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November 27, 2006
What people talk about
Word of mouth can happen without engagement; a product or company can be (and should be!) trustworthy enough to be simply recommendable. One can easily recommend, for instance, a new beverage without feeling "engaged" to it.
If we are to define "engagement" as emotional involvement or commitment, that would portend a level of exclusivity. One can easily recommend a range of beverages, based on the recipient's needs or desires, without demonstrating commitment. I could recommend several rums to someone, and not just one, because I love rum. (But not red rum.) But if I were to buy several cases of a particular rum and give those out as holiday gifts, that's more ultimate than simply simply talking about it with a barstool buddy.
That's why "ultimate engagement" portends something more than emotional involvement or commitment. If ultimate is defined as the best or most extreme, then people who go out of their way to contribute directly to the relationship with a brand really live at the edges of ultimate engagement. They're the citizen marketers.
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Thanks once again for a great post. In a way, these results show that market leading brands do capture the greatest mindshare relative to the others.
Agree too that people talking about your brand doesn't necessarily translate to fanatical evangelism. Take the example of the Dell Hell episode, plus Walmart and Edelman. Those cases are more like disengagement than anything else!
This is to the heart of an uneasy feeling I've had about what Keller Fay and Buzz Agent are doing. I don't discredit what they do, but it's talk value and that's not the ultimate measurement, it's kind of old school thinking. Plus it also gets into that whole pay to play deal; if you are paying someone for their contribution how valid is it really?
I would add that the ultimate engagement is when a user can help another user (or group of users) with a NEED. And that need does not have to brand specific. At Intuit, we have an online community (www.quickbooksgroup.com), where users are more concerned about solving a problem, getting an answer to a question or fulfilling a need vs. anything related to the brand.
Walter -- So true. And I like your term of "disengagement."
Tac -- It does seem a bit like measuring "purchase intent" vs. actual sales. Something can have plenty of word of mouth, but it may not add up to much other than... a lot of word of mouth. The evangelist takes the extra step beyond simple word of mouth, and the citizen marketer creates content for it.
Scott -- That's it, exactly -- when a user contributes their time to another community member and by extension, the good of the brand. In a corporate context, that seems rather ultimate.