged with a brand when they sign up for special deals or email updates, but 80% read email alerts or updates on special deals.

    Only 15% of people think of sharing an ad as engaging with the brand because they don't really get a benefit from it, which is how the consumer seems to define 'engaging'. However, the marketeer is rightfully seeing this as powerful engagement since it organically spreads the brands message.

    There is worth in asking the consumer what content they would like from a brand, but that doesn't mean the current methods are wrong if the consumer doesn't mention them.

  • Dec 3 Posted 4 years ago Ken Hammock

    Great article and stats. However, it seems critical to define "engagement." Business' perspective on engagement seems totally different from consumers' definition. But engagement, nontheless, is overrated and should not be considered the foundation of marketing scenario. If the consumer does not need or want your product or service, all the engagement in the world will not endear them to your brand. Engagement is merely a tool in a workshop full of options. Marketing is far more than just social media engagement.

  • Dec 3 Posted 4 years ago Anashwara Radha...

    Thank you for sharing this article. I am loving the stats :)


  • James Meyer's picture
    Nov 30 Posted 4 years ago James Meyer

    Nice article and good data Steve.  Thank you.

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