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Report: The science of engagement and the six imperatives for communicators

By The Drum Team | Editorial

Weber Shandwick


Branding article

July 19, 2012 | 4 min read

A report launched by Weber Shandwick has revealed the 19 elements of engagement and highlighted six key imperatives for communicators.

The Science of Engagement reveals the outcome of the agency’s work with academics and behavioural specialist agency Canvas8 to delve into the science behind engagement, looking through the lens of neuroscience, psychology and anthropology. The report reveals that there are 19 elements or personal motivators driving people to engage. Sustained engagement comes from taking a multi-layered approach to the application of the elements.
Weber Shandwick also created a ‘Total Engagement Map’ to better visualise the theories and insights that will help clients navigate the new terrain – this map is based on six imperatives for marketers and communicators.1. Understand the drivers of engagement Building on the report’s 19 different dimensions of engagement, Weber Shandwick’s Strategic Engagement Unit (SEU) identified 38 drivers that are critical to making engagement happen. Brands and businesses need to know these drivers, understand which of them will most effectively drive engagement in their own sectors and be clear on which of them are lacking in their own communications.2. Know how to capture and build engagement Doctor Zoëga Ramsøy talked of the need to target and harmonise the two systems of the brain – System 1 (the wanting, caveman brain) and System 2 (the liking, thinking man’s brain). In order to achieve this, communicators need to build campaigns that don’t just seek to capture engagement (through aesthetics, intrigue and immediacy) but also build it (through reciprocity and narrative).3. Recognise the four ‘states’ Weber Shandwick believes, as indicated in the report, that people’s behaviour is guided by four inter-related and ever-shifting ‘states’: Me (relating to the fulfilment of basic needs), Myself (relating to the shaping of identity), Me in Myself (related to the changing of moods) and Me in my World (related to the enhancement of status). Understanding these four states in the context of a specific category will allow brands and businesses to more effectively target the most appropriate engagement opportunities. 4. Know the battlegrounds In a world in which competition for attention is only going to get more intense, a new engagement battleground exists, fought on two fronts: the battle for ‘brain-space’ (that will be won by a deeper understanding of the brain’s two systems, creating multiple associations and reciprocity) and that for ‘ground-space’ (that will be won by seamless 360-degree storytelling and a better grasp of ‘engagement hyper-tasking’).5. Think 6D Traditionally, marketers and communicators have tended to treat the ‘battle for engagement’ in a 1D manner – basing their approach to engagement on a definition of the brain as single-minded and the mind as one-track. The report shows that they need to think in 6D – studying drivers, systems and states and the need to ‘capture and build’, as well as understanding the various brain and ground layers critical to the creation of effective campaigns. 6. Create belonging Four of the 19 dimensions of engagement identified by Canvas 8 relate directly to the social dynamic – belonging, herd behaviour, shared values and social totems. Add to this the importance of reciprocity as an engagement mechanism and the need to create campaigns that go beyond simple dialogue becomes critical – at every point, brands, businesses and issues-led organisations must seek to reflect the values, hopes and aspirations of their target audiences and build a sense of be-longing (desire to belong). You can find more information on The Science of Engagement, and download a copy of the full report, here.
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