Marketing for Thought

Customer engagement: proactive or pointless?

Interdependence, interconnection, and consumer power: this is what the internet has given us.  We can all agree (consumers and businesses) that this is a blessing and a curse: new resources, more choices, more competition, more consumer interaction. From our class readings, Shutltz and Wilhem both conclude that marketers must adapt to the changing marketplace and to their customer’s wants and needs by increasing customer engagement.  Many companies have taken to social media and other digital platforms to engage with their customers-but what is considered proactive or pointless?

Brian Solis, an American Industry analyst, has a different view about customer engagement. Solis recognizes its importance in today’s “customer-pull” world, but also challenges what forms of customer engagement actually enhance the customer’s experience.  In his article “User Experience The Don Draper Way,” he highlights this issue:

“Businesses tend to have a narrow view of customer needs or expectations. And, rather than design to evoke human emotion, journeys are designed with a “mediumalistic” approach, where platforms and devices take precedence over the human connection or aftereffect. Products, pages, profiles, and entire click paths are narcissistic by design, taking into account the needs of decision makers and stakeholders over the customers they’re designed to entice. The need to plug into trends trumps the opportunity to innovate and improve the customer journey.”

Here Solis points out that obsessions with social media coverage shift focus away from their main goal:  “evoking a desired experience and sentiment.”  Emphasis should not be placed on how many times a company posts on their Facebook, Twitter, etc., but the meaning and experience it creates for its users.

This goes back to Wilhem’s concept of value creation.  In Customer-driven Online Engagement, Wilhem establishes value creation, “delivering something of ‘value’ to the customer,” as an essential component of customer engagement.  Through understanding what the customer wants, marketers can create experiences and products with the value the customer is searching for.  Customer engagement is an outlet where marketers can gain information to understand these wants, but it’s also a place where they can create this intimate experience and establish these values.

Creating an Experience (Example)

Rue La La recognizes the potential of customer engagement.  Recently, they conducted a shoe experiment on Instagram where they asked their followers to post pictures of their favorite shoes and tag them #shoelala.  Not only did their customers relish in the opportunity to share their style, but the company gained perspective on what types of styles and colors their customers liked and in what settings they were wearing them. What shoe or Rue fanatic doesn’t love sharing their style?

Rue La La #shoelala board, via Rue La La Pinterest

Rue La La #shoelala board, via Rue La La Pinterest

Back to the Basics

Going back to the traditional marketing objectives, it is crucial for companies to create value and an experience for their customers. With more options available than ever, companies need to differentiate themselves from their competition and understand their customer’s needs better than ever. For these reasons, customer engagement is crucial.  In a world where customers have more pull, marketers must adhere to their wants and create values and experience.  Without value, experience, or responding to the customer’s needs on these new platforms, you can consider the company forgettable. A similar product is only a click away.



This post is a part of a series of posts for Integrated Marketing Communications class that explores strategies of integrated marketing communications and recognizes strong and weak branding strategies today.



Solis, Brian. User Experience The Don Draper Way.

Schultz, Don; Heidi Schultz (2004). “Creating Customer and Marketplace Value”. IMC: The Next Generation. New York: McGraw Hill, p. 115-123, 131.
Willems, Hans (2011). “White Paper: Customer Driven Online Engagement”. GX Software.

2 thoughts on “Customer engagement: proactive or pointless?

  1. Jessica Turek says:


    I found myself completely relating to your entire blog post because our blog posts were very similar in comparing retail/fashion businesses that utilize customer engagement into the platform of their company. I talked about customer engagement with Mod Cloth and how it, like Rue La La, engaged it’s customers by also valuing their opinion on which articles of clothing to purchase at their trade shoes to put into production on their website. I thought it was a neat way of getting their customers to interact with the company and feel some sort of empowerment.

    I completely agree with you about how crucial customer engagement is and how much it is needed for brands who are trying to differentiate themselves in such a competitive marketplace. As you said, it is true that we have so many choices and options that it is easy to feel bombarded and overwhelmed. We like being able to have the power to make decisions individually and on our own time, thus giving consumers power is the ultimate way to engage your customer base.

  2. Victoria,

    I love your RueLaLa example. An “online fashion show” is a great way to engage with customers. This past summer, I interned at Petty’s Gage, Richard Petty’s custom hot rod shop. We used a similar tactic with Facebook and had an online car show, where fans could submit pictures of their cars and Richard’s staff reviewed them. Fans went wild and it caused so much buzz! For RueLaLa, not only did this tactic engage the customers, but I imagine it could also have been a source of marketing research. Let’s say there was a particular style of shoe that was the most popular among the fashion show submissions, RueLaLa may consider selling more of that product type.

    You said, “Emphasis should not be placed on how many times a company posts on their Facebook, Twitter, etc., but the meaning and experience it creates for its users.” In my eyes, this was one of the most insightful quotes. There are so many companies who “over-tweet” or “over-post.” I end up scrolling right past these companies because it is like “spam.” On the other hand, when Stella and Dot Insta-grams a new product or a jewelry combination, I am always going to stop and take a look because each picture has something to say, adds value and captures my interest.

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