Engagement. The New Currency

In a highly fragmented technology and media landscape, it’s harder than ever to break through and create meaningful engagement with your audience.

Our VP of Digital, Lizzie Widhelm, had the privilege of sitting down with several marketers during Advertising Week to talk about how they are redefining engagement and capturing the attention of their audiences with exclusive content, through the passion point of music and by creating moments that resonate and add value to the lives of their consumers.

Lizzie was joined on stage by the the following panelists:

  • Tamara Bousquet, SVP NY Media Capability Lead, DigitasLBi
  • John Hollywood, Managing Director, Zeno Group NY
  • Dan Kruchkow, CMO, Crush Entertainment
  • Katie Redlien, Senior Brand Manager, BACARDÍ Rum USA
  • Tiffany Winter, Senior Director, Partnerships & Development, Mindshare Entertainment
Here’s a brief synopsis of what they discussed.  You can watch the panel here.

Defining Engagement

So, just how are these marketer’s defining engagement?

There wasn’t one simple recipe for success but there was consensus that to drive meaningful engagement, marketers must take a highly consumer-centric approach.  Everyone agreed that for programs to be effective, they must be tailored to the wants, needs and schedules of consumers, especially when it comes to millennials.

“The only way to capture millennials is when they choose to activate,” said Tamara Bousquet from DigitasLBI.

According to John Hollywood of Zeno Group, “The value is in finding those consumers who really matter to your brand, who can can take something, share it and really become evangelists for it.”

Overall, the panelists stressed the importance of creating an emotional connection with their consumers as tantamount to their success.

“In music, we live and die by our fan base.  If we don’t have a fan base to play to we’ve got no one to talk to. So, we do everything we can to appeal to the people who love us already and do things that are going to make them talk, make them excited and spread the word for us,” said Dan Kruchkow of Crush Entertainment.

The Importance of Storytelling

Front and center to this approach is the idea of authentic storytelling through the creation of robust content that drives an emotional connection with a brand’s audience while staying true to the brand’s DNA.

Katie Redlien, from BACARDÍ Rum USA, shared a great example of how the BACARDÍ Loud and Untameable program turned a boring history lesson about the BACARDÍ brand into an exclusive program that resonated with their music-loving consumers.

BACARDÍ paired three emerging bands with the Cuban band, Yerba Buena, to record their songs Cuban style in an all-out, anything-goes studio collaboration that also resulted in great behind-the-scenes footage.  They saw success across channels including 600K listeners and 13 years worth of listening time on their Pandora brand station alone.

”This program allowed us to connect with our consumers and share and celebrate our history and heritage in a very organic way,” said Katie.

While agreeing on the importance of content rich programs and a willingness for brands to work more closely with partners and publishers to create content that tells a story, there was also an acknowledgement that these kinds of programs need to be better prioritized and resourced against by both brands and publishers.

One challenge that Tiffany Winter of Mindshare Entertainment shared is brining the value of content to the forefront. “Content can have a huge return. We try to push our clients to have that flexibility, to be nimble, to take each partner and each program and actually see content as being able to do a lot for them and to be willing to spend the money upfront and not have so many restrictions around it.”

The hour evolved into a  discussion about how brands and publishers can better work together to bring these kinds of programs to life.  It was agreed that since publishers know their audience best, they should be given more leeway to shape the program in order to achieve a brand’s objectives.  While it is often hard for a brand to cede control, it is key to the success of a program.

Measuring Impact

Finally, and most importantly, to bring the conversation back to the idea of engagement as the new currency, the panel discussed how brands can measure the effectiveness of these types of lean-in content rich programs.  It was acknowledged that it’s no easy task.  While the conversation could have gone on much longer, there was general agreement that, just like great storytelling takes several forms there is not one-size-fits-all when it comes to engagement-based programs.

“The KPIs that are currently out there are not the best ones to be working with. I think they can actually end up restricting creativity,” said Tiffany Winter of Mindshare Entertainment.  “We need to push ourselves to find better ways to measure engagement.”

“Every single project is different.  It’s not like a banner buy,” said Tamara from DigitasLBi.