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The Spectacle Is Everywhere

by Gavin Heaton  |  
June 21, 2007

When we talk or write or read about strategy, you don't need to look far before you see the word "engagement." It is everywhere ... but is it, like so many other buzz words, becoming tired? Has it reached its use by date? Or does it still have legs?

I was pondering this while watching that beautiful Sony Bravia TV commercial featuring the hypnotic music of Jose Gonzalez. But this wasn't on commercial television, but featured on a show about art. The segment wrapped with a quote from Guy Debord -- "The spectator does not feel at home anywhere, because the spectacle is everywhere." Suddenly the bells began to ring in my mind.
In a world where so much of our daily experience is mediated by technology, "engagement" no longer seems to be an end goal, but rather a milestone. "Engagement" does not reach far enough nor adequately convey the restless desire we have to connect -- with brands, with organisations and with each other. Just look at the words we use to describe a website (home page) or an online network (social community) and you will see evidence of this underlying yearning.

Perhaps because the "spectator" cannot rest, a transformation is underway. No longer content in this passive role, consumers are stepping out of their comfort zones into the worlds of social media, co-creation and multi-channel conversation ... and technology is being harnessed as a first and necessary step.
It seems to me that brands who continue to invest in the spectacle will be able to "engage" at least some of the people some of the time. But those brands wanting to delve deeper will need to find ways to transform our experiences -- one heartbeat at a time.
Photo credit: Beagley

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Gavin in VP & Principal Analyst with Constellation Research Group. He possesses extensive international experience in driving measurable outcomes via digital customer experience platforms, digital strategy and executing innovative content driven campaigns. With a background in enterprise technology innovation, digital strategy and customer engagement, Gavin connects the dots between disruptive technologies, enterprise governance and business leaders.

Most recently, Gavin led the customer experience, communication and social media programs for SAP's Premier Customer Network. And over the last 15 years, he has been at the forefront of innovative digital strategies for some of the world's leading companies - from IBM to Fujitsu - and on the agency side, leading the global digital strategy for McDonald's.

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  • by Cam Beck Thu Jun 21, 2007 via blog

    Nice post, Gav... It's probably true that "engagement" is a milestone for now, but our goal should be for individual engagement to be our minimum default state. Thirty years from now, I want to be a grandpa telling my grandkids how good they have it, and how back in my day we had to go through so many layers of corporate and government bureaucracy to get the answers we sought and the products we needed... and I want them to look at me as if I were absolutely nuts. :)

  • by Matt Moore Thu Jun 21, 2007 via blog

    Gav - like it. Three comments. 1. I don't want brands to transform by experiences, I want them to allow me to transform my own. 2. I want brands in the background not the foreground of the conversation I have with or about an organisation. 3. Debord claimed there was no revolutionary act that could not be recuperated by the spectacle. Grant Morrison counterclaimed there's no recuperation, only feedback. I don't want their spectacle, I want my own...

  • by Nat@Nudge Thu Jun 21, 2007 via blog

    Nice Post Gav - we certainly need to challenge these concepts (sacred ducks) more often! Matt I love what you wrote. Have not g=heard it expressed better. That should be plastered on the wall of every organisation, marketer's office and ad agency - to remind us all what we are doing. We, as marketers want brands (because that's our world) - but "we" as consumers want "our own spectacle". awesome! cheers

  • by Gavin Heaton Thu Jun 21, 2007 via blog

    Cam ... I agree -- imagine what they will say when you talk about "blogs". It will be like saying "black and white television". Matt ... absolutely correct! It is about being a cocreator of the spectacle. Nice one. Nat ... thanks -- I am often the creator of my own spectacle (not always in a good way).

  • by gianandrea Fri Jun 22, 2007 via blog

    gavin, sooner or later all the hype words we use (community, engagement, web 2.0, blog, viral) come under discussion. is that we need to set a further step in our environment? or is just that we need, time to time, to re-define our dictionary to see if these words still have the same meaning they used to have?

  • by Charles Frith Sat Jun 23, 2007 via blog

    I'd like to chip in with this comment that I've left on your blog and also Seans. I hope you don't mind. Yes engagement is a part of a relationship and the love metaphor is a bloody marvelous one when thinking about relationship with brands. The idea that we as people should be wedded to a brand or have a permanent break up is the sort of marketing nonsense that overbearing clients construct around themselves to cushion against the reality (for it is one), that 73% (I made that up) of products or services are on parity. That doesn't mean there are other variables that can provide differentiation, (proper) values for instance are often difficult to quantify. If only we could get used to more layers of relationship such as; brand lust, promiscuity, infatuation, indifference, going steady, on-off on-off and maybe even bliss or arranged marriages is something I've put forward to multinational brands as a way of navigating through potential phases of relationship when thinking about engaging. Alas the average marketing manager immersed in a set of tenuous values and synthetically evolved marketing language is unable (often through hierarchical, position tenure and promotional pressure) to entertain the thought that our customers may well be up for a bit of brand adultery. I think this was best captured by an agency I worked with a few years ago who came up with the line: Pot Noodle, The Slag of All Snacks. A slag is English vernacular for a woman of ill repute. Professional or not The ad is always worth viewing over here:

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