More and more, consumer branding is about engagement. On the Internet, you’re most likely to see references to the social media aspects. But it goes further than blogs, chat, and diggery. For example, a huge fraction of the sports business now is apparel sales – replica jerseys and the like. This may be “tribal” in Seth Godin‘s lexicon, but it’s not particularly online-social.
US politics is heavily about engagement too. The traditional centers of engagement – unions, churches, and so on – have now been joined by the Internet as well. The Washington Post has a great article today about old-style engagement in the Clinton campaign.Micah Sifry makes the case that this time it’s different, and in the process describes the crucial role of internet-based engagement to this year’s presidential campaign.
And of course the same thing’s happening in software. Open source is greatly about engagement, up to the point of co-development. (I don’t want to admit how long I’d gone without programming until I hacked around a bit in WordPress.) And as Sun’s recent purchase of MySQL illustrates, open source is a very big deal.
It goes even further than that in software. The base of the open source pyramid is people who download something for free and experience it at their convenience before buying, but don’t try to extend it themselves. And, as I noted today in a write-up of Coveo, that extends well beyond open source. (A couple of other closed-source examples are Attivio and Coral8.)
What does this imply about messaging strategy? Two generalities jump quickly to mind.
- Increasingly, you need to target people who are ripe to learn about you, not just ones who are ripe to buy.
- Whatever claims you make to them had better be true enough so as to hold up through long engagement.