Participation Marketing - or how to Embrace Engagement

What does Participation Marketing mean to you?

If you think back to your first kiss, it was probably a little awkward.

You possibly even asked if it would be OK to plant your lips on someone else’s. That’s Permission Marketing.

Now if you think of the best kiss you’ve ever had, chances are nobody asked anyone anything. Both parties were involved in the creation of a memorable, possibly delicious experience.

That’s more akin to Participation Marketing.

What differentiates moving from a campaign mentality to an ongoing dialogue with your audience, how do brands move from campaign management mentality to an ongoing dialogue mentality?

Essentially there are two types of participation (or engagement). Participation that you actually seek and participation where others seek you. Even if you are grudging but complicit and you actually engage, it’s still participation. My view is that the ad business has become over-enamoured with targeting technology to the detriment of it's prime purpose. Persuasion.

No matter how many times you target someone, you can't irritate them into parting with money. Re-targeting is the new spam. Ad-blockers are on the rise - for good reason. Far more powerful are insights based on behavioural typing - such as the apocryphal Target pregnant daughter story. When advertisers know more about you than you know about yourself, things start to get really interesting.

In order to engage with someone who you don’t know, it’s crucial to learn about them - we do this in real life all the time. In the online realm we’re still stumbling around in the dark armed with bits of handy data but often unable to piece them together. This, piecing together, is what differentiates campaigning from a campaign. Once you can discover objections and reformulate your message in order to circumvent or overcome that objection you are campaigning. This is hugely more effective and much like persuasion.

What are some great examples of Participation marketing?

We’re seeing enormous shifts in the packaging of media content and the platforms on which we choose to consume it. All the data points to an exponential rise in the utilisation of interactive, mobile devices that are fast becoming the first not second or third screen. In these times of massive change, a formula for participation marketing is hard to establish.

However, a poster-child, Loyalty Loop compliant, version of the process seems to fall into these six stages.

  • TARGET the best brand/product reach/advocacy across paid media and social channels
  • STIMULATE user generated content and engagement
  • CURATE and aggregate the best advocacy from campaigns and searches
  • PUBLISH the voices of your fans across all your digital properties
  • ANALYZE the types of content that interests your audience
  • OPTIMIZE and re-publish to maximise engagement with your audience !

One of the best example of participation has to be the KissForPeace campaign launched by Axe. A great film stimulated reaction and affinity from Axe’s core audience. An opportunity was then provided for fans to get involved and win prizes for so doing.

Another great result came from the #nomakeupselfie which continues to inspire young people to post pictures of themselves naked (of makeup). This viral success managed to raise over £8m in 6 days for a Breast Cancer charity.

We also liked Kenneth Cole’s #DressForYourSelfie challenge. Participants were asked to follow Kenneth Cole’s Instagram account and post a selfie sporting the downloadable printed hashtags and tag the posts #DressForYourSelfie. Winners were given free shoes a year. I’m not sure how many.

Scaling back the idea of participation take a look at a new ad platform called FreeWall from Rezonence. (Full disclosure, we are advising them). Rather than clutter up a small mobile screen with unreadable ads their system interrupts premium editorial content with a branded message or statement and then tests that you have understood it. By ticking a multiple choice question, the ad disappears and you are rewarded with more of the thread you were reading. Blindingly simple, startlingly effective.

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