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What Is Engagement?

What Is Engagement?
Elliot Marcell Tan

Elliot Marcell Tan

Co-founder of Start Something Studios

30 May 2022·5 min read

What appears to be a self-explanatory term is in fact a loaded buzzword that requires much unpacking, or at least so to a marketeer. 

What is “engagement” exactly?

Given its multidimensional nature, there is no one-size-fits-all definition of what engagement means. However, there are three key facets that can be used to understand engagement better.

1. Delivery of personalised messages and interactions with customers

Primarily, “engagement” refers to building a two-way conversation through the delivery of personalised messages and interactions with customers across their preferred channels. This may come in the form of retargeted ads, gamification and personalised emails.

Take Grammarly as an example: it sends users regular “Weekly Writing Update” productivity reports through a hyper-personalised email (with a gamification twist) that highlights interesting insights such as writing streaks, vocabulary and tone.

One of the reasons why engagement marketing has been all the hype nowadays is because consumers are increasingly active with information search and are more or less familiar with your products/services, prior to any form of interaction. Leveraging on engagement therefore means building bonds at every stage of the customer journey, with an integrated experience alongside strategic, resourceful content.

2. A proactive, interactive customer relationship with a brand

Merely referring to “engagement” as a two-way conversation however may be an understatement. Engagement is more than just participation, involvement and commitment but rather a proactive, interactive customer relationship with a brand.

Research has shown that the concept of customer engagement is focused on non-transactional behaviours such as online word of mouth, customer reviews, peer-to-peer information sharing and customer-initiated activities with brands. 

Such user-generated content drives customer-brand interactions and in the process deepens the emotional connection to a brand, also known as brand affinity. Just as in any relationship, it is important for the other person to feel valued, seen and heard. 

The Swedish Number campaign, helmed by The Swedish Tourist Association and Stockholm-based agency INGO, took user-generated content to an international level. 

In celebration of its 250th anniversary of the abolishment of censorship and to bolster tourism, Sweden was the first country to adopt a national phone number.

Anyone who dials the Swedish number could get connected to a random Swedish citizen and talk about anything ranging from politics to culture, women’s rights to entertainment and all things Swedish. To keep these conversations as authentic and unfiltered as possible, Swedes who signed up for this campaign (through an app) are not provided with any training, instructions or scripts whatsoever. Their sole objective was to share their life experiences, living in Sweden.

With more than 170,000 calls from 186 countries, the soaring success of this campaign generated more than 9 billion impressions, and $146 million media value with zero media spend. Precisely because people appreciate personal and authentic interactions, this highly successful campaign even won the Direct Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions festival in 2016.

3. Interactive, co-creative customer experiences

For an experience to be interactive, unique and engaging, it has to be deemed meaningful and valuable to a consumer. Therefore, it is important to have your customers as co-creators in interactive experiences because then they are prompted to enter a “proactive, interactive customer relationship”.

Coca-Cola’s Freestyle 9100 perfectly creates a co-creative interactive experience by offering a beverage fountain dispenser that provides over 200 drink options and varieties for consumers and businesses alike. 

As each machine has an in-built AI technology, its algorithm is able to conduct a real-time consumer data analysis to recommend trending flavours and improve customer experience. Fast-food chains such as Burger King even promoted the launch of its crispy spicy chicken sandwich by pairing it with a custom-made Sprite Lime Burst.

Likewise, Coca Cola released its first “Freestyle machine” permanent products in 2017, Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero and held a “Make Your Mix” contest where winners could win $10,000 and have their custom combinations served for a limited time. This gave customers a voice in the co-creation of new innovative products and experiences, and an opportunity to spark conversations.

Interactive Digital Campaigns: The Forefront of Engagement

There is no better way to drive engagement on a deeper level than interactive digital marketing campaigns.  By responding in tandem to a consumer’s actions, behaviour, preferences, expectations, or demands, your message can be delivered in a highly targeted, personalised manner.


  • Targets consumers on their preferred channels - Mobile/Desktop

  • Personalised experiences, anywhere and anytime

  • Excellent use of interactive tools such as gamification to create memorable, light-hearted experiences

Interactive digital campaigns are here to stay, and we’re constantly finding new avenues to express key brand messages to our audiences online. Whether through an interactive game, a choose-your-own-adventure style video experience, or even a customised campaign website, audiences are looking for novel ways to interact with your brand. 

Interested in starting your own interactive digital campaign? Have a free coffee and chat with us here!

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