How to Engage the Unengaged



This topic fascinates me. It’s at the heart of many of the campaign briefs that we are seeing from our clients both in the profit and not-for-profit sector. How do you connect with audiences, who are more savvy, flighty, cynical and distracted than ever before? How do you hold their attention for long enough, so that they listen to what you say and maybe even take the action you want them to take? And how do you build deep and long-term engagement? Many of your target audience won’t be ready to buy, donate, choose at this time, but when they are, will you still be top of their mind?

Creating impact in a sea of average customer engagement campaigns should actually be a fairly easy feat. Most content falls flat; it’s dull, uninspiring and safe. None of the ingredients needed for a campaign to be effective (if you want some pointers around how your content could be more effective, listen to our webinar).

So if the bar is set so low, how come more companies aren’t seizing the opportunity to create more engaging campaigns to entice their audiences? The reality is that most companies are trying, but it turns out that creating compelling, convincing and authentic content is actually pretty damn hard.

So this year, we’ve made it our mission to share as much as we can from what we’ve learnt over the years. We’ve got a whole series of blogs, videos and events planned in. So if you find it as interesting as me, make sure you join us for the ride.

People are not sold to anymore, they are engaged with

I came across this statement a few years ago and it stuck with me. Sales and marketing tactics are always evolving but this idea of putting engagement at the heart of your strategy feels like a significant shift in thinking and focus. Given how our society is developing and how technology has changed every interaction we have with each other, it does make for a compelling argument.

Facts, features and benefits and even pure logic don’t have the same appeal anymore. There is so much competition in every sector, and the internet gives the customer the chance to easily locate them in one place. This holds true for buying a picture, choosing a university or getting a loan. Unless the person is in the absolute final stages of the purchasing process, people dislike being sold to. Maybe this always held true, but in recent times, it’s become even more apparent.

People want to be in control, they want to seek out information on their terms. They don’t mind a touch of intrusion as long as it’s a fair balance - they must be benefitting from the interaction, e.g. through pleasure, learning or being inspired.

So how do you shift the balance between engaging with and selling to your audiences?  

Invest time in creating THE BIG IDEA

Given the fact that most campaign budgets aren’t endless, marketing teams and their agencies need to apportion the right amount of funding to each part of the project. Without careful budget planning, this can result in underfunding in areas like THE BIG IDEA.

The creative, the storytelling, the experience, the actual engagement factor itself.

Trends around UX, data and the desire to measure every single tiny detail mean that a significant part of the budget is invested in these areas. I’m certainly not saying that audiences and hard data should be ignored and we shouldn’t measure anything. But I am saying that if you want your brand to be noticed and be remembered, you can’t focus all your energy here.

That’s what your competitors are doing, and guess what? They are coming up with exactly the same customer experience maps and exactly the same measurement frameworks as you. And your audiences are getting a bunch of homogeneous campaigns being thrown at them with no real engagement factor.

So how can you be different?

  1. Be very clear on your brand positioning. What makes it unique? Why is it compelling? What do you want to say? What is the experience that you want to create? With the rush to create user-first design, we see a lot of companies relegating their brand to second place. This can be a huge blow to innovation and originality.

Remember what you stand for.

“This is a very complicated world. This is a noisy world. And we are not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us – no company is. And so we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us,””

Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple
  1. Bring in the voice of your audience at the right stage. Listen, seek to empathise and draw insight from the research, but don’t be led blindly. Researchers can never recreate the real-life experience of someone engaging or not engaging with a particular campaign, no matter how good the questions are or how non-intrusive the testing environment is. 

I’m reminded of the story of Jack Dee. He spent ages trying to make it as a comedian. He, like most comedians, tried to get the crowd to like him. Tried to work out what the audience wanted, through assumptions and research. After losing his girlfriend, drinking far too much and running out of money, he decided to give up comedy. He had a week left of gig bookings to get through. He’d given up already, so he thought ‘I’ll just be me and have fun.’ He didn’t smile, he didn’t try to be cheerful or get the audience to like him, he was rude, dismissive and himself. Crowd loved it and the rest is history. We all know how successful Jack Dee is.

  1. Identify the emotion that you want your audience to feel and keep that front and centre throughout the campaign. This is top of the list for successful campaigns but it’s often forgotten, normally after months of debate and stakeholder involvement. You need to get your audience to feel something - happiness, excitement, amazement, surprise, anger, sadness, disgust - it can be positive or negative. If you touch an emotion, you are more likely to create action. 

Scientists have discovered that people feel first, think second. When your audience sees sensory information, the emotional side of the brain can process the information in one-fifth of the time the cognitive section requires. Remember how busy and flighty we are, and what limited time we, as marketeers, have to engage with our target audience.

If you’re still not convinced, Nielsen released a study which showed that ads with an above average emotional response from consumers caused a 23% increase in sales compared to average ads. That’s a pretty convincing number.

So make it easier on yourself. Build emotion and feelings into your campaign.

  1. Be clear about who your audience is and where they are in the engagement funnel. The goal is to shift an audience segment from unengaged to engaged, but you need to know their current and likely levels of engagement before you plan out a campaign. Once you get down into this nitty, gritty detail, you’ll need to do some segmentation. 

Marketing 101: campaigns fail when you try to appeal to everyone. You need to be targeted on a particular segment - even if that is high-level, e.g. 16-24 male adventurer with limited awareness of our brand. Only then can you create an engaging experience that will appeal. Sometimes you get surprising consequences and the campaign will appeal to a wider segment, but don’t let that possibility distract you from creating laser-focused campaigns designed for a very specific audience. This is the only way to get consistent results from your engagement campaigns.

Always start with a blank slate.

  1. Once you’ve gained absolute clarity on the campaign strategy, look at the tactics and channels to activate your campaign. Always start from a blank slate here as the mix of tactics changes so quickly. The landscape in 2019 will be different than 2018. Social media algorithms change, new technology emerges, new legislation comes into play (GDPR anyone?) and audience habits and behaviours develop in different ways.

In terms of the use of emerging technology, for engagement campaigns, AR and VR technology continue to grow allowing brands to connect with audiences in new ways. Immersive experiences can tap into emotions in a powerful way. But like with all projects, the technology has to be right for the campaign strategy. And it should be a secondary consideration. Try not to start with ‘hey, how about using AR for this campaign?’.

Engagement is arguably the most vital part of your marketing strategy. An engaged audience is a receptive audience, and that’s when your messages or asks have a far greater impact. Ever tried to motivate an unengaged audience into taking action? It’s tough. Have a think about how you’re building audience engagement into your 2019 marketing plans.

We’ll be diving into this topic much further at our next Yoyo Presents event in London on 6th March, with presentations from University of Southampton, Marine Conservation Society and other experts. View more details and register for the event.

I’ll finish on how I started this article. I absolutely love this topic. So as always, you can reach me on [email protected] if you want to chat further.