News & Views

Opinion / Return on Interest

by Contagious Contributor

Emma De La Fosse, chief creative officer, OgilvyOne EAME on how brands are using content creatively to foster customer engagement at a global and local level

Social media is no longer a trend or a phenomenon – we have long acknowledged that it has become a significant and important part of our everyday lives and, thanks to the plethora of channels available, this juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down. However, it is not enough to simply post status updates and photos on social media to keep a brands audience connected, it is about valuable content and creating a shared experience that keeps them interacting with you. We are living in an “always-on” connected world, where brands have to work quicker, harder and more efficiently to entice consumers to engage and interact with their messaging and content.

Customer engagement is about encouraging your customers to interact and share in the experiences you create for them as a business and a brand. When executed well, a strong customer engagement strategy will foster brand growth and loyalty. Businesses that focus on customer engagement are driven by value creation and not revenue extraction, I call this the new ROI; Return on Interest. These are businesses that know how to engage their customers by providing them with real value, whether it be through an exceptional end-to-end customer experience, great content or strong customer support that is about delivering more than the traditional sell technique. The prolific blogger Seth Godin said: ‘Open conversations generate loyalty, sales and most of all, learning... for both sides.’ Engagement as a term is vague, however it has always meant from the customer engagement perspective.

Consumers expect informative, engaging, humorous and emotive content delivered to their mobile devices and they want it now. There is no hiding place for brands to sit back and take stock, in the digital age brands and retailers must deliver an immersive and integrated experience if they are to thrive. These businesses should still engage through the numerous traditional and digital methods available as part of a wider promotional mix.

In 1996 Bill Gates famously said ‘Content is King’, fastforward nineteen years and data and analytics have superseded this, as businesses require valuable customer insight to help maximise the effectiveness of their content strategy. Without quantitative and qualitative insight, through data and analytics, brands could struggle to determine their customers behavioural or purchasing patterns, as well as match their likes and dislikes with targeted and curated content, which results in heightened engagement and sales. It is imperative that brands nurture their existing customer base by listening to their needs and requirements. The journey consumers have with a brand should be regarded as a marathon and not a sprint.

This brings me onto the brands which uses their content creatively to foster customer engagement at a global and local level. Much loved global brands such as British Airways, Land Rover, T-Mobile, Red Bull, BUPA and Burberry have all encouraged their customers around the world to share their brand experiences through an assortment of methods which include; social media, blogs, forums, events, incentives, images and videos. This collaborative tactic has not only proved hugely popular, but it has given their audience an opportunity to be part of the wider conversation in a way that suits them. Location, location, location has always be a mainstay for bricks & mortar businesses, but the onslaught of digital ecommerce has seen ‘engagement, engagement, engagement’ become the barometer in which brands must be seen to operate.

For some brands, seeking a ready source of rich content is only a click-away. Brands that have built and nurtured their audience over the years through sharing engaging content, will have earned a loyal audience, receptive to the brands new products or services. Take the American motorbike brand Harley-Davidson as an example, they have built a highly active, engaged and self-moderated online community. Harley-Davidson fans around the world discuss, share and collaborate with other like-minded enthusiasts which in turn produces rich content the brand could use for their own marketing endeavours. These advocates act as global custodians, amplifying all nuances of brand activity, thus enhancing the very community most brands strive to maintain. Rich content can be provided through a variety of crowdsourcing methods, this will result in content which is authentic, transparent and highly prized.

For a customer engagement programme to be considered effective, it must be a two-way process between the brand and their community from the outset. For the initiative to resonate, it must entice, engage and fulfil the customers’ most basic needs. At OgilvyOne we created a hearts and minds approach for clients such as Land Rover and BUPA which proved to be popular and rewarding. For BUPA’s Helping You Find Healthy campaign (above), members were asked what being healthy means to them. Backed by a national television, print and digital media campaign, the data and content produced strong results for the brand, but the social phase of the campaign took a while to pick-up momentum. We were also briefed by our client Land Rover to produce a high profile campaign to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Land Rover Discovery. At OgilvyOne, we produced a multi-tiered, above-the-line content led campaign which celebrated the many facets and history of the Discovery. We soon realised the immense passion the fans have for the brand, so we turned to Land Rover’s digital community to source personalised images and videos which formed the campaign film. By turning to the brands community we knew the content was both authentic and unseen, and this symbiotic relationship has acted as a trigger for the fan base to gift us even more precious footage of their adventures.

For brands to reach an active and engaged audience, it is imperative they utilise social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn as this is often where the conversation is happening. Rather than hijacking an existing conversation, brands should look to drive and inspire the conversation with their own thought provoking and curated content. To keep a sustained and engaged audience, the approach online needs to be both relevant, regular and conversational, rather than sales focused. Brands will always strive to develop new ways in which they can grow their community network around the world, this can be effective through a variety of methods, including: engaging content, incentives, events, promotions, newsletters, mobile apps, listening to customers and responding to issues efficiently.

Customer-centricity and relevance are essential characteristics of content for customer engagement. To use content in an insightful way, businesses must pay more attention to their content marketing performance. The goal is to create strategic conversations with decision makers and influencers to acquire leads, build trust and shorten selling cycles. If a brands content does not engage, there is not much point in sharing it with its network. The internet and social media has no geographical borders, so customer engagement comes from all corners of the globe. Brands still have some way to go in fine-tuning customer engagement programmes, but the demands of consumers continue to evolve and so must the methods in which brands interact with their community. According to Pardot, 80% of customers say authenticity of a brands content is the most influential factor in their decision to engage with that brand and when making a purchasing decision, interesting or humorous content is three times more important than trust in the company’s position in the marketplace. It is essential brands understand and value their audience and listen to their needs, wants and expectations so that their community thrives and represents the brands core values.