Over the years the world ‘engagement’ has gone from a niche term to describe a technical process to something that’s used as a mask to cover up bad performance and hocus pocus.
As with any troublesome area the best way to re-frame it is always from a place of authenticity. If something has become broken then it’s good to inspect it to find out what it was meant to be doing before it lost it’s way. By finding it’s initial core purpose we can aim to steer it back on course and return it as close to its roots as possible.
The core purpose of engagement in the context of audiences should always be about fostering an authentic connection. Hence the slightly newer term ‘authentic engagement’.
First we must ask : what actually is ‘authentic engagement’ ? From a psychology standpoint it would be considered the following:
- The act of intentionally pursuing an authentic connection with another person.
- To attract, captivate, draw, and involve someone’s attention or interest
Often when marketeers and advertisers talk about ‘engagement’ they are referring to a rather cold dynamic that results in a subject immediately engaging with a product or service. Authentic Engagement should precede this dynamic in a way that builds a genuine connection. This connection then opens the door to what value your products and services can offer.
Contagious co-founder Paul Kemp-Robertson suggests this pre-process should stem from an ‘organising principle’. He argues that although many would view this as a ‘fad’, having purpose enables brilliant creativity and social good.
By using this theory of an ‘organising principle’ everything becomes easier. Once you develop strong core values it allows you to make decisions much faster. No more second guessing over fears of failure, you can be confident that what you are doing instantly stems from a place of integrity, and this can intuitively guide you through the process.
In a nutshell it’s about having strong values and a passion for creating an authentic connection with another person on a human level.
How does this theory translate to brands?
A brands goal is often to build long term trust and devotion from an audience. Credible cultural content is one of the most effective ways of doing this. In order to legitimise this content’s cultural worth it’s important to work with the source. If the content is authentic to the early adopters, the late majority will follow suit.
adidas and documenting grime
A great example of this is the work we created for adidas to align the brand with the grime scene. This film was originally produced for a 1-off exhibition in 2010 to celebrate and reminisce over the past 10 years of grime culture.
2020 feels like a good time to release this to the public both as an example of brand strategy and cultural commentary.
By aligning with authentic creators and artists that were involved in the scene at the start of the genre’s movement adidas were able to tell stories in an authentic way.
Both myself and the wider production team that I selected were responsible for building one the of the grime scene’s first online media platform and communities. The artists interviewed were all instrumental to the formation of the scene. The stories told are often forgotten by todays late majority and serve as an interesting reminder to the scenes turbulent and exciting roots
adidas as an early adopter
Part of our media platforms editorial purpose back in the early 2000’s was shining a light on unheard talent. For this the editor Matt Mason created a section in the magazine called ‘About to Blow’. adidas took this strategy one step further and opened it up to both sports stars and musicians.
Before the 2012 Olympics and before Tinie Tempah rose to fame with ‘Pass Out’ we partnered with adidas to champion them as ‘rising stars’ and created a strategy that revealed their back story and aligned them with the brands core values.
Looking back this is a perfect example of a brand playing the role of an early adopter in a way that stems from authentically from it’s ‘organising principle’ and core purpose.
(would actually prefer to give 3 examples, Nike, adidas and JD sports)