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The Rules of Engagement

  |  August 18, 2003   |  Comments

Meaningful interactivity beats 'punch the monkey.'

Constantly strive to engage customers and prospects online. Get people to interact with your brand. And make sure every interaction -- every touch point --is a positive experience. Deliver relevance. Deliver value.

Marketers have long viewed interactivity as a Holy Grail of sorts; perhaps not the Holy Grail, but some sort of lesser grail. Conventional wisdom suggests simply getting people to interact with your brand, message, or ad will vastly increase the likelihood they'll remember what you're trying to tell them. Make that interaction a positive experience and improve your odds. The offline world is mired in magazine pull-tabs and broadcast sing-alongs and jingles.

On the Internet, we finally have a medium that's inherently interactive. Click-throughs, of course, are not the only kind of interaction we seek. Clicks are not necessarily a bad thing, but they're usually not the most valuable thing, either. Pursue more meaningful interaction that leads to purchases or perhaps shifts in behavior or opinion.

Doing that can be tricky.

You can fool someone into clicking on an ad pretty easily. True, people are more jaded now, but there was a time when "punch the monkey"-type ads were all the rage. If it wasn't a hyper monkey, maybe it was a flashing ad that read, "If this is flashing, you're a winner!" The most devious of all were those computer-error-imitation banners (which sadly, are still around). I remember an early rich media ad that featured a swirling trail of colors that followed your cursor around the ad space. Now that's exciting.

Interactivity for the sake of interactivity isn't relevant to products or brands. Does it make you want to run right out and buy whatever it is being advertising? By the time you get to the store (on- or offline), you'd forget what you came for. The ad just wasn't all that effective. We see less of these now, but surely a new generation of "anything for a click" banners is lurking out there somewhere. Certain advergames would definitely fall into this category.

None of this is what I mean by purposeful interactivity. I'm talking about engaging a consumer with some type of relevant, informative, and valuable interaction. Examples:

  • Mouseover various hotspots in the ad to see key differentiating features of a new product.

  • Enter your height and weight to calculate your body mass index, a metric used to determine "healthy" weight.

  • Input your Zip Code to view the pollen count and receive allergy tips for your specific area.

  • Mouseover a tab within an ad to read about the latest career opportunities in a specific industry.

  • Enter your email addresses in the ad to receive a behind-the-scenes newsletter about an upcoming movie or album release.

  • Click on a drop-down menu with options that lead deeper into the site and deliver targeted content.

Each of these examples gives consumers something back for their efforts. We ask for their time. In return we give them a valuable experience associated with a pertinent brand and/or message. Our experience with this approach has been phenomenal. Performance over noninteractive ads has improved dramatically. Such ads get better CTRs, they convert better, and numerous studies show significant lift in more qualitative metrics.

Consider meaningful interactivity for your next campaign. You know you want to get consumers to interact with you. Do you want to be the next "punch the monkey"? Our clients certainly don't.

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Jeremy Lockhorn

Jeremy Lockhorn leads the emerging media practice (EMP) at Razorfish. The team functions as a think-tank on new technologies and next-generation media, and operates as an extension of current client teams. EMP is focused on driving groundbreaking marketing solutions for clients. Jeremy is a filter, consultant, and catalyst for innovation - helping clients and internal teams to understand, evaluate, and roll out strategic pilot programs while reinventing marketing strategies to leverage the power of emerging media. Jeremy joined the agency in 1997 and is currently based in Seattle, WA. His Twitter handle is @newmediageek.

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