Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Why Engagement Is An Irrelevant Objective

Engagement, remains a big buzzword.  Brand managers, agencies, pundits, columnists, and the rest of the marketing community want people/consumers to engage with their brand, site, or product.  I’ve even used the term.  Heck, I’ve put it into creative briefs and dammit if I don’t feel guilty for doing it right now.  The problem is that engagement doesn’t really mean anything.  It’s nebulous, lacks definition, and rarely can be tied back to sales.  To be fair, this is not the case for every brand or situation.  There are specific instances where engagement is the goal.  It’s rare, but it does happen.

If you’ve been to a shopping mall in the United States, you’re probably familiar with Brookstone and The Sharper Image.  If not, let me jog your memory with a photo of a Brookstone:



I’d show you a photo of The Sharper Image too, but seeing as they filed for bankruptcy and are now a mail order business only, I didn’t think it made a lot sense.  Although, oddly enough their business failure will help substantiate by belief that engagement is an irrelevant objective.

The image you see above is what every Brookstone in America looks like.  There are a bunch of people standing just outside the store debating if they should walk in.  Inside are people trying out the vibrating massage chairs, 100s of iPod/Music devices, and playing with other strange “cutting edge” devices.

I’ve been going to malls for over 20 years.  Let’s say in a given year, I go to a mall once a month.  That’s 12 times a year for 20 years, for a total of 240 visits.  I’m sure I’ve been in them way more than 240 times, but these round numbers work.  Also, let’s assume each visit runs 5 minutes.  That means I’ve spent 1200 minutes or 20 hours with the Brookstone brand in the last 20 years.  Do you know how many things I’ve bought from Brookstone and The Sharper Image in those ears?  0.  Yes, that zero.  Nothing.  Nadda.  They haven’t gotten 1 penny from me.

Think about that?  Forget about me, rarely in my 5 minutes visits have I seen anyone actually purchase anything.  Sure, I see a lot of engagement happening.  People are walking into the store, trying out products, and spending a lot of time immersed in the Brookstone brand experience.  So, they’re engaging, but not buying.  Kinda takes the wind out of the sales of engagement.  If engagement can’t be tied to a specific desired interaction (usually a sale), it’s an irrelevant objective.

Stop focusing on engagement.  Start focusing on conversions.  You’re clients will thank you and you’ll be a hell of a lot happier.