Brand Strategy

The Pavlovian theory of brand engagement

I recently watched an episode of The Big Bang theory, one of my favorite shows, where Sheldon begins to modify Penny’s behavior by feeding her chocolate each time she does something he wants her to do. Some call it classic conditioning. Some call it Pavlovian theory. Others call it positive reinforcement. Regardless of what you call it, it got me thinking about how this theory of “conditioning” can be applied to our work as brand marketers.

The difference in this case is that while we could certainly feed all of our customers chocolate, we need to feed them something that surprises, delights and interests them so they will engage with us. The holy grail is to show customers value and get them coming back for more.

I recently led the Content Engagement track at the FutureM conference here in Boston. I had the pleasure of working with the smart folks from LinkedIn, Jack Morton, New Balance, Almighty and more to give those who attended a spectacular afternoon of engaging conversation around one of my favorite topics. The one theme that really resonated across all of the speakers and sessions was how much the role of content has changed. It’s no longer just pump out content so you get inbound links and who cares if it’s really good or really relevant, it’s content. Or just tweet and retweet stuff so people think your brand is hip and social and grow gobs of meaningless followers. Or, who needs content? People love our product and that’s enough. It’s now, story-telling, building content-powered organizations, listening and engaging with customers through conversations. It’s evolved into understanding your customers intimately and serving up content that helps them learn, grow, interact, love your brand. The days of telling people to retweet and share stuff is over. People share when they read, see or hear something valuable. Something interesting. Something that makes them feel smart and in the know. Something that strikes a chord or pulls on a heartstring.

Start conversations with your customers instead of just pushing newsletters and emails and Facebook posts at them. Bring them into your brand. Help them understand how important their role is in your company. Show them you get them. Build relationships with your customers one by one. Your content needs to get real, otherwise you’re wasting time and money on stuff that creates more noise and won’t move the needle worth a damn.

Content is just a bunch of words on a page unless it is emotional, engaging, insightful and real. That is now the chocolate that gets them to coming back for more. #ringthebell

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