Clear A Digital Pathway To Engagement, Brand Preference and Customer Loyalty

Scott Lindenbaum is VP, Director of Digital Planning for Deutsch NY. No doubt, Lindenbaum has a sweet position at the agency, but the title fails to suit him. He wants to be called Engagement Strategy Director.

Given the planner’s understanding of Marshall McLuhan’s thinking on hot and cool media, Lindenbaum likely deserves said title change.

In the 1960s, Philosopher Marshall McLuhan famously wrote about hot and cool media, each of which invite different degrees of participation on the part of the media consumer.

Hot media is extremely immersive and comprehensive media. Think of an HD movie with surround sound. As it is traditionally understood, hot media leaves little room for viewer participation and little viewer effort needs to be made to have a complete and satisfying media experience. McLuhan might say that when we watch The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX, there is no room for active engagement because the media itself is so rich, so hot.

Lindenbaum goes on to conclude that our instant digital access to information turns all media today into cool media. With mobile computers in our pockets always at the ready, he reasons that we now routinely demand to participate. We also demand to be heard. And most interesting of all, we demand to know more.

A desire to know more and to participate in the narrative is part of the charm and success of HBO’s new series, True Detective. In order to know more, fans of True Detective snatched up Robert W Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a book first published in 1895. The book shot up Amazon’s bestseller list as fans consulted the text to help solve the mystery (in unison with the show’s development) of a serial killer operating in Louisiana.

No one at HBO led viewers to an old text. The detectives references to a “Yellow King” led viewers to wonder and then to seek out more information that the show itself was willing or ready to provide. Talented writers know that what does not appear on the page is often as crucial as the copy that does. Writers leave gaps in their stories to help people imagine. Force readers to examine every word, every detail in every scene and every piece of dialogue on the set, and you’ve taxed the audience and possibly driven all but the most faithful away.

To engage means to involve and involvement comes in various shapes and sizes. Reading text and watching video is one form of involvement, while responding to a work with your own work is another deeper form of involvement. In my opinion, brands want it all—light, medium and heavy engagement along with millions of impressions.

For fun, let’s explore another side of this topic. My friend Bob Hoffman provides the contrarian’s view of engagement.

Engagement is a very imprecise and confusing term. Nobody can agree on what engagement means, how to measure it, or what value it has.

So it’s the perfect flavor of online unaccountability. Just like we disguise our traditional advertising failures behind branding (“it’s not supposed to sell, it’s a branding ad”) we now hide our online failures behind “engagement (“clicks mean nothing.”)

A monkey can be trained to click. And hey, if clicks pay the bills for bootstrapped media companies and well-heeled ad agencies alike, wheel in the bananas. While everyone is enjoying their free info snacks, brand builders and direct marketers alike can court a few more clicks (and deeper engagement) on the well worn avenues to brand recall and brand preference.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.