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June 20, 2024 - By Barron Rosborough

CatalystU x Hawke: The Seven Levels of Engagement

Introduction: The Seven Levels of Engagement

The Seven Levels of Engagement are rooted in the concept of brand acupuncture—an approach that involves identifying where customers are and reaching them there. This strategy focuses on elevating customers to higher levels of engagement rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all model. It emphasizes understanding customers and building meaningful, two-way relationships. By connecting with customers in ways that resonate with them, businesses can bridge gaps and create stronger, more collaborative relationships.

Level 1: Disengagement

Disengagement is often misunderstood as the opposite of engagement, but it is actually the first level in the Seven Levels of Engagement. The true opposite of engagement is apathy. Consider situations like being asked for a donation on the street. Even if someone is passionate about the organization, they might walk by because it’s the wrong place and time. To prevent disengagement, it’s essential to use the right tools to connect with the customer. For example, if a brand’s older audience prefers Facebook, using TikTok to connect may lead to disengagement.

Identifying and addressing blind spots that hinder connection is crucial. When working with WildAid on redoing their website, the goal was to transform the site into a media platform rather than a non-profit site, making it accessible and engaging for sophisticated donors. By focusing on the right tools, the right how, and the right where, businesses can engage their customers more effectively.

Level 2: Unsystematic Engagement

Unsystematic engagement occurs when messaging is confusing, often due to excessive jargon. Using technical language or acronyms can confuse customers. Internally, leaders often ask, “Does that make sense?” which can make employees feel inferior and unsure.

Companies must take ownership of their communication, ensuring clarity for both internal and external audiences. For example, the work with Ferguson’s, a real estate project in downtown Vegas, emphasized clear communication by developing a narrative centered around being “rooted in community,” avoiding unnecessary jargon and making it easier for people to understand and connect with the project.

Level 3: Frustrated Engagement

Frustrated engagement occurs when customers want to engage but are distracted. In a world full of distractions, it is important not to create more for the customer. A common example is companies having pop-ups for email subscriptions but never sending emails.

At Runway Health, the focus has been on creating a streamlined customer journey. Customers can interact with products without being diverted from their intended journey. Mapping out friction points and creating streamlined opportunities for customers helps them reach their goals without taking them off course.

Level 4: Structured Dependent Engagement

Structured dependent engagement involves simple call-to-actions. On social media, this includes likes, comments, follows, and shares. These actions are easy to do and are typically how engagement is measured. However, building off this for more substantial interactions is crucial.

Incorporating call-to-actions within communication strategies is key. For example, in the work with Biossance, a comprehensive social media campaign was created centered around why customers chose clean beauty, prompting them to share their reasons and fostering higher engagement through user-generated content (UGC).

Level 5: Self-Regulated Interest

Self-regulated interest is when businesses want more from their customers, so they give more in return. This involves exciting customers based on their interests and providing something meaningful and engaging.

For example, in a campaign with SmartyPants, a vitamins company, the social media strategy encouraged people to share their stories about personal achievements. This campaign gained 8,000 new followers in a few weeks, built on community rather than just the sweepstakes.

Another example is the work with Coca-Cola on their recycling initiative, in partnership with and W Hotels. An immersive experience was created, emphasizing meaningful engagement over celebrity involvement. Leveraging influencers and sweepstakes should build on established relationships, not serve as standalone tactics.

Level 6: Literate Thinking

Highly engaged customers account for 23% of a company’s bottom-line profitability. Striving for higher levels of engagement and not taking loyal customers for granted is crucial. When brands go the extra mile, the results can be incredible.

For instance, with WildAid, a campaign was created that won a Cannes Lion, focusing on changing perspectives and raising awareness about elephant poaching. By positioning the customer as the hero, a widget was designed that aligned a person’s face with an elephant’s, enabling participation and amplifying voices, creating a meaningful and impactful experience through user-generated content.

Level 7: Self-Reflection

In her work with LearningFrequency, Amanda Slavin aimed to reach the seventh level of engagement, centered on self-reflection. LearningFrequency turned the seven levels into an interactive questionnaire for kids in learning environments. After completing the questionnaire, kids receive an avatar representing their learning style, owned as an NFT on the blockchain. This process, known as metacognition, significantly enhances learning progress.

LearningFrequency made the learner the hero, allowing them to reflect on their journey and see themselves in a new light. This approach shifts the customer experience paradigm in schools, empowering learners and educators.

Tony Hsieh, Amanda Slavin’s partner and mentor for a decade, exemplified this approach at Zappos with unparalleled customer service, making the customer the hero. By striving for the seventh level, businesses ensure that customers feel valued, understood, and empowered, leading to lasting loyalty and profound connections. How are you making your customer the hero? This question is fundamental in achieving the highest levels of engagement.

Dive deeper into these lessons and more in CatalystU, a course designed to make better companies by reshaping customer engagement. Click here to sign up.