The Five Rules of Engagement


The annual ISBA conference took place last month, with luminaries from the world of advertising and marketing in attendance, and presentations focusing on the future of the industry.

Among the many discussions taking place, it was the Chairman of the IAB, Richard Eyre’s presentation whose was the most exciting. He truly believes in the power of social and, more importantly, the importance of placing social at the heart of campaigns.

Richard took no prisoners, making it clear that if you as a brand are not developing personal relationships with your customers then you’re going to be left behind. He said that, today, selling products and services mimics to old times, when everything you needed was in a local market, and products were bought from people the consumer knew and trusted.

Richard concluded that in order to engage with your customers in the right way, you need to obey these five rules of engagement; Authenticity, Passion, Consistence, Openness, and Respect.

Today you can’t cover something up, super-brands are no longer immune from crisis. This has been made very clear by various issues over worker rights at Apple and Nike. If you try and cover something up it only serves to cause more problems for a brand.

TOMS is a good example of an authentic brand. No nonsense; they do exactly what they promise to do – which is to donate a pair of shoes to developing countries for every pair sold. They do this, and they show that they do this, proving that it’s not just marketing bullshit.

A customer is more likely to buy something if they believe that the seller really cares about the product. If a brand shows a lot of passion, then people are more likely to think its product is something they want to buy. For example, Ben and Jerry’s doesn’t differ hugely from Haagen Dazs, but Ben and Jerry’s convey their passion in a believable and fun way, meaning on balance most people will choose Phish Food over Strawberry Cheesecake!

Brand communications, social or otherwise, need to be consistent in their messaging – whether that’s online, offline or even when it comes to customer service. Corporate jargon and management speak need to be thrown out. When you are communicating with a brand it should be like ‘getting a postcard from a friend’.

Brands’ websites often have their ‘contact us’ section right at the bottom of the page. There’s no point saying how open you are on social if you never answer the phone. With increasing numbers of consumers online, it’s easy to switch customers on in the same way as it is to turn them off. Brands have to be real time, all the time.

Once again a company’s privacy policy tends to be way down at the bottom of the page. If you want consumers to like and trust you, then you need to be honest with them. If you’re using data in a certain way then tell them, chances are they will see the value in it. If you’re not transparent then you are instilling distrust, even if you are providing a good service.