Voices of the Engagement Economy: What It Takes to Succeed

Marketing Challenges


As part of our drive to understand and distill the best thinking from across the marketing world, we have been lucky enough to engage in conversations with senior marketing leaders from a broad range of industries. Through all our discussions, it is clear that certain themes are top-of-mind for many marketers, so we’ve distilled key insights to share with you here.

Earlier this year, we focused on the rising importance of content. In this conversation, we’ll hone in on what it takes to succeed. We’ll hear from top CMOs about what success looks like in the Engagement Economy, some of the biggest challenges they face, and the companies they admire for their engagement strategy.

Getting It Right Varies From Marketer to Marketer

What’s good for the goose isn’t necessarily good for the gander. That is to say, success is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather something different for everyone. So, what does success look like, even though the steps to get there may vary?

“In my opinion, you know you’ve succeeded in engaging with customers when they become your advocates.  It is the best expression of a great experience. In the past, we had to rely on building communities to give customers a voice.  Today, with the rise of social platforms, it is much easier for a singular voice to be heard. These platforms allow a light and persistent touch with our audience.”—Fred Kohout, CMO, Cray

“If you are focused on the Engagement Economy, you need to understand how every single touch point is connected across people, places, and things. And it’s with trusted identity that you can truly understand how to connect all the different dimensions of your client. Only by understanding identity holistically, can you provide an incredibly personalized experience that is key to winning in the Engagement Economy. The margin of error today is so small because if clients do not get that personalized experience, they will move on to one of your competitors. Understanding how to surprise and delight is where the Engagement Economy meets growth.”—Steven Wolfe Pereira, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Neustar, Inc.

CMOs Need to Prepare Their Teams for Success

The most innovative strategic plan cannot even get off the ground without the buy-in of your team. Ensuring that your vision and goals are clearly communicated is paramount to the success of your initiatives. What strategies do you recommend enacting to drive success?

“Before rolling out the new messaging and strategy, we made sure that our internal audience was crystal clear on how it would affect their day to day operations. It was critical that we were all aligned around the different segments and how to address them. For our external audience, we understood that there could be cultural differences across the different geographies, so adaptability was very critical. One example of executing our shift in messaging and strategy involved the reconstitution of our website and social media presence, which is connected to demand generation. We found that we were pushing too much content out on our website and social media platforms, but it was not really making much of an impact. Therefore, we decided to reduce the content we released by 40% making our website more like a magazine website. As a result, we actually increased engagement by 100%. It really is more about quality than quantity.”—Chris Cavanaugh, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, The Freeman Company

“A successful customer experience starts with listening. We need to be able to draw insights around what really resonates with our customers. It’s critical to respond to customers in the way they choose. I have found that customers are far more engaged with companies that are authentic. Authentic companies are socially, environmentally, and globally aware. They give back to the communities in which they live and work. Consumer brands tend to do a better job of being authentic. For example, Fetch Eyewear gives 100% of their profits to animal rescue. While not every company can give the sum of their profits to causes, it’s the company’s heart that matters. A company’s heart can resonate with customers and build brand affinity.”—Marilyn Mersereau, CMO, Plantronics

“CMOs need to continue to understand the economic model of their business. Historically, marketers focused on outbound activities and messaging. Now they should be more focused on the fundamental economics of their business. Marketers also need to do a better job of engaging employees. Employees are your best assets. Having passion and purpose for what you do and recognizing that we’re all on the same team really matters. If every employee understands the role they play in delivering this purpose, their output will impact the customer experience. Having a purpose-driven organization makes a big difference because people understand what they are trying to deliver. Of course, you also need to make sure what you deliver is valuable because it all goes back to having the points on the board.”—Jennifer Dominiquini, Chief Marketing and Digital Sales Officer, BBVA Compass

Many You Know and Love Are Already Hitting the Mark

Having role models is important, even for businesses. Whether it’s a competitor or a brand you interact with on a personal level, who is already succeeding at engaging their customers, in your opinion?

“Chubbies, the brand that sells shorts to a younger male audience, really appears to get the Engagement Economy. These customers are incredibly proud to post pictures of themselves wearing the product. What a great way to engage with your audience by having them form a community among themselves. That is the essence of who the buyer is and Chubbies really understands them. They understand that the customer cares about who they are.  That only happens when you are engaged, when you ask and learn.”—Lisa Woodard, former CMO, Transamerica Brokerage

“I think Red Bull is an industry thought leader when it comes to the content they develop and connecting it to their target. They are selling what happens outside the can, not what comes in the can. They understand their audience and provide ways for their audience to engage. They also collaborate with media and help drive the next trend in the music or action sports industries.”—Chris Ruszkowski, SVP of Marketing and Advertising, Quiznos

“Nordstrom is a company that is very successful at customer engagement. I can buy just about anything on Amazon, but I still shop at Nordstrom because they keep finding ways to keep me personally engaged in a very challenging environment.”—Heather Ruden, Head of Americas Field Marketing, Amazon Web Services


Success is ultimately a product of knowing your customer as well as, if not better than, you know yourself. With the wealth of data we now have about our customers, personalization at scale is not only a reality, it’s an expectation. When it comes to engagement, it’s no longer an option to put a program on autopilot. It’s necessary to adapt, grow, and change right along with our customers.

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