Customer engagement

How do we define customer engagement?


Customer engagement constitutes a philosophy of brand marketing and customer experience management, emphasizing greater levels of collaboration in pre-sales and post-sales phases among buyers and sellers.

Customer engagement means simply how a firm attracts, serves, and keeps profitable customers for life.

The philosophy of customer engagement entails a primary sequence for marketing communication and service interaction across these four phases:

  • Connect with the buyer or customer on an immediate, visceral level, evoking an experience of liking or disliking someone, a group, or a thing, as well as an empathetic correspondence with a customer’s situation.
  • Inform the buyer or customer. Often this means demonstrating the need for a new product or a more effective or cheaper way of doing things as compared to competitors; with success, this elicits the experience of relief—a successful outcome or result of using a featured product or service.
  • Entertain the buyer, using humorous, horrific, or seductive social situations–common motifs of popular viral videos; this reinforces deeper cultural narratives (shared expectations or beliefs) while dissipating any lingering fears associated with trying something new. Success in this context creates a secret or ironic insight that one must simply share with the right person.
  • Share directs a call to action and encourages the buyer or customer to forward a link, instant message, or SMS to a friend or colleague regarding a new find: “You want to check this out!” The item shared represents a currency or token of affection; often, sharing an item enhances one’s social standing or reputation.

This Engagement Sequence may apply to any phase of the marketing communication process: awareness, involvement, trial, commitment, and referral.

The figure below not only depicts the five phases of a branded offering; the figure indicates that engagement-sequence activities contribute to the overall brand storytelling process, especially in advocate storytelling.

Brands tell stories; customer engagement kick-starts word-of-mouth marketing and personal referrals within social networks, communities, and peerages

Brands tell stories about the experience of discovering, considering, using, adopting, and advocating a particular brand in a cluttered market. Effective customer engagement kick-starts word-of-mouth marketing and personal referrals within social networks, communities, and peerages. This requires, however, that consumers experience value beyond the functionality or economic value-for-money propositions of a product or service. Increasingly, this value-beyond-the-product constitutes stories shared among friends. Insight: the essence of cool constitutes secrets. Got one to share?


Every brand tells a story about the process of discovering, considering, buying, and using a product or service.

More notably, the figure also calls attention to two modes: corporate storytelling and advocate storytelling.

Companies promote their products or services, inducing or persuading consumers to buy. However, in most consumer societies, consumers instinctively discount or ignore promotional pitches that do not connect with them as a human being, as an individual, and as a collaborator.

A strong brand and effective engagement kick-starts the second mode, advocate storytelling.


Most research of effective word-of-mouth marketing, viral marketing, and customer advocacy reveals the brand story and related value proposition often undergo a radical transformation: Advocates internalize the brand and, in the process of sharing it, make the brand and value proposition simple—with brutal concision.

Brand simplification optimizes the brand for rapid, broad diffusion in a larger market and culture. While the legal team cringes, brand and marketing managers celebrate with a tag line (“Where’s the beef?” or “Got Milk?”) that hits a deeper cultural narrative, or the coveted trademark (“I’ll xerox it” or “Just google the word.”) becomes a transitive verb and hallmark of productivity.

Thus, customer engagement engages market stakeholders in a larger conversation and, in the process, rounds off the sharp edges of shallow, inauthentic corporate “marketing speak”.