Playing The Hero

Photo: "Playing The Hero" by JD Hancock .

Brand engagement is the Holy Grail of business stakeholders everywhere. When customers interact with your brand -- shape it, play with it, make it their own -- within the parameters you allow, brand managers and marketers have created a compelling experience for their constituent communities.

But brand engagement doesn't just happen. The word itself can mask issues of actual importance and sometimes, even marketers treat brand engagement as an "I'll know it when I see it" concept. So what does brand engagement look like?

Super brand engagement

Imagine if comic book companies DC or Marvel had created the Texts from Super Heroes Tumblr page. Fans share these images to their Facebook walls. They talk about these super hero conversations with friends. In less than a year, the content creators behind Texts from Super Heroes built an audience of thousands that helped propel this idea onto the front page of Mashable.

That's brand engagement. And that's what can happen when brands people like create compelling ways for fans to become involved. It makes business sense to encourage this.

Brand engagement pleases core fans and, at a minimum, puts the brand front of mind for those most likely to make a purchase.

From a different perspective, DC and Marvel adopt a constructive brand engagement policy by allowing fans Diana McCallum and Andrew Ivimey to use DC and Marvel characters in good fun. In all likelihood satire law protects Texts from Super Heroes. Nevertheless, a brand that allows its constituent communities to "own" what they love fosters engagement.

Said again: Brand engagement pleases core fans and, at a minimum, puts the brand front of mind for those most likely to make a purchase.

One simple rule

Brand engagement can come from unexpected places. Or it can be the result of careful planning.

The commonality is brand engagement requires policies focused on pleasing the end user rather than onerous restrictions that ultimately limit brand growth.

The best brands, the ones that put their communities at the center of all decisions, win.

So how do you encourage engagement with your brand?