A Better Course

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Self Evidence

January 29th, 2008 · No Comments

There’s been a lot written and said recently about brand engagement – essentially, the idea that if someone uses something related to your brand, they will be more likely to trust (and by extension buy) your product further down the line. Even more problematically, this has frequently been with reference to brand’s Facebook applications. I’ve remained cynical about this in general, because it seems to say that your “brand” and your “product” are two different things that can be separated and put back together more or less at the whim of marketers.

In a recent discussion on two brands every marketer loves (that’s Innocent and Apple, in case you hadn’t guessed) I started thinking about the idea of self evidence in opposition to the idea of engagement. Innocent constantly demand engagement – their packaging shows in incredible attention to detail. This can be ignored, to an extent, but it would take superhuman levels of distraction to fail to notice that your juice bottle is wearing a little hat.

None of this speaks about the (quite nice) smoothie itself, however – there’s an extent to which you have to buy into buying a drink that’s wearing a small wooly hat.

Apple’s packaging, by contrast, demands almost no attention. The proof of the quality (the evidence) comes when you use their products; you know it’s good because you know how it feels to use a good product. Apple’s packaging is not without its obsessives, but engagement follows evidence, and not vice versa.

In both of these examples, by the time you’ve got to the packaging you’re quite close to the product itself; the disconnect between the thing that demands engagement and the thing that provides evidence is not great. The idea of engagement is even more problematic when it moves online. Viral campaigns such as those for The Dark Knight and Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero have justifiably attracted attention; but these are media which were always going to attract an engaged fanbase.

To use a perhaps more typical, and certainly more personally embarassing example, I spent time over the weekend solving the puzzle on Panic At The Disco‘s website. It was well put together, made sense within their brand (keyword: snide), and I was certainly engaged with it. But I’m far from sure it’s made me less likely to describe them as ‘crappy’, ’emo’ or ‘third tier’ because no amount of engagement on my part will make them into anything other than a crappy third tier emo band (and guilty pleasure).

Ultimately, no amount of ‘engagement’, whatever that means to any individual consumer, is going to turn a bad product into a good one. And if your product is a good one, they’ll engage with it on their own terms, to much greater effect.

Categories: branding · marketing · product
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